Thursday, March 19, 2009


Whether it is to the family friendly resorts of central Florida or the beaches of Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, midway through the annual "March Break" pilgrimage south, Canadians have been flocking to the sun destinations through various tour packagers.

Just like last year, climate change has made for yet another cold, snowy, miserable winter from coast, to coast, to coast. Last week, a spokesman for Canada's other airline - Westjet - touted the company's southern destination packages for keeping aircraft full through our crashing economy and the waning dismal winter months.

Unlike some of its sun destination competitors, "Westjet" has obviously been immune to the cut-throat competition from tour operators who claim their rivals will go to any lenghts to choke them out of business.

Something rare in the highly volatile razor-close competitive "sun destination" industry: Southern Ontario based "Sunwing Vacations" has publicly accused its rival: Montreal based "Air Transat" of exploiting the economic downturn to justify irrational and predatory behaviour.

Look! Given the relatively short season: The winter southern travel vacation business is an enormously competitive industry. Canada's aviation graveyard is littered with failed operators - Wardair, Canjet, Zoom, Sunflight and countless others.

Montreal's "Air Transat" is one of the world's largest air charter carriers with operations in Europe under the Thomas Cook Travel banner, as well as in many other destinations from the southern U.S, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean region as well as elsewhere. In this faltering economy "Air Transat" has posted three consecutive quarterly losses, including a shortfall of almost $12-million in the first quarter of its current fiscal year.

"Transat's" critics claim the company is obsessed with maintaining a leadership position in sun destination charters - "at all costs" - and uses predatory practices to choke-off its competitors. "Sunwing's" public complaints bring to mind another operator, "Air Maestro" which flamed-out in March 2007 in a failed "head-to-head" battle against "Transat" for the lucrative Quebec City, lower St.Lawrence River Valley winter escape business.

"Maestro's" President, Michel Mordret, had been a Transat Vice-President who took-on his former boss, Air Transat's President, Jean-Marc Eustache, in a winner take-all struggle for the hearts and minds of vacationers in the under-serviced greater Quebec City area vacation business. "Air Mastro's" fourteen destinations service barely made it out of the gate before the rival slashed prices and was subsequently blamed for driving the up-start out of business. When it abruptly collapsed under an $8-million debt, on March 7, 2007; "Air Maestro" left a total of 1,645 stranded Canadians at airports all over the Caribbean and south Florida.

Yes! It has been a cold, snowy, miserably bad winter. Fortunately "spring" breaks-out this week. Though sun destination travellers should still beware of travel deals south that could leave them hopelessly stranded at strange destinations if/when the economy claims another tour operator's struggling business.

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