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Half (51%) of Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley air travellers have driven to the US to take a flight in the past 2 years, and this trend is apparently increasing (23% go more often now than 3 years ago whereas only 6% go less often). Better fares (97%) provide the primary motivation to make the drive before they fly.

Vancouver, BC – In a follow-up to our February poll on cross-border shopping, a recent Insights West online poll surveyed 450 Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley adults regarding cross-border driving trips to the US to take flights. We found that not only is cross-border shopping a common behaviour among local residents, many are also taking the drive in order to catch a flight from the US.

Among the 77% of local residents who have taken a flight of any kind in the past 2 years, fully half of them (51%) have driven to the US at least once to take that flight. This translates into more than four-in-ten (44%) Metro Vancouver/Fraser Valley adults who drive to the US in order to take a flight in the past 2 years.

Most of the time, Metro Vancouver/Fraser Valley residents are taking flights to US destinations (68% took short flights to US destinations; 33% longer flights to US destinations), followed by international destinations (19%). Still, some Canadians are actually crossing the border in order to take a flight to a Canadian destination! (7% took a flight of short duration to a Canadian destination and 6% took a flight of longer duration to a Canadian destination.) (Short flights were defined as 3 hours or less and long flights as more than 3 hours.)

Similar to an apparent increase in cross-border shopping, there is also evidence that crossing the border into the US in order to catch a flight is becomingly increasingly common. While 69% of past two-year air travelers report their behaviour to be unchanged compared to 3 years ago, one-in-five (23%) tell us they are driving more often now whereas only 6% are driving less (the remaining 2% were unsure).

And again in keeping with our February 2013 findings on cross-border shopping, it appears that this behaviour is largely financially motivated. Of the seven different possible reasons presented as part of the survey, lower prices on the same/similar flight is by far the motivator for the largest majority; an overwhelming 97% tell us this is an important reason for travel, and 86% indicate it is very important. In contrast, taking flights not available in Canada (60% important; 33% very), and the ability to fly with “better” airlines that don’t fly from Canada (53% important, 22% very) are less critical. A personal US connection does not generally appear to be a factor (only 23% have family/friends in the US they can stay with/leave their car with and 16% have family/friends in the US that they travel with).

Blame for the higher pricing structure in Canada is placed nearly equally on the airlines themselves and the Canadian government, whereas residents are less likely to take a part of the blame on themselves. Nearly all Metro Vancouver/Fraser Valley residents agree (97%; 72% strongly) “Canadian airlines need to improve their pricing if they want to prevent Canadians from driving across the border to fly from US airports”. And a large majority agree (78%; 51% strongly) the government is at fault: “the Canadian airline industry can’t compete effectively on prices because Canadian governments are charging Canadians too much in taxes and duties”. In contrast, there is weaker agreement that those taking the flights share part of the blame; 64% agree (just 16% strongly) “the Canadian airline industry is suffering because too many Canadians fly from the US”.

“Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley travellers are willing to make the drive to the US to get a good deal, and they are looking to the airline industry and the Canadian government – rather than their behaviour – to right this perceived inequality,” comments Catherine Dawson, Senior Vice President with Insights West.

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary and has seven full-time and five part-time employees.

Results are based on an online study conducted from March 2 – 13, 2013, among 450 residents of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley aged 18+ who are Your Insights panel members. is Insights West’s in-house access panel offering on-demand samples for both clients and research suppliers looking for Western Canadian populations. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for BC for age and gender. While statistical margins of error are arguably not applicable to online panels/online studies of this nature, we have assumed that the same margins of error apply as if it were a true unweighted random probability sample with a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty. To view the detailed data tabulations, click here.

For further information, please contact:

Catherine Dawson
Senior Vice President, Insights West