The Hidden Costs of Flying Out of US Airports

Tuesday 18th, March 2014 / 18:01 Written by
The Hidden Costs of Flying Out of US Airports

Travel can be expensive, and a flight can eat up a large portion of the travel budget. It seems as though Canadians spend more on air travel than Americans, even for domestic flights. Because of this disparity, many Canadians who live near American airports choose to fly out of the US rather than Canada.

While it is true that flights are often less expensive from US airports, as with anything, there are hidden costs to choosing to go this route. Take into account all of these potential costs before making the decision to depart from an American airport:

Parking Costs

Flying out of a Canadian airport means that you can take public transportation to the airport, leaving your vehicle at home so you don’t have to pay for expensive airport parking.

If this is not an option, often there is a loved one that would be willing to drop you off at a domestic airport, but you don’t want to put anybody out by asking them to cross a border to drop you off.

Parking at airports can cost tens of dollars per day, so if you are thinking of departing from an American airport, be sure to include this cost into your budget.

If you don’t have a car or are taking a different mode of transportation, that is an expense that you will have to incur as well.

Transportation To the Airport

There are many methods of getting to American airports from Canada, such as shuttles busses, and taxis, but none of these methods come for free. A quick Google search for a shuttle from downtown Vancouver to the Bellingham airport shows a $48.02 return ticket to and from the airport per person.

If you are travelling with a spouse or friend, you are spending almost an additional $100 to get to the airport, and it takes two hours to do so – longer than if you drove yourself and substantially longer than flying out of a local airport.

Foreign Currency Fees

It used to be that most flights would come with a free checked bag, however, that’s not the case anymore. Often, airlines charge you at check-in for your bags. This is just one of the expenses that you may have to pay for at the airport, and anything that you spend across the border is subject to foreign currency fees through your bank or credit card company.

While this is not usually a large amount, it is still something to be aware of when considering which airport to depart from.

Inability to Use Travel Rewards

With the right combination of credit cards and bonus rewards, it’s possible to get heavily discounted or free travel, however, many cards only allow you to use your rewards points when booking flights departing from Canada.

If that’s not the case, then be sure to check to see whether it costs a greater amount of points to fly out of an American airport; I have found that this is the case with Air Miles and some other travel rewards.

Cost of the Flight

Travellers often assume that flying out of a US airport will be cheaper, so they book the flight and cross the border to get on their plane.

This isn’t always the case, however, and sometimes flying out of a Canadian airport is actually less expensive. I had a friend tell me that she was going on a trip to to San Francisco. She lived in Vancouver, but assumed that because SFO is a domestic flight from the US, it would be cheaper to fly out of Bellingham or Seattle. She didn’t do a price comparison of YVR and those two airports, she just compared the prices to depart from BLI and SEA.

She found out that her parents, who were departing from Vancouver, actually spent $100 less on their flight (and less on transportation too) from YVR than she spent to depart from SEA.


Departing from an American airport is often less expensive than a Canadian one, and while you can save a substantial amount of money by doing so, be sure to do your research and take into account all costs associated with doing this to find out whether it’s really worth your hassle.

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2 comments on “The Hidden Costs of Flying Out of US Airports”

  1. Great tips!

    Since I live three miles from our international airport, in the USA, much of what is listed doesn’t apply to me, but it was very informative. I hate the checked bag fees though. I read somewhere that the federal tax only applies to the ticket itself, not the bag fees. So the airlines make more money, even if the total cost of the same due to less tax the consumer is paying.

    • thepointster says:

      Good point about the bags. I think it is noteworthy to mention that Air Canada and Porter do also charge for bags on flights to the US (Westjet is still free). It seems that the standard for free bags is really only for flights within Canada.

      In terms of the taxation, I actually look at it from a different perspective and say that the reason we have those separated out bag fees is because the tax exists. When bags were included, the passenger was paying tax for the entire amount of the ticket, including the portion of that ticket that could be allocated to the checked bag fee. By separating that bag fee portion out, there is less total tax that is being charged, which is better for the passenger, even though it is annoying. Personally, I would rather the bags were included in the price but I do prefer that the prices are less as a result of the unbundling.

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