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Airlines square off over Vancouver service

These should be the best of times for the aviation business in Vancouver.

These should be the best of times for the aviation business in Vancouver. On the day after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics, our international airport successfully oversaw its highest volume of passengers ever. The Paralympics have helped to sustain some of that momentum into March.

Presumably, all of the air traffic that has flowed in and out of the city over the past month should have translated into a surge of new opportunities for Vancouver International Airport — bolstered capacity and perhaps even new routes and carriers.

But that hasn’t always been the case. The last few years have actually been marked by a loss of flights for YVR. Take Singapore Airlines, which pulled flights out of Vancouver last year. Or Cathay Pacific, which trimmed its service to Hong Kong. Before that, Vancouver lost its direct air link to Osaka.

This is not good news — whether you work for the airport, are a frequent flyer, or work in industries such as tourism or trade. A vibrant international air hub is one of the key backbones of our economy.

At least one top-tier airline, Emirates Airlines, is trying to make inroads here, but it’s getting the expected but troubling brush-off from our federal government.

According to a study commissioned by the Dubai-based carrier, Canada stands to gain $480 million in annual economic benefits by approving its plan to introduce service to Vancouver and Calgary, and bolster its flights to Toronto. The plan would also create 2,800 new jobs across the country, according to the study.

The provincial government agrees. In a statement, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell said, “As a province and a country, we need to capitalize on services like those offered by Emirates Airline to realize our full economic potential.”

The problem is, an agitated Air Canada does not agree. Last week in Vancouver, its CEO went so far as to call Emirates’ proposal “the stuff of fairytales.”

Emirates has since fired back — stating that consumers are the ultimate losers in this standoff, and that Air Canada enjoys an unfair advantage here.

It’s time for Transport Canada to rise above this squabbling and do the right thing. Protectionism puts Canada in a negative light globally and will hurt B.C.’s economy. More airline competition is better for consumers, period.

Emirates Airlines should be allowed to start service in Vancouver immediately.

Free the skies, Ottawa.

– Derek Moscato is a writer with a focus on urban issues, transportation, architecture and economics; dmoscato@yahoo.com.

 
 
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