Why is it cheaper to fly out of Vancouver for spring break instead of Seattle, while also being cheaper to fly out of Seattle for spring break instead of Vancouver?

Some relatives from Vancouver, British Columbia came to visit, and we mentioned that when we fly out on vacation for spring break, we found that the airplane tickets are much cheaper if we drive up to Canada and fly out of Vancouver International Airport. On the other hand, they noted that when they fly out on vacation for spring break, they found that the airplane tickets are much cheaper if they drive down to the United States and fly out of Bellingham International Airport. (They don't come all the way down to Seattle, but hey, work with me on the title, okay?)

So how can it be cheaper to drive from the United States to Canada to catch a flight, while also being cheaper to drive from Canada to the United States?

This violation of the trichotomy of numbers perplexed one of my relatives. Did we take the exchange rate into account? (Yes.)

And then the light bulb turned on.

The Vancouver and Seattle school systems have spring break at different times!

In mid-March, Vancouver public schools go on spring break, but Seattle schools are still in session, so there is higher demand for vacation travel in Vancouver than in Seattle. And then a few weeks later, the Seattle schools go on spring break, and the demand flips. In both cases, you are comparing prices in a high-demand region to those in a low-demand region, which is why the prices are lower in the airport far away from you.

I'll be on vacation next week for spring break, but I've left the blog running on autopilot. To increase the likelihood that it's still working when I get back, I scheduled a bunch of boring topics for next week.

Comments (11)
  1. pc says:

    I didn’t know Raymond knew how to write about boring topics. I look forward to reading them.

    1. pc says:

      I realized this may have come out wrong. I of course mean that I didn’t know that Raymond knew how to write in a boring way about any topic.

      1. Yuri Khan says:

        Plot twist: It will turn out to be ‘boring’ as in ‘drilling holes in the ground’.

      2. I’ve seen all kinds of posts in this blog. You just have to stick around.

  2. Jedak says:

    Hmmm…I thought the blog always ran on autopilot. Has the post queue shortened that much?

    1. Erik F says:

      It’s a priority queue.

    2. It flies on autopilot, but there is usually still a human pilot in the seat. But next week, it’ll be flying with no human backup.

  3. Brian says:

    When you do that, check out the taxes on your tickets. A Canadian flying out of the US on an American airline (say from Seattle to Burlington, VT, to visit friends in Montreal) will pay Canadian taxes on that ticket. Similarly, an American flying from a Canadian airport will pay American taxes.

    We’re ex-Canadians and long-time Texans. We were visiting relatives in Montreal, and then took a side trip to Nova Scotia on Air Canada. We were surprised to see American taxes on that flight coupon. Tax treaties are complicated.

    1. Aged .Net Guy says:

      … Tax treaties are complicated. …

      We developers call that “job security.” As long as legislatures are human they’ll continue to invent convolutions so illogical that only another meat-CPU can hope to teach silico-CPUs how to handle them mostly correctly.

      … I hope!! :)

  4. AlexShalimov says:

    I wish safe flight and landing both to you and your blog.

  5. cheong00 says:

    Talking about plane fares…

    I heard that sometimes it’s way cheaper (> HKD3000 difference) to fly from Hong Kong to Shanghai, stay a day or two, then fly to Japan instead of taking direct flight or have transition in Shanghai or Taiwan. It’s worthwhile to do research for a day or two on all possible routes when you’re tight on budget, or prefer to spend more on shopping instead of the flights.

    Journey planning is difficult.

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