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ROUTES: New tax cuts help Vancouver attack cross border rival

The British Columbian axe on aviation fuel tax combined with a raft of incentives being introduced by Vancouver airport marks a fight back against the steady drift of business to US regional airport Bellingham just across the border.

Many British Columbians have been attracted to Bellingham, which is a hub for low-cost carrier Allegiant Air whose website lists the airport as Bellingham/Vancouver.

Alaska Airways has also announced plans to fly to Hawaii direct from Bellingham.

But now with the savings of up to $2,000 on a long-haul flight and a freeze of landing fees and terminal costs to encourage extra flights, YVR's chief, Larry Berg says he hopes to see that reverse.

Speaking at Monday's press conference to officially launch the 16th World Route Development Forum, Berg said the Routes event "offers an opportunity to tell the YVR story to airlines that don't currently fly here."

The cost-saving package seemed to be met with instant approval from airlines at the forum.

Frontier vice president of strategy and planning Daniel Shurz says it could help sway the low-cost carrier to resume service to Vancouver.

"Announcements like that are very helpful. Any steps taken by authorities certainly peak our interest," Shurz says. "We do take the cost of flying into airports into consideration. High-cost airports are difficult for low-cost carriers."

Frontier previously served Vancouver and Calgary from its Denver hub, but the routes proved to be underperformers. "Canada is an opportunity, but it's not a gold mine," Shurz says.

Currently only one US low-cost carrier, Virgin America, serves Canada. Virgin America launched service to Toronto from Los Angeles and San Francisco this summer and is seen by Vancouver Airport as a potential new customer. Two larger US low-cost carriers, AirTran and JetBlue, have studied the Canadian market for several years but have repeatedly said the costs are too high to make flying north of the border a worthwhile proposition.

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