New business ventures help Canadian snowbirds bypass closed U.S. land border


Despite the closure of the Canada-U.S. Land border to non-essential traffic, Canadian snowbirds Bernard Loiselle and Sylvie Charbonneau are on their way to Florida – in their RVs.“Finally, here we are,” said Loiselle, 57, from a road stop near Albany, New York. “The weather in Quebec was getting cold. “

The couple from Marieville, Quebec, southeast of Montreal, live in their RVs year round and spend the winter in Florida. This year, however, they faced a problem as they cannot drive their mobile home across the United States border during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this problem was solved when they learned of the existence of a new service offered by KMC Transport.

The Quebec company flies snowbirds aboard a chartered plane from an airport just outside Montreal to Plattsburgh, NY.

“It was great to – from the plane – see our RV there, just waiting for us,” Loiselle said.

Loiselle and Charbonneau on Thursday, just before boarding their flight from Montreal’s Saint-Hubert Longueuil Airport to nearby Plattsburgh, NY, to begin their southward migration. (submitted by Sylvie Charbonneau)

Despite skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates in the United States and Canada’s advice not to travel internationally, many snowbirds are determined to head south this winter.

Although Canadians cannot travel to the United States by car due to the closure of the land border, they can fly to the country. But that still creates a problem for snowbirds who want to take their vehicles south.

In response, several transport companies have come up with new ways to help snowbirds – and their cars – cross the border.

KMC ships vehicles to the United States for snowbirds. But the fees can be prohibitive to transport a motorhome – around $ 4,300.

Owner and President Michael Couturier therefore devised a cheaper option: from the end of October, he organized charter flights for snowbirds to Plattsburgh, as well as a transport service for their vehicles.

Customers pay $ 500 per seat on the plane and $ 1,000 for vehicle transportation. As a commercial transport company, KMC can bring vehicles into the United States, despite border restrictions, Couturier said.

“Any commercial transaction at the border is considered essential,” he said. “We have to have all the paperwork and then we are allowed to do it. ”

The United States Customs and Border Protection has confirmed to CBC News that there are no restrictions on Canadians importing vehicles into the United States during the closure of the land border.

Warning to snowbirds

KMC flies to Plattsburgh twice a week. Couturier said the nine-seater plane was always full.

The extra business was a big boost for the business, which normally focuses on transporting RVs to dealerships.

That side of the business slowed down during the pandemic, Couturier said, but restoring the snowbirds allowed him to keep all of his 35 workers employed.

“Without the snowbirds, the business would be in trouble this year,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for us. ”

WATCH: Prime Minister of Canada urges vigilance as cases rise:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returned to the steps of Rideau Cottage where he made a passionate appeal to Canadians to slow the spread of the COVID virus. 2:25

Meanwhile, the federal government continues to warn Canadians to avoid international travel during the pandemic.

“People are safer when they stay at home,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference Tuesday.

However, the post didn’t deter enthusiastic snowbirds. Some claim that they will be safe because they have COVID-19 medical insurance and plan to stay in their gated community at their destination.

« [You] just do your shopping, go back to your RV and have your dinner there and that’s it, ”Loiselle says.

Helicopter rides for snowbirds

Jeremy Rood’s parents were still keen to go to Florida this winter, but wanted to take both their car and their Labrador, Abby. So the helicopter pilot came up with a solution that his employer, Great Lakes Helicopter in Cambridge, Ont., Turned into a business.

The company collects snowbirds in Hamilton, Ontario. airport and helicopters just across the border to Buffalo, NY Then, Rood’s friend – who runs a transportation company – carries passenger vehicles, usually on a flatbed truck, to ‘at Buffalo Airport.

“My parents wanted to go to Florida for the winter and I said, ‘No problem, I’ll make sure you go,” Rood said. “We put our heads together and are done with this little thing we’re doing here. “

Pilot Jeremy Rood transported his mother, Diane, father and their dog from Hamilton to Buffalo. He also transported their car so the snowbird pair could have their vehicle with them during their winter in Florida. (submitted by Jeremy Rood)

Since the start of service in late October, Great Lakes Helicopter has carried 30 passengers and has recorded hundreds of other bookings. The cost for a couple to fly in their own private helicopter and transport their car is $ 1,900. Animals are welcome on board.

Rood said he was not surprised by how well business was doing, despite the pandemic.

“We have long, cold winters here,” he said. “You can’t go out, stay fit, stay active. “

Serving snowbirds due to popular demand

On the west coast, winters might not be so cold, but many snowbirds still want to head south – and get their cars.

This created an opportunity for Bidbuy importers based in Blaine, Washington. The company traditionally imports vehicles from private buyers and dealers.

But this year, it has branched out to also transport vehicles of snowbirds from the Vancouver area to the US solar belt states or to closer destinations, such as the Seattle airport.

Jayde McElroy, vice president of marketing and sales at Bidbuy Importers, also helps West Coast snowbirds travel south. The service costs from $ 500 to over $ 3,000. (submitted by Jayde McElroy)

Jayde McElroy, vice president of marketing and sales for Bidbuy, said the company has taken on snowbird customers due to popular demand.

“When the border was closed we got so many requests from snowbirds wondering if we could help them,” he said. “At first we didn’t know because it’s not something we did. ”

So far Bidbuy has transported 40 cars. The company has around 100 additional bookings over the next few months. Costs range from around $ 500 to over $ 3,000, depending on the type of vehicle and the distance traveled.

Asked how to help snowbirds go south during the pandemic, McElroy said he was happy to help them escape winter.

“You never know how long it’s going to last. You have to enjoy your life. “


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