Growth in Canada’s discount airline space may push down ticket prices in 2023 and boost demand for air travel even as Canadians grapple with higher costs of living, according to an industry expert.

Robert Kokonis, president and managing director of consulting company AirTrav Inc., pointed to growing discount airlines like Flair, Swoop and Lynx, along with jet service from Porter Airlines out of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport next year, as among the range of expanded airline ticket options for Canadians.

The large slate of affordable travel offerings may offset potential hits to air travel demand next year as Canadians feel the financial impacts of high inflation and interest rates, he said.

“It's pure supply and demand,” Kokonis said in a Wednesday interview. “The more seat supply you put into the airline market in this country will somewhat drive down ticket prices. I think that's the upshot.”

Airlines took significant hits during the early stages of the pandemic as COVID-19 travel restrictions kept people at home. Demand “came roaring back this year,” Kokonis said, as loosened public health and border rules meant more Canadians could return to the skies in 2022. He said the sector is “looking at profitability” and continued demand next year.

But the return of large crowds to airports hasn’t been entirely smooth.

Many air travellers’ holiday plans were dashed last week as a major winter storm saw flights cancelled across Canada and the U.S.

The latest airport chaos follows major disruptions reported this summer, including cancellations, long wait times and lost luggage, issues many in the industry attributed to staffing challenges affecting sectors across Canada.

Kokonis said he suspects the latest airport issues are likely related to the extreme weather event.

While there “may be some lingering issues in the system,” he said most companies and government entities in the air travel space have beefed up staffing since the summer.