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Air Canada price guarantee launched

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 03: A passenger checks in for an Air Canada flight at O'Hare International Airport February 3, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Commercial carriers at the airport started flying today for the first time since a blizzard forced the grounding of almost all planes Tuesday afternoon. Despite efforts to return to normal the Chicago Department of Aviation still reported at least 1,000 flights had been cancelled today. Throughout the city residents continue to dig out from more than 20 inches of snow that fell on the area Tuesday and Wednesday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The airfare price war is heating up. Air Canada is guaranteeing customers who book tickets on its website will get the lowest fare.

If, within 24 hours of purchase, a passenger finds a cheaper price for the same flight, itinerary and fare brand on another Canadian website, then Air Canada will provide a travel credit for $50 plus refund the price difference, said Ben Smith, Air Canada’s chief commercial officer, in a news release.

The release was issued earlier this week, shortly after WestJet launched its Encore service for some locales in Western Canada starting in June.

WestJet will first offer daily flights between Calgary and Fort St. John and Nanaimo, B.C., as well as routes between Vancouver to Victoria, using a fleet of 78-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft.

Smith said the lowest price guarantee previously available for flights in North America now extends to all its flights originating in Canada including Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, its low-cost carrier that launches in July, or Air Canada Express flights operated by Sky Regional or Jazz Aviation LP.

The move is a way to draw customers to Air Canada’s own website, so the company doesn’t need to pay commissions to other online retailers, the Toronto Star newspaper quoted Seth Kaplan of Airline Weekly as saying.

“Airlines love it when people come straight to their site, first,” said Kaplan. “It’s a low-risk way to provide some additional assurance to customers that there’s no point in spending time to look for a better deal.”

WestJet also promises lowest fares on its website, the Star reported, as well as allowing flight changes or cancellations within 24 hours without the usual $50 change or cancel fee.