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Sandra Thomas

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Vancouverites Cross Border, Shopping For Discount Flights

Posted: 02/28/2012 7:00 am

"Vancouver to Nepal: $299."

Nepal is not included in the bucket list of intriguing travel destinations my partner and I have created. But since much of our travel is dictated by seat sales, the above advertised airfare recently published in a Vancouver newspaper, promising such a low price for such an exotic destination, caught my eye.

But as it happens in Canada, upon closer examination of the ad the fine-print showed that with an additional $800 for taxes and fees, Nepal was not such a great deal after all.

And now Vancouver International Airport is hiking its airport improvement fee from $15 to $20 for each flight out of British Columbia. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out it's the ever-increasing air traffic from Vancouver to Asia driving the need for airport improvements -- and hence the increase.

But where does that leave the average British Columbian when it comes to air travel? In our case, it left us in Seattle last October taking our first flight from that fair city, and I have to say, it was seamless.

Because my Hawaiian Airlines flight from Seattle to Kona on the Island of Hawaii left before 10 a.m., we decided to head down the night before to avoid any unnecessary stress over boarder line-ups or traffic. There are at least a dozen "park, sleep and fly" hotel options located within a short, and free, shuttle ride of Sea-Tac airport.

Our choice was the Sutton Suites motel, and let me make it very clear when I say this establishment is in no way related to the Sutton chain of luxury hotels. And while our Sutton looked more like a motel in which the rooms could be rented out by the hour, on the plus side it was clean and cost $101 including tax, for one night accommodation, a free continental breakfast of toast and cereal before our flight and parking for seven days.

The morning of our flight we were a stress-free, five-minute shuttle ride to Sea-Tac. And once I boarded the Hawaiian Airlines flight it became even more apparent why over-nighting in Seattle was well worth it. With no early morning rush to the airport I was already relaxed and the moment I stepped onto the plane felt like I was on vacation. Instead of my usual constant inner refrain of, "Are we there yet?" I settled back and enjoyed the aloha spirit offered by the crew. Adding to the holiday atmosphere were the male and female flight attendants greeting passengers while garbed in Hawaiian Airlines' signature sky blue, white and purple aloha shirts and dresses. An added touch was the fresh flowers tucked into the hair of some of the female stewards.

Hawaiian music filled the main cabin as I settled into my seat surrounded by a décor featuring purple hibiscus flowers. The attention to detail continued to the washrooms where coconut-scented hand soap made even a quick trip to the loo part of the island atmosphere. An added bonus: Hawaiian is the only major American airline that still serves complimentary meals to all passengers. So I enjoyed a hot pasta lunch, which was considerably tastier than my last flight meal of memory, a cellophane-wrapped dry-as-dust bun with some wilted lettuce and mystery meat.

Prior to this trip we hadn't really considered Seattle as a departure option for our travels, but as a result of this experience we'll definitely take advantage of future seat sales south of the border with no worries, an increasing trend for Canadians tired of being taxed to the extreme.
To get a real feel of a Hawaiian Airlines flight, check out this Youtube video of a flash mob that surprised passengers last year at 38,000 feet.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed Vancouver International Airport airport improvement fee as an increase from $5 to $20 per flight out of British Columbia. The increase was from $15 to $20.

 

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