In an effort to encourage tourism across all regions of Quebec, the provincial government is offering to cap prices for round-trip plane tickets at $500.
Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel made the announcement Tuesday at the regional airport in Mont-Joli, Que., located about 570 kilometres northeast of Montreal in the Lower Saint-Lawrence region.
Bonnardel said the $500 maximum fare will also apply to trips that require connecting flights.
The discount will be applied at the time of purchase, and the government will compensate airlines by making up the difference between the discounted price and the fare usually charged.
Bonnardel says the regional air transport plan will cost the province $261 million over five years.
"Our objective with this plan we are unveiling is to stimulate demand by making sure that every Quebecer can travel to distant regions for a maximum amount [of $500], any time throughout the year," Bonnardel said.
He said it's difficult for Quebecers to accept that they can get from Montreal to Paris and back for $800 or $900, but they have to pay $1,200 or $1,500 to get to Chibougamau or to Gaspé.
Asked whether the government subsidies would end up giving airlines an incentive to increase their fares, Bonnardel said prices would be "negotiated annually,'' based on the rate of inflation.
Joël Arseneau, the Parti Québécois MNA for the Magdalen Islands, said the government's plan will not help ensure access to flights to and from certain regions.
"The government says, 'Well, you'll have tariffs.' But what if seats are not available?" the MNA asked.
The number of tickets available at discounted prices won't be limitless, a spokesperson for the minister told Radio-Canada. That will depend on the season and the route.
However, Bonnardel said the government will negotiate with air carriers to ensure there are enough subsidized flights to meet demand.
Regional air travel has taken a hit during the pandemic, right across Canada. In 2020, Air Canada indefinitely suspended service on many regional routes, including several routes in Quebec.
Caroline Proulx, the province's tourism minister, said her staff is preparing a major promotional campaign to encourage Quebecers, as well as tourists from farther afield to choose the province's regions as a vacation destination.