Opinion Column

Locals bear brunt of YVR fee hike


There's nothing like an airport for bringing you down to earth.

- Author Richard Gordon, Doctor In The Swim

Vancouver International Airport's controversial Airport Improvement Fee jumps by 33% Tuesday - but British Columbians will overwhelmingly be paying it, while international connecting travellers will get all the benefits without spending an extra penny.

YVR says it needs to increase the fee by $5 per passenger to $20 for flights leaving B.C. to pay for $1.8 billion worth of improvements - most to reduce connection times for travellers passing through the airport - including high-speed baggage systems and moving walkways.

Those international passengers will be the big winners as they zoom through YVR to and from primarily Asian destinations - and are completely exempt from the levy.

But people who actually live here will pay most of the freight through the higher AIF for another decade, despite the fact it was supposed to end in 2002.

And you have absolutely no say in the matter - YVR answers to no government or voters.

Bruce Cran president of the Consumers Association of Canada, says YVR is "out of control" with the latest AIF increase.

"It's absolutely outrageous we're being charged another $5 tax to subsidize connecting passengers," Cran told 24 hours Monday. "I don't think YVR serves the public of British Columbia well."

But if you feel ripped off, join my Facebook.com protest page - titled No Way YVR.

And if you can, attend YVR's annual public meeting May 10 at 3:30 p.m. It's being held in the east concourse, departures level of the international terminal - conveniently timed to exclude as many members of the public as possible!

YVR's higher AIF is partly why Seattle's airport had a record 32.8 million travellers in 2011 - almost double Vancouver's 17 million and why Bellingham airport is undergoing a $30-million expansion.

The Canadian Airports Council estimates the country loses nearly five million passengers annually to U.S. border airports.

Vancouver could learn a lesson from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, Europe's fifth biggest, which introduced a ticket tax of between $14 and $58 per trip in 2008.

Schiphol soon repealed the tax after it lost 9% of all passengers and was forced cut its work force by 10 to 25%.

Will this be the last Airport Improvement Fee increase at YVR? When pigs fly.

Read more Tieleman at www.TheTyee.ca and http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/ Email: weststar@telus.net

Editors note: This story includes a clarification in the lead, which previously stated the fee increases would be entirely borne by British Columbians. The AIF is paid by all passengers who start their journey at Vancouver International Airport.