Tour Toronto on double-decker bus...Air Canada slapped down in U.S. for ads!
We see them every day, especially in summer; those double-decker buses that folks from Pittsburgh and Peterborough ride around in. They lean over and smile and take photos and listen to some guy or girl prattle on as they troll around the city, seemingly without a care in the world.
I've been wanting to take one of these buses for some time, and I finally found a time to do it with Andrew Weir, a vice president at Tourism Toronto and a truly great guy. Our mission: to find out things about the city we didn't know. And to see if the buses are good value.
I'm happy to report that we learned a great deal; some of it true and some of it, well, not. But it was hugely entertaining and it's a pretty good deal. We went with the Shop Dine Tour group for convenience of scheduling, but there are other companies. We departed Yonge and Dundas at 9:40 and finished up two hours later in the same spot, having seen Yonge St., Yorkville, a glimpse of Casa Loma, a decent amount of Bloor around the ROM, and then Queen's Park, the AGO, the Entertainment District, Queen's Quay, the Distillery District and the financial district.
It's $40 but you can hop on and off all you like over the course of a week - almost like having your own, open-air taxi in a way - and you also get a one-hour boat cruise around the harbour and the Toronto Islands. My wife tells me she did something like this in Savannah, Georgia and remembers it being $20 and valid for two-days.
It's a fun way to learn about how Avenue Road wasa compromise name between folks who wanted it to be a big avenue and folks who wanted a smaller road. We also found out that John Lennon and Yoko Ono had their bed-in for peace at the King Edward Hotel here in town, when, in fact, it was held in Montreal at the now Fairmont Queen Elizabeth.
Still, our tour guide, Josh, was friendly and only made one or two cheesy jokes. "You know that's the Trump Tower as it's the only building in Toronto with a comb-over," he said. Which is better than I got on my last such tour, a 1980 bus ride in Montreal where my guide, and I swear this is true, told me that I could tell a particular building was designed by an Italian "because you can see da spaghetti hanging outta da windows." OMG.
Yesterday was much better than that, and it was helped along by a brief chat with a wonderful couple from San Diego, Barb and Bob Carter. "We do these tours in every city we go to and this was one of the better ones," Bob told me.
My excellent videographer/photographer buddy from the Star, Randy Risling, came along for the ride and handled the tough duties of making Andrew and I look good for the weekend paper. Risling is a huge talent and an absolutely first-rate guy and it's a huge treat to spend time with him as he's the guy who made me look halfway presentable during my quick hits at the Main Press Centre in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Anyway, I got a few shots of my own; some of which I quite like. You really get a great perspective from the second-floor of an open-air bus. It's important to duck when you go by an underpass or a pesky tree but it's great fun to peek into second-floor windows and look at stonework on, say, the Hudson's Bay building downtown; stuff you normally don't see from the sidewalk. The views of the downtown skyscrapers are particularly cool when you're on a bus like that.
So thanks to Shop Dine Tour for a fun day, and for recovering my camera lens! I highly recommend a tour like this to anyone; visitor or Torontonian. I just wish they could cover more ground, such as Rosedale or Cabbagetown or the University of Toronto....
I wrote a story about it for the weekend paper, so check out the Saturday and Sunday Toronto Star for the full report, and for some of Randy's photos. He also should have a video posted on our website, thestar.com.
AIR CANADA SLAPPED ON THE WRIST DOWN SOUTH
I HATE the airline ads with those one-way fares and the hidden taxes and fees that make a $1,200 ticket look like it' sonly going to cost you $259, or what have you. I think we all hate them.
The punishment isn't much in the scheme of things, but I found it EXTREMELY heartening today to see in The Star that Air Canada was find $50,000 by the U.S. Department of Transportation for violating "deceptive price advertising" rules in its online ads.
"When passengers buy an airline ticket, they have a right to know how much they will have to pay," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "We take our airline price advertising rules seriously and will take enforcement action when they are violated."
The agency said that for an unspecified amount of time earlier this year, ads on Air Canada's website "did not disclose the amount of taxes and fees that passengers would have to pay in addition to the advertised fare, or lead the consumer directly to the information on these taxes and fees.
Consumers who clicked on the ads were taken to Air Canada's website, but could not find details of the additional taxes and fees unless they scrolled down to the fine print at the bottom of the page, the department said.
Department of Transportation rules require that any U.S. or foreign carrier that advertises a price for air transportation to state the full price to be paid by the consumer, including all carrier-imposed surcharges. The only exception is passenger facility charges, which may be stated separately, but must be clearly disclosed in the ad.
Beginning in January, carriers will be required to include all government taxes and fees in advertised fares.
Air Canada said it modified the banner ads within 24 hours of being notified to "improve clarity."
"We have been advertising in the United States online for many years and this was an isolated occurrence as we are fully compliant with Department of Transportation policies and regulations," spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said in an email to Canadian Press.
Canada passed a law four years ago requiring airlines to advertise the full price of airfares, but a story in today's Montreal Gazette suggests Ottawa (which to my mind does almost NOTHING to protect consumers of airline products in Canada) feels the legislation might be too complicated to enact.