Interest in the Provincial Air Access Program (PAAR) is still very low in Quebec. Only 14,000 $500 round-trip tickets have been sold in the past five months. The government is already considering establishing more direct communications to reverse this trend.
Between 1any On June 31 and October, 14,345 tickets were purchased through PAAR, according to preliminary data from the Ministry of Transport and Sustainable Mobility (MTMD) published on Wednesday. The said program was launched with great fanfare by the Legault government in April 2022 to revive air transport in the region, by offering discounts to reduce the cost of a plane ticket.
At some airports, barely a few hundred tickets were purchased. In Baie-Comeau, for example, we are talking about 425 tickets in five months, while in Chibogamau, 395 tickets. At Bagotville Airport, in Saguenay, 200 tickets were sold for $500, while at Mont Joli, 200 tickets were sold for $500. Less than 185.
On the other hand, in September, more than 3,700 low-cost plane trips were made thanks to the programme. Also in the Magdalen Islands, which remains one of the most popular regional destinations for Quebecers, air carriers were able to sell more than 3,580 tickets between June and October.
These two sectors have also been the most popular since the beginning of the program. Wabush Airport, used by Vermonters, remains popular with 3,160 tickets sold in recent months.
Not a failure, Quebec responds
However, challenges remain significant. It must be said that from the beginning the project faced difficulties or at least did not fully meet expectations. Last August, more than a year after its launch, the program achieved the sale of 45,000 one-way tickets within 12 months, while the government reported that about 100,000 tickets had been offered.
In short, with only about 14,000 tickets so far this year, the government initiative’s performance may be even weaker than last year. However, at MTMD, we believe that “the success of a program cannot be measured by the goal of ticket sales.”
“The number of available tickets announced at the launch of PAAR was not the target, but rather the number of tickets available since plane tickets were purchased is of course done on a voluntary basis by customers,” says a company spokesperson. Ministry, Louis André Bertrand.
According to him, “the savings that Quebeckers have been able to benefit from constitute a more appropriate indicator.” Quebec confirms that “the numbers indicate that the number of tickets available was sufficient.”
Any improvements on the horizon?
In response to a question on this topic on Wednesday, Transport Minister Genevieve Guilbault confirmed that she is working “on modifications to the program and on other measures to improve regional services”, together with her government aide, MP Yves Montaigne, who also chairs the Standing Committee on Regional Air Transport.
“We want to connect the regions together better. We are not ready to announce everything, but it is coming. We are especially thinking about opening the PAAR program, thus increasing the number of clients and moving from one city to another instead of going through Quebec or Montreal. Communications with the Minister, in his writing: “Nothing has been signed yet.”
However, he in turn confirms that “the program is still working well” and that “many cities are still very well represented.”
Many regional players in the world of aviation have called for lowering ticket prices as well as increasing the frequency of flights in recent years. All of this came as Air Canada dropped markets such as Baie-Comeau, Gaspé, Mont-Joli, Val d’Or and Ile de la Madeleine out of summer service, in June 2020.
Before the arrival of PAAR, only six regions – Abitibi-Temescaming, Basse-Saint-Laurent, Côte Nord, Gaspésy, Île de la Madeleine and Saguenay-Lac Sainte – were allowed by the PRTA program. Jan and Io-ichi Pai-James – to benefit from repayment rates between 30 and 60%.
The annual ceiling ranges from $500 to $3,000, and a request for payment must be submitted to the Ministry of Transportation.
With Charles Lecavalier and Julien Arsenault, Journalism
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