For years, we’ve hoped one day to fly to a destination far from Quebec without paying the price of a round trip to Europe or even Asia. Starting Wednesday, almost 100,000 travelers will be able to benefit from a reduced rate, generously subsidized by the Quebec government.
Are you going to take advantage of the Air Access Regional Program (PAAR) to buy a $500 round trip plane ticket to visit the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Gaspésie, or the vast forests of Abitibi or Lac-Saint-Jean?
The question arises because this new program, which was created to support six regional airlines, including Air Canada, is essentially intended to encourage travelers to fly only for recreational purposes from Montreal, Saint-Hubert, and Quebec airports.
Faced with the myriad of restrictions attached to the AIP, it can be difficult to navigate, and one may also wonder how the government will manage to exercise any kind of control to handle the many potential cases of abuse.
Self-employed workers traveling as part of their work, employees of companies that can be reimbursed for the $500 ticket price, organizations, health centers,s or public officials are not entitled to claim the rate reduced price offered by the PAAR.
But who will verify if the ticket paid for $500 will not be reimbursed by an employer or if it will be included in the list of expenses of a self-employed person?
The government relies on the good faith of the users who will take advantage of the reduced fares and who must sign a sworn statement confirming that they are traveling for strictly personal and non-professional purposes. To swindlers, a declaration of honor is worth what it’s worth…
Each traveler will have the option of making three round trips in the same year or six one-way trips.
However, regional airlines will find it difficult to tell if a passenger has already exercised their rights to three-round trips with a competitor or is checking in at a different address.
Please note that people in remote areas will not be able to take advantage of these $500 flat rates, as they will still be eligible for Tier 1 of the program, which provides for 30-60% reimbursement of the full regional rate. air carrier, depending on the degree of isolation or remoteness from their region of origin.
This distinction also confirms the tourism incentive aspect of the Air Access to Regions Program, as even foreign tourists will be able to benefit from $500 fares if they want to leave Montreal to visit Chibougamau or Gaspé.
Traveling on foot?
The ultimate goal of PAAR is therefore to stimulate the traffic of Quebec’s national airlines by encouraging travelers to take the plane instead of arriving at their destination by car, thanks to the significant discounts granted on the price of tickets.
This does not regulate travel once at the destination. Personally, when I 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 corners of a region, those that make its charm and that encourage me to visit them.
Tourists from Montreal, Quebec, or abroad who are going to take a plane to Gaspé will surely want to discover more than Gaspé Bay, they will surely like to explore Rivière-au-Renard as much as they will want to contemplate the rock in Percé.
Finding a rental car in the region can quickly become a challenge, given its limited supply and also the crazy inflation that has taken over the car rental market and caused prices to skyrocket across the country.
Same observation and other questions about the large number of $500 tickets that will be reserved exclusively for the destination of the Magdalena Islands.
The Ministry of Transport plans to grant 30% of the 100,000 tickets 500 dollars for round trips to the Islands, as the preferred destination of urban tourists from Montreal, Quebec, and abroad.
However, tourists who frequent the Îles-de-la-Madeleine and already fly there have the financial means to pay for such an adventure.
So why offer a discount to rich people who would have flown there anyway?
A phenomenon was observed by the regional airline Pascan, which registered five times more reservations than usual during the day on Wednesday.
“The first online reservation was made at 12:04 am on Wednesday and our operators were overwhelmed with calls all day. Many travelers wanted to book a flight to the Islands in July, but it is already full. You have to do it six months in advance, so they can come back next year,” explained Yani Gagnon, executive vice president of the airline.
Quebec lags considerably behind the other Canadian provinces in the use of air transport for inter-regional travel.
The PAAR comes to provide a temporary solution to a much deeper structural problem, that of the low population of several of our most beautiful corners of the country, which prevents a consistent and economically viable air service, 12 months a year.
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