In the middle of August, I want to fly from Zurich to Vancouver. Therefore I used various flight search engines to see what flights are available. I couldn't find a direct flight that is cheaper than approximately 5300 US dollars. Is this really true? I can't really believe that.
Long story short, yes, you can get cheaper. The price is compounded by several issues:
However, for example with this search on Kayak you can certainly get less than that - a direct flight return for around USD$1600 with Swiss. Change that to one or two stop and you can knock 25% off that price, if you're prepared for a couple of airport switches - eg with British Airways you'll get there with just one stop in London.