Wildfire responses aggravate criticism against Air Canada as ticket prices surge over $4000

Smoke from previous Canadian Wildfires Loom over Yellowknife's highway.

In what is reportedly the most destructive wildfire season in history, the Canadian government has issued warnings and evacuation orders to citizens in the Northwest Territories. In light of this, Canadian Airline provider Air Canada has received allegations of raising ticket fares in response to the increased flight demand.

Evacuation Order issued by the Canadian Government in the wake of Wildfires

The Government of the Northwest Territories issued an evacuation order on 16th August to the citizens of Yellowknife, N’dilo, Dettah, and Ingraham Trail. Residents were told they had until noon on the following Friday to evacuate via the motorway. The government offered free air evacuation to those who did not have the option to leave by road and scheduled to begin on the 17th. CNN reports that 29,500 people had to evacuate, 65% of the Northwest Territories population.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) reported a devastating 13,944,486 hectares of Canadian land burned as of 19th August 2023, marking this season as the most devastating in history. The CIFFC reports an overwhelming increase in damages compared to 2022, where fires destroyed 1,467,970 h/a, almost a tenth of the level in 2023.

The Climate Atlas of Canada ascribes this surge to climate change in the region. Because high temperatures promote the development of storms, lightning, the cause of over half of Canadian forest fires, only grows more frequent as the temperature rises. Simply put, in the words of wildfire researcher Mike Flannigan, “Forest Fires are caused by two things: lightning and people.”. Changing weather conditions have also affected the wildfires raging in Greece and Maui.

Air Canada caps ticket fares in response to allegations of price-gouging

In light of the ordered evacuations, Air Canada has received criticism for increased ticket prices for departures from Yellowknife. Those who did not qualify for the free government air evacuation faced astronomically high ticket prices, leading to allegations of price-jacking against the provider. Many questioned the need for raising fares in this dire period as the airline reported record profits of $838 Million in its most recent quarter. A Tweet published on the 17th complains of prices as high as CAD 4,665 for flights out of the region.

In a statement published by Air Canada, they claimed these prices resulted from “aggregated fares by websites” and promised to rectify these wherever possible. Two extra flights from the airport were also introduced on Thursday 17th, doubling the regular departures by four. One of these flights will use a 169-seat Boeing 737 jet to provide extra seating. The following Friday, a B737 was used alongside the regular two flights.

The airline further specified in the statement that no flights would occur on Saturday the 19th in response to the government evacuation order. Finally, the airline has implemented a cap on ticket prices for all departures from Yellowknife. The company promises to monitor pricing on its website to avoid further cases of aggregated fares.

Air Canada Plane
©Aaron Davis

In another press release, the airline promised travelers that a “flexible rebooking policy” would be implemented. Flights to or from the airport purchased before 15th August for travel between the 15th and the 30th could be changed, free of charge, to another date between 15th August and 30th September. Customers also have the option of changing their flights to depart from or fly into North Peace Regional Airport (YXJ), Grande Prairie Airport (YQU), or Edmonton International Airport (YEG), free of charge.

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Bella Pelster
Bella Pelsterhttp://www.travelradar.aero
I'm a Londoner with a huge passion for travel, history and sustainability. In my spare time I love reading novels (any genre, any author) and watching television and films (mostly the sopranos)!