Thursday, June 19, 2008

 

ON BENDED KNEES

Next winter in Nova Scotia, Canada will mark its centenary of aviation. One hundred years since the historic flight of the "Silver Dart". Our rugged and expansive country owes much of its development to aviation. The bush pilots who explored the northwest, through to the military flight schools of World War II. The technological advancement of the Avro Arrow; and our airline pioneers, Grant McConachie, Max Ward and Gordon McGregor.

The busy summer travel season begins in earnest: Welcome to your worst nightmare! Unlike climate change...experts agree! The airline industry is facing its greatest crisis. At Air Canada which announced cuts to about 8% of its staff earlier in the week, it is estimated that every time oil increases $1.00 / barrel, it costs the company an additional $26 million / year. Air Canada employees put their hearts and souls into saving their company from bankruptcy less than 4 years ago.

Air Canada and its rival WestJet are not hardly as badly off as in the United States where higher fuels, plus extra fees equal: unfriendly skies. South of the border they predict that at least one of the five remaining national airlines will shutdown by year's end. Just since last November eight U.S. carriers have stopped operations or filed for protection from creditors.

America's list of failed carriers in eight months rivals Canada's failure rate from the past nine years: Canadian Airlines, CanJet, Canada 3000, JetsGo, Greyhound Air, City Express, Roots Air, Royal Airlines and Harmony Airways. In the wake of Air Canada's retrenchment this week, a family of four travelling on Aeroplan points from Toronto to Calgary was paying $700 in surcharges and fees unrelated to their "free" flight tickets.

There are fuel fees, baggage fees, security fees, fees for meals, snacks, soft drinks, headsets and seat assignment fees. Perhaps next a fee for collecting the fees! Beware, advertised discounted air fares pretty much amount to only a percentage of the total cost of the flight. Where will it end? I am not quite sure. However, American columnist Michael Mayo has a few more ideas about fees we should try to keep hidden from Air Canada: a) An Empty Seat fee. (If you're lucky enough that the seat next to you is empty, you pay $10. or get moved) b) Ice cube fees
c) Movie Ending Fee. (Flight Attendants pause the movie 10 minutes before it ends and charge $5 to show the ending). d) Lavatory Fee. ($10 to use the facilities)...and, a Landing Equipment Fee. As the plane is on final approach the pilot passes the hat because the flight is running a deficit and he's not allowed to deploy the landing gear until the flight breaks even.

That may be where it all ends.

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