Tag Archives: Canada

No Frills Canadian Air Travel

After a month of embarrassing news stories (with viral audio-video and pictorial accompaniments) of US airline employees manhandling customers against their will, and with a fresh story about a flight diverting its course because a passenger refused to pay $12 for a blanket (apparently because he was cold), Canada’s two major airlines, WestJet and Air Canada, have recently announced plans to offer customers new low-cost “no frills” flights — as if their economy passengers have ever received a frill in the last decade.   Evidently a new “ultra low” fare competitor, NewLeaf, is threatening to take some of their market share in the wonderful realm of air travel.

WestJet began the race to the bottom in Canadian airline flight when it categorically reduced the cost of flying great distances and in turn removed the frill of a meal on standard economy flights.  The usual break in the monotony (and growing appetites) on standard four hour flights that came with the provision of a hot Them Apples 001 (2)meal (chicken, vegetarian or pasta) was thereby lost.  Passengers got a Halloween-size pack of pretzels or cookies and a soft drink or coffee, and airline staff were relieved of the headaches of serving meals, cleaning them up and otherwise addressing the needs of nattering patrons.  Free blankets for air-conditioned flights were out of the question, as were headsets for films and music.  Because WestJet executives were sagacious enough to know just how shitty the normal experience of airline travel had become, their on-board employees broke further with tradition and started telling jokes at the beginning and ending of flights as a matter of policy.  Humor is the logical antidote to misery, so the tried-and-true policy of providing “bread and circuses” was cleverly implemented, just without the bread.

Air Canada quickly followed suit and ever since economy-fare passengers on Canadian airlines have come to expect nothing less than an entirely unpleasant experience on their flights, beginning with the cost of checking bags, continuing with the fact that most patrons avoid that cost by bringing excessive carry-on luggage onto the plane, thereby making it increasingly difficult for those who follow the carry-on rule to find space for their bags, thus leading to more elbowing, resentment and increased baggage in the ever-dwindling floor space, et cetera et cetera.  Such are the 1st World problems of air travel.  Europeans have been accustomed to ultra-low cost flights for decades, though their flights tend to be much shorter in duration than  Canadian flights are — and significantly cheaper.

With Canada’s latest entry into the competition for airline market share, Canadian airline passengers can now look forward to saving a few more dollars at the front end of the experience, which they can then spend on alcohol and other forms of headache relief during the flight (assuming any food or alcohol will be left on the plane to purchase), and maybe even have a few dollars left over to offset their historically high levels of household indebtedness.   (Don’t be surprised if NewLeaf’s slogan becomes “Leafin’ on a jet plane.”)

Editorial Note: Perhaps not too surprisingly, Huffington Post, Canada, just published a piece entitled, “Canada’s Airlines Rank Near Bottom on Customer Satisfaction”.

P.P.S.  And today CBC News reported that the federal government is set to announce the introduction of a passengers’ Bill of Rights tomorrow.  My, isn’t that timely.

 

 

 

 

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Democracy at Home and Abroad: Let’s Double-Face It

 

AllIsFairJBCropToday The Windsor Star quoted Canada’s Employment Minister, Jason Kenney, as saying that Canada was showing its disagreement with Russia by strongly supporting “free and fair” elections in Ukraine.  Apparently the Harper government will show its enthusiastic support for democracy in Ukraine by sending hundreds of delegates to monitor the presidential election there next month.

This sounds like good news for Ukrainians, but one can only wish that the Harper government had such enthusiasm for democracy in Canada.     A wide variety of respected, intelligent and most democratically-minded analysts have roundly criticized Bill C-23, the Harper government’s current “Fair Elections Act,” as being a veritable impediment to Canada’s established democratic processes.   On March 28th of this year Andrew Coyne wrote in The National Post that now Canadians “face the likelihood, as incredible as it sounds, of the government using the majority it won in the last election to pass a bill widely perceived as intended to fix the next — and contesting that election in the shadow of illegitimacy the bill would cast.  It will do so, what is more, not in spite of the opposition it has aroused, but because of it: because it has convinced itself that all such opposition, from whatever source, proceeds from the same implacably partisan motives as its own.”

With this elegant description of the low opinion that Canada’s reigning government holds of the electoral process on its own terrain, one is readily reminded of how easy it is to preach without practicing.  Whatever gift for democracy the Canadian delegation intends to give Ukrainians, hopefully it spares them lessons in morality.

 

 

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