Canadian snowbirds flocking to U.S. for the winter by shipping their cars across the border
MONTREAL -- The U.S.-Canada border closure is still in place until at least Dec. 21, but that hasn't stopped Canadians some from heading south with their cars.
Richard Silbert didn’t think this day would come.
He and his partner Sandra and their nine-year-old dog usually drive to Florida, but with the border closed to non-essential travel, he figured they would be spending winter at home.
"We bought four snow tires, we bought a generator, we bought a Coleman stove and got prepared for winter in Quebec," Silbert said.
But a conversation with a friend changed everything -- he found out what Transport KMC has been doing to get snowbirds south of the border.
"We decided to see if it was ok for us to cross the vehicles across the border and bring the customers inside a charter flight," siad Michael Couturier from Transport KMC.
The idea came about in September and by mid-October, the service was up and running.
Snowbirds make their way to the St-Hubert airport, drop off their vehicle or RV, and it’s driven across the border by Transport KMC.
Then, they hop on a 15-minute flight to Plattsburgh, where their vehicle is waiting for them.
"We have a dog so we didn’t want him to go in commercial travelling, we wanted him to be with us at all times, we felt it was easier on him," said Sandra Matteau.
The airline tickets are $500 per passenger, and it's a thousand dollars to transport a vehicle or RV.
in less than 2 months, Couturier says business is booming thanks to snowbirds.
"It doesn’t stop growing," he said. "I mean, we started with one flight every two days, then a flight every day, and then two flights every day... And now we’re at four flights every day."
Ottawa, however, is asking people to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the country.
But Transport KMC says its received approval from several authorities, including border services. Because it's a transport company, it's considered an essential service.
"What we had was an authorization but we have to tell every customer that they have 24 hours to leave the state," Coutourier said.
Silbert said once he found a way to get his vehicle south of the border and obtained insurance coverage for COVID-19, there was no doubt he was spending winter in Florida.
"As time progressed, we found solutions to each one of these issues," Silbert said. "And the cost wasn’t that tremendous."
The loophole has given him a chance to escape another Quebec winter.