Canada’s not-so-open skies

The real heart of the matter lies in the fact, that while the western Premiers have embraced the concept of opening up their skies, the decision making lies with the federal government’s Transport Canada bureaucracy some 2,000 km east in Ottawa. Much of Canada’s historical air agreements have been based on restrictive Air Service Agreements. […]


The real heart of the matter lies in the fact, that while the western Premiers have embraced the concept of opening up their skies, the decision making lies with the federal government’s Transport Canada bureaucracy some 2,000 km east in Ottawa.

Much of Canada’s historical air agreements have been based on restrictive Air Service Agreements. Of the 88 countries Canada has air agreements with, only a paltry eight are true open skies agreements. Cargo luckily, fairs better with 33, but let’s not forget that substantial cargo is carried in the bellies of passenger aircraft.

The reason for this has long been obvious and was even put down in black and white in a provincial government report: Canadian officials fear the national ‘flag’ carrier will lose business to foreign carriers. Indeed, they’re probably right, but isn’t this what competition is supposed to do. The best product for the best price wins the day. Should Air Canada be worried about competing with Singapore Airlines – you better believe it (and recognition of that is probably what guided Canada in signing only a limited air rights agreement with Singapore last year).

Airlines are not countries and they don’t represent countries – the notion of a flag carrier, aside from government regulations stating it as such, is purely a quaint footnote of nostalgia. Airlines are businesses, period.