“It’s impossible to explain creativity. It’s like asking a bird, ‘How do you fly?’ You just do.” -Eric Jerome Dickey
I think the general feeling is that the cost to fly has never been cheaper. In fact, in the USA recent analysis on routes dating back to 1963 show that the cost of the ticket, adjusted for inflation is pretty much the same. The United States is huge, densely populated and with many operating airlines to choose from, competition is tight. Which makes the airfares within the country some of the least expensive in the world. Even adding in the International routes, the USA comes in at number 17, for the best airfare prices.
Then there is Canada. With an even larger land mass and a population, just a tenth of the US, you would expect airfares to be more expensive. But #70 on a list of 75 countries? Only Japan, The Netherlands, Qatar, Finland and the UAE are more expensive. I’m not going to try to speculate why certain countries charge more or less than others, there are too many factors at play. What I do know is that there is a way to fly around the world and not pay through the nose for it.
When I was creating our flight budget for our year away, I realized that finding good airfares was not always a logical process. You might think the shorter the distance, or more direct the route, the cheaper the flight? You would think more stops might be more expensive? You would be wrong on both accounts.
I’ve flown enough over the years to know that airlines route everything through their main hubs. Depending on the goals of the airlines, at the time you want to fly, the savings to go out of your way, through a far off hub will be significant. Barcelona to Bangkok, through Moscow on Aeroflot was less than $500 CAD per person. Similar fares can be found to and from all the major European cities and the sun destinations in Asia. Hong Kong to Cape Town, through Doha and back to Casablanca is less than $1000 CAD per person. Qatar airlines is running their wide body fleet through Doha, dominating those long hauls.
These kind of prices are ridiculously low when compared to the airfares I can book in and out of Canada. I was reminded of that fact as I changed our return airfare to Canada in June 2018, just recently. When I booked the original round trip ticket in April of 2017, I couldn’t select the actual return date which I wanted. At the time, I knew those tickets would cost an additional $300 CAD per person. But, Western Canada is a long distance from Europe, so it kind of makes sense, right? Not so much. Our flights in and out of Canada take up a full 38% of our total airfare budget for the year. Another way to compare these is:
- Calgary to Montreal to Barcelona and London to Calgary = $12.77 CAD per 100 kilometres
- Hong Kong to Doha to Cape Town, back to Doha and then Casablanca = $3.52 CAD per 100 kilometres
Obviously these are very low airfares when compared with the Aviation Price Index 2016 in USD. It is not so much how they compare to the index as much as how they compare to each other. Clearly the cost per 100 clicks in and out of Canada are a little spendy!
The kicker of the whole thing was my conversation with Air Canada when I was changing the return flights. I could see the flight I wanted to change to was wide open, lots and lots of seats. I could also see, on the Air Canada website that a one way ticket from LHR to YYC was set at $2,700 CAD. Ridiculously expensive, but it was a data point. The person at the call centre in Eastern Canada said that the fare difference was over $4,000 CAD, on top of the change fee.
What did you say? In my old life, my blood pressure would be through the roof. Instead, I was calm. By waiting for about 20 minutes or so, the final answer was $35 CAD fare difference on top of the change fee. To think of all the years I have flown on Air Canada – some 800K in miles, for what? I even checked expedia, while I was waiting and I could book a return ticket back to the UK for less than $1,000 CAD. There is something extremely wrong here.
A battle for a different day and a different person. I suppose when you are the only game in town, you can charge what you want. Some regulatory body in Canada is keeping the airfares high by not allowing foreign carriers to compete fairly. It is the same case with cellular data, making Canada one of the most expensive countries in the world. Sigh.
After being away from my home for a half-year now, I have to chalk up these expenses as the cost of living in one of the best places on the planet. I love it there and travel has not made me wish to live anywhere else, yet. We shall see what the rest of the year has in store. As of now, cheap flights and low-cost cellular data are not deal breakers.
What I also know for sure is that you take a risk when you book the really cheap, non-refundable airfares. I’ve always known that. For work purposes, which is where all my travel experience lives, the hit was never felt personally when plans had to be changed. Of course I did my level best to avoid wasting company money. I spent it like it was my own. However, I now know it is an easy thing to say and do, but the pain of taking a financial hit is far worse than I had imagined.
I’m talking about making a mistake in booking travel. Well, not really a mistake in the booking so much, but that was where the price ended up being paid. When we turned up to drop off our luggage in Hong Kong yesterday, we were denied boarding. Our final destination was to be Cape Town. It turns out South Africa is deadly serious about having an unabridged, original birth certificate for children under the age of 18. We didn’t even have the original of the abridged one with us. We were offloaded from the flight and grounded here in Hong Kong.
We tried everything and called all sorts of offices. The long and short of it was we needed to wait for the British Columbia vital statistics office to open at 8:30am Monday morning in Victoria, BC. Our flight at 6:35pm on Monday in Hong Kong left without us. We are rebooked for next week and have got a copy of the unabridged birth certificates heading to my husbands office in Vancouver where it will be transferred to a fed-ex package to us in Hong Kong. Fingers crossed, we will have them in hand, in time for our next scheduled departure. If not, this trip to South Africa which once seemed so incredibly inexpensive, really will have been too good to be true. Stay tuned!
Join me in this creative journey. I think it will be worth your time. Together, let us see where we can take this. I look forward to hearing from you! Please share your thoughts. Feel free to send an email to: Christine@dailycreatives.com
: : “Fruitless at 40: Rediscovering My Creative Power”
Our travel year:
: : Have you ever heard of a digital nomad family? A Dad working in Europe and Asia, Teens doing distance education for grades 11 and 9, and Mom keeping it all together, writing, taking photos and making videos.
: : Check out all the adventure, captured in weekly videos on a youtube channel called creative wandering.
Would you like a free download of….
: : My tried and true packing list, developed from long-term, around the world travel and….
: : The first chapter from Fruitless at 40?
: : Join us!
Daily Creatives Resources:
: : My heroine’s journey, a road less travelled
: : Detourism and other new word suggestions
: : It took me a year to find freedom, a love story
: : Living in stress, moving to relaxation, looking for ikigai
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