Any Canadian in India needing to fly home amid the COVID-19 outbreak may be in for sticker shock when they look for available flights.
The federal government announced Wednesday that special flights back to Canada will be offered at an average cost of $2,900, which is far more than the usual average airfare.
The flights, some of which are offered through Air India, were promoted by the federal government via an email sent to registered Canadians still in India.
Melissa Chadda, whose husband and child are in India, commented about the price that “We are happy that at least that we are getting flights and we will get home soon. But the price they are saying is way [too] high. We feel like we are being harassed to pay that extra money.”
As of April 3, there have been more than 50,000 deaths around the globe. In Canada, the death toll has risen to 173, with 11,283 affected.
In the statement, a representative from Global Affairs Canada told media outlets that the ticket price was the lowest possible airfare, and explained that flights are more expensive at the moment due to the ongoing situation throughout the world, and lack of availability for connecting flights.
An expensive way home
In the event that travellers are unable to meet the higher ticket price, the federal government is also offering a lifeline – a loan of $5,000 to help them return home. The loan has to be paid back in the coming months, the government confirmed.
Brampton South MP Sonia Sidhu later confirmed that the loan would be given with zero percent interest. She noted that the government is also trying to assist Canadians in other countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Spain and Peru.
Sudeep Singla, a mortgage agent in Brampton, purchased two return tickets for his parents on Feb. 25 from Toronto to Delhi. The tickets both cost him just over $2,440 together. The government is now asking $2,900 for each one-way ticket to get Canadians home.
“That’s way too much for me to afford,” Singla said.
“Why does the Canadian government (whether it be Tory or Liberal) instantly send troops and aircraft to other countries at the slightest demand of the U.S. government during any political disruption in other countries?” asked Mississauga writer Kulwinder Khehra. “(Why do they) not see its own Indo-Canadian citizens stranded in a hostile environmental and political situation, endangered by the ill-minded politicians who blamed foreigners for bringing coronavirus to India, as real Canadians in real threat?”
“Does the Trudeau government see Indo-Canadians as mere votes or a rich source of revenue in the forms of International students; or does it also see them as real Canadians?” Khehra commented.
The move by the federal government was a sharp contrast with those of the province of Ontario, which moved to curb price gouging earlier this week with strict fines.
Laws and regulations must be the same for everyone, stated Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “I have zero, zero tolerance for price gouging,” he said.
No tolerance for price gouging
In an emergency order, Ford set new regulations for anyone convicted of price gouging to be fined up to $100,000 and a year in jail.
Company directors could face fines of $500,000 and a year in prison. Convicted corporations could be fined up to $10 million.
Even though the provincial government is fining hundreds and even thousands of dollars for price gouging, the federal government is tacking on several hundred dollars to the price of a one-way ticket, said Singla.
“The question is, will the Premier or the Canadian government fine themselves?” Singla asked. “In this regard, how can they fine any other company?”
Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer. He is a popular media commentator on current affairs and member of the NCM collective.