Budget Airlines that Fly to Canada

by Jessica

October 23rd, 2009

westjetRecently we looked at some of the budget airlines in the United States to help you save money on your next trip – but if you looked at the list of those airlines, you’ll have noticed that our neighbor to the north is sadly missing from the destination lists of most of them. That’s right, Canada gets no love from the big U.S.-based discount airlines.

That’s not to say all flights to Canada are going to cost an arm and a leg, however, or that the only budget airlines serving Canadian airports are products of Canada, either. In fact, many of the cheap flights to Canada you’ll find are on airlines with names you’ll probably recognize – you just might be on a much smaller plane than you’re used to.

Canada used to be blessed with more of its own home-grown budget airlines, but carriers like Jetsgo (who doesn’t love that name? I so love that name!) and Zoom Airlines have folded in recent years because of the nearly impossible task of putting the words “airline” and “profitable” in the same sentence these days. One budget airline from years gone by didn’t completely disappear, and for years has been operating charter flights only – but they’re poised to make a comeback into the discount flight arena in 2010. That airline, along with other discount carriers that fly into Canada, are listed below.

What to Expect from Budget Airlines

Before we get to that list, however, I think it’s important to make sure you know what to expect from budget airlines. Here are few things to keep in mind when you’re booking a flight on a discount carrier:

  • The planes may be on the small side, meaning everything could be more cramped. This goes for the overhead bins, too, which may not hold your “regulation-size” carry-on bag. Check the specific size limits of the airline you’re on before you fly, and be prepared to check your bag.
  • Discount carriers don’t always serve the main airport in a given area. Sometimes they fly in and out of a smaller nearby airport instead. Keep this in mind when you’re planning ground transportation.
  • Services may be limited on a discount airline – and some may have no business or first class seating at all.

Budget Airlines that Fly to Canada

This is by no means a list of all the discount airlines that fly in and out of Canada – there are many which are considered “regional airlines” (because they only cover a certain region, but you probably knew that) and which sometimes offer very low prices on flights. If there’s a regional airline that serves your area, then, it’s definitely worth checking with them to see what they’re charging for a ticket. Otherwise, here are some of the main budget airlines serving Canada.

  • WestJet – Based in Calgary, WestJet is Canada’s biggest remaining budget carrier. It serves 11 countries, and 17 cities in the United States.
  • Porter Airlines – Porter is a regional carrier based in Toronto that serves three U.S. cities and several destinations in Canada.
  • Horizon Air – Horizon is affiliated with Alaska Airlines, but it’s Horizon that more often has the cheaper flights and covers the shorter routes. They’re based at SeaTac in Washington, and fly to 47 destinations in the U.S. as well as airports in Alberta and British Columbia.
  • CanJet – Founded in 2002, CanJet went from being a budget airline to having strictly charter flights in 2006, but in 2010 it’s starting a new partnership with Air Transat to offer some low-cost flights.
  • Air Canada – Air Canada is the country’s largest carrier, so it’s not technically a discount airline; but they sometimes offer discounts on routes through subsidiaries and small regional airlines.

Beyond these airlines, the subsidiaries of some of the big US carriers also often have lower prices on flights to Canada. Some of the airlines to look for include:

  • US Airways Express
  • United Express
  • Continental Connection
  • American Eagle
  • Delta Connection

These subsidiaries sometimes say things like “operated by” another airline, and that might be one of the small regional carriers you’ve never heard of. The good news is that you don’t have to have heard of them if the big airlines are using their services and finding them for you – but if you want to double-check prices, you can always go to that airline’s website and see if the tickets are any cheaper there, too.

photo by paulhami



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