For years we have hoped to one day fly to a destination far from Quebec without paying the price of a round-trip trip to Europe or even Asia. As of Wednesday, nearly 100,000 travelers can now take advantage of a discounted fare generously subsidized by the Quebec government.
Posted at 7:08 p.m
Will you use the Regional Air Access Program (PAAR) to purchase a $500 return ticket to visit the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Gaspésie or the vast forests of Abitibi or Lac-Saint-Jean to visit?
The question arises because this new program, set up to support six regional airlines, including Air Canada, is essentially designed to encourage travelers to fly out of Montreal, Saint-Hubert and Quebec airports for recreational purposes only .
Given the multitude of restrictions associated with the AIP, it can be difficult to navigate, and one can also wonder how the government will manage to exercise any control to deal with the many potential cases of abuse.
Self-employed persons traveling as part of their work, employees of companies eligible for a $500 ticket refund, organizations, health centers or government officials are not eligible to use the reduced fare offered by PAAR.
But who checks if the ticket you paid for $500 won’t be reimbursed by an employer or if it’s included in the expense list for a self-employed person?
The government relies on the good faith of users who take advantage of discounted fares and are required to sign an affidavit to certify that they are traveling for strictly personal and non-professional purposes. For scammers, a declaration of honor is their value…
Each traveler has the option of making three return trips or six one-way trips in the same year.
However, it is difficult for regional airlines to determine whether a passenger has already exercised their right to three roundtrip flights with a competitor or whether they are checking in at a different address.
Note that those in remote areas will not be able to take advantage of these $500 fixed fares as they will remain eligible for Tier 1 of the program, which provides reimbursement of 30% to 60% of the full fare of the regional carrier, depending on the level of isolation or seclusion from their region of origin.
This award also validates the tourism incentive aspect of the Air Access Program for the regions, as even foreign tourists can benefit from $500 fares if they want to leave Montreal to visit Chibougamau or Gaspé.
The PAIR’s ultimate goal is therefore to stimulate traffic with Quebec’s domestic airlines by encouraging travelers to take the plane instead of driving to their destination, thanks to the significant discounts offered on the ticket price .
This does not govern travel at the destination. When I personally travel to Gaspésie, Côte-Nord, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Abitibi-Témiscamingue or Nord-du-Québec, I much prefer to take my car and discover all the nooks and crannies of a region, those that make up its charm and encourage me to visit them.
Tourists from Montreal, Quebec or from abroad who land in Gaspé by plane will surely want to discover something other than just Gaspé Bay, they will surely enjoy exploring Rivière-au-Renard as much as they would like to gaze at the rock in Perce.
Finding a rental car in the region can quickly become quite a challenge given the limited supply and the crazy inflation that has gripped the rental car market and skyrocketed prices across the country.
The same observation and other questions regarding the large number of $500 tickets reserved exclusively for the Magdalen Islands destination.
The Department of Transportation has planned to grant 30% of the 100,000 $500 round trip tickets to the islands as it is the preferred destination for city tourists from Montreal, Quebec and abroad.
However, tourists who visit the Îles-de-la-Madeleine and already fly there have the financial means to pay for such an adventure.
So why give a discount to wealthy people who would have flown there anyway?
A phenomenon observed by the regional airline Pascan, which recorded five times more reservations than usual during the day on Wednesday.
“The first online reservation was made at 12:04 a.m. Wednesday evening and our staff were inundated with calls throughout the day. Many travelers wanted to book a flight to the islands in July, but it is already full. They have to do it six months in advance for them to come back next year,” explained Yani Gagnon, the airline’s executive vice president.
Quebec lags significantly behind other Canadian provinces in the use of air transport for interregional travel.
The PAAR offers a temporary solution to a much deeper structural problem, that of the small population in some of our most beautiful corners of the country, preventing a consistent and economically viable 12-month-a-year air service.