More options for southern Ontario folks to fly to Florida...U.S. bag fee bonanza
The inaugural Vision Airlines flight from Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG) to Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS) takes place Friday of this week, Dec. 17.
They're using a Boeing 737 to fly from Niagara to the Destin/Fort Walton Beach area. I went on the website and booked a mythical trip between the two destinations from Jan. 23 to Jan. 30 for about $153 U.S., which is not bad at all.
Vision already flies from IAG to Miami, but it's with a stopover in Ft. Walton/Destin.
For more information go to www.visionairlines.com.
Spirit Airlines (www.spirit.com), meanwhile, will begin flying from IAG/Niagara to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (see photo) on Jan. 28, with service continuing through May 3. Beginning May 5 of next year, they'll fly from IAG/Niagara to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The flight I looked at for February, again one I did just for information, showed flights from Niagara to Ft. Lauderdale for $150, plus bag fees of roughly $20 on up for both carry-on and checked bags (but no charge for personal items that fit under the seat).
There's a bewildering array of options, such as joining the $9 Fare Club for $59.95 and saving $24 on the flight, so be forewarned. Also, the flight I looked at from Niagara to Ft. Lauderdale listed a departure time at 1:55 a.m., arriving in Florida at 5 a.m. Wow.
I also note, with a bit of humour, that when you go to the Spirit website they've cleverly marketed Niagara's airport as "Niagara Falls, NY/Toronto Area (IAG)." It's a bit of a stretch to call Niagara Falls, New York the "Toronto Area," but full marks for the creativity and marketing.
Anyway, there are more options out there if southern Ontario folks don't mind the drive to Niagara and, potentially, a night at a hotel. For a family without too many bags, it could be quite a viable deal.
A recent report on Canadian airports noted that regional U.S. airports near the Canadian border are taking valuable business from Canada. Adding more flights from Niagara/Buffalo certainly has the potential for doing harm to Pearson, which has much higher landing fees and higher fares.
BAG FEE BONANZA SOUTH OF THE BORDER
I spotted a telling item the other day that said that U.S.-based airlines brought in a whopping $4.3 BILLION due to added fees in the first three quarters of the year.
The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics said airlines collected $1.5 billion in fees in the third quarter alone, up about $143 million from the third quarter of 2009.
Those are just for ticket-changes and for bags, officials said. Other fees - for blankets, pillows, entertainment systems (you know, the stuff we used to get for FREE) - aren't included. One can only imagine how much all the various fees added to airlines bottom line.
Of course, this is only in the U.S. The Canadian government, to my knowledge, does NOTHING like this that gives consumers any awareness or knowledge (read "power") of what's happening with our airlines.
I sent an email to Air Canada to find out how much they get from bag fees and was told that the numbers are "part of the overal passenger revenue amount in our income statement" which is found online, although I don't see it on the Air Canada website. I don't think the site reveals how much revenue comes from bag fees, but I'm trying to find out....
The U.S. figures showed that Delta brought in the most fees just for bags, $733,196 so far this year, followed by American Airlines at $431,773. Southwest was way down at $22,524, mostly because they don't charge for the first two bags. And God bless them for that, I say.