This week's travel news

Sky-High Airfares: It’s The Canadian Way, Please Uncle Sam, May We Enter Your Airspace? and Monopoly Is Over, But Porter’s Still The Boss Hog

Sky-High Airfares: It’s The Canadian Way
Surprise, surprise: Canadians pay more to fly in Canada – a lot more — than Americans or Europeans. In a report titled ‘Canada’s Not-So-Friendly Skies,’ The Frontier Centre for Public Policy compared five Canadian flights, using the cheapest airfares available, against flights of similar distance in the U.S. and Europe. The results, while not unexpected, were still startling. For a total distance of about 3,300 domestic miles, fares in Europe tallied about $525, compared to $935 in the U.S. and close to $1,500 in Canada. Ouch. The Western Canadian think-tank that did the math credits Europe’s liberalized air policies and the resulting competition for the cheaper fares. It recommends a true “open-skies” policy, allowing foreign carriers to fly within the country. Currently, international carriers can fly in or out of Canada, but only Canadian airlines can service domestic routes. But airline consultant Rick Erickson says the situation is a little more complex than the study suggests. “I don’t see (foreign airlines) showing up and all of a sudden revolutionizing the Canadian airfare game,” he told the Calgary Herald. “They are going to find the costs here are higher, and that Air Canada and WestJet are very competitive competition.” Europe also boasts many lower-cost airports, often on former military bases. “It’s a completely different animal. I don’t see Canada being overly attractive to the international players,” Erickson said. In fact, following a year of discounted fares from WestJet and Air Canada, the Globe and Mail reports that increased demand and rising consumer confidence are leading to even higher domestic airfares.

Please Uncle Sam, May We Enter Your Airspace?
We knew it was coming, but the way it’s being done is upsetting opposition politicians – not to mention raising a few ethical questions. As Canwest News Service reported this week, the federal government has quietly presented a bill in the House of Commons that would give U.S. officials final say over who can board aircraft in Canada if they are to fly through United States airspace – even though they are not landing in the U.S.  Bill C-42 allows airlines to pass on passenger information to “a foreign state” for flights over that country. The legislation is needed so that Canadian airlines comply with U.S. Homeland Security’s Secure Flight program, which requires airlines to submit personal information about passengers 72 hours before a flight’s departure. If the bill passes, passengers leaving Canada on one of the many flights that travel over U.S. airspace will have their name, birth date and gender subject to screening by U.S. officials. If you have the same name as someone on a no-fly list, you may be questioned, delayed or even barred from the flight. If your name doesn’t show up, you get your boarding pass. Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe said Bill C-42 was introduced with no warning and no discussion with the opposition. Together, the opposition parties could vote down the legislation – a situation that could cause turmoil for air travel. “Canadian sovereignty has gone right out the window,” Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe told the Montreal Gazette in a recent interview. “You are going to be subject to American law.” NDP transport critic Dennis Bevington told Canwest that “We’re doing this without understanding what the threat assessment is. There’s no way that this is going to get an easy ride.”

Monopoly Is Over, But Porter’s Still The Boss Hog
The monopoly is over but it looks like Porter Airlines still owns Boardwalk. Since its launch in October, 2006, Porter has enjoyed exclusive rights to Toronto’s island airport. But that’s over. Airport overseer the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) has awarded landing slots to Air Canada and Continental. Of 202 available daily slots, Air Canada will get 30, Continental 16. Porter will get 44 new slots, giving it 156 in all – nearly 80% of the total. Each slot represents a one-way flight. Industry insiders told the Globe and Mail that the decision clears the way for Air Canada’s Jazz subsidiary to operate seven round-trips daily between Toronto and Montreal, and another eight round-trips between Toronto and Ottawa, or a total of 30 slots a day. Continental will likely only use half of its slot allocation for flights to Newark. It’s been four years since a terminal company controlled by Porter principal Robert Deluce voted Jazz off the island. Jazz had neglected its operations there – it was down to just five return flights a day when it got the boot — but it seemed to become much fonder of the island airport as it watched Porter build a popular, if not yet profitable service there. Jazz was seeking 74 slots in the new allocation and continues a court battle against Porter and the TPA for more access.

By: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to as well as sister company,

Photo Credits: ranplett, MMADIA,

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