Canada-New York airline wars/Fewer Pearson screeners/Oscars and travel
Hoo,boy. This is gonna be fun.
Air Canada today announced it will launch three-times daily, non-stop flights between Toronto Pearson and New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport, starting May 3, and that it will increase its flights from YYZ to LaGuardia in New York so they run on an hourly basis.
Air Canada trumpeted the moves in a press release this morning, saying that "the new services further secure Air Canada's position as the leading airline serving New York City and makes it the only carrier that operates to all three major New York City area airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport. Air Canada, which began flying to New York 71 years ago, will operate up to 38 non-stop return flights a day between Canada and New York City this summer."
That's a ton of folks heading to New York. But it's no surprise. I got a report from hotwire.com on Tuesday that showed the number one city Canadians were searching for family day getaways next month was New York.
For those who may have missed it, WestJet a while back was awarded the right to operate eight round-trips daily out of LaGuardia. WestJet is using those coveted slots, which it paid a bundle for, to increase its U.S. presence and to attract more business travellers. They already serve Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, as does Porter (from the Toronto Island airport). But LaGuardia is the biggest prize in the Big Apple, for sure.
It all makes for a very entertaining "air war" in the crucial Toronto-New York hub.
Air Canada's release today said that by adding JFK (albeit on 50-seat aircraft), "Air Canada will provide customers with the most frequencies, widest choice of airports and greatest convenience of all airlines flying between New York and Canada. The flights are timed so customers can easily connect at our Toronto hub to other destinations in our extensive domestic and international network, such as Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. All eligible customers will also be able to collect and redeem Aeroplan miles," said Ben Smith, Executive Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Canada.
"Air Canada's New York service, with hourly flights, is ideally-suited for business travelers. Customers will have a choice of three airports across the New York City region, the option to purchase flight passes, access to Maple Leaf or Star Alliance partner lounges at all airports with priority ground services where applicable. In addition, Air Canada flights to LaGuardia and Newark feature Executive Class; the only Canadian airline offering business class service," officials boasted.
"Beginning May 1, 2012, Air Canada will add an additional daily return flight between Toronto and LaGuardia, providing customers convenient hourly service each business day. The new Toronto-JFK service will be operated by Air Canada Express using a 50-seat CRJ regional jet. The JFK flights will have early morning, afternoon and evening arrivals and departures," officials said.
With the new services, Air Canada will operate a total of up to 38 return flights a day to the New York metropolitan area from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver. Any way you look at it,that's a TON of folks. If New York doesn't boost its tourism numbers again in 2012, at least they won't have Canada to blame.
COMING SOON TO PEARSON - FEWER SCREENERS!
The folks at the Greater Toronto Airports Authority are constantly trying to make Pearson a better place. I think they've made some bad moves in the past, including building terminals where there's almost NOTHING for folks to do while they wait for friends and family to arrive. And don't get me started on baggage wait times.
But they've added free wi-fi and, just the other day, a couple new restaurants, including a Thai place (about time). Things are improving, for sure.
So now comes word that the number of screeners is going to be cut by 20 per cent. Yeah, that's right. CUT by 20 per cent.
In fairness, I would say that long lines at the screening stage aren't among the biggest problems at Pearson. Long lines at customs are another story, as are the aforementioned wait times for luggage. From what I've seen, the wait times for the screening process at Pearson aren't any worse than any other airport, and they're far shorter than, say, Los Angeles.
Still, it's pretty disturbing to see where Garda Security Solutions, a privately held company that supplies screeners at Pearson, is cutting back. A story in The Star's Greater Toronto section today by reporter Josh Tapper quotes an official with the Canadian Airport Workers Union as saying that 63 folks will be laid off permanently, and another 236 will get reduced hours.
It's a 20 per cent cut, Tapper wrote, at a time when business is on the upswing. And March break isn't far away.
In fairness, the GTAA isn't in charge of security. That headache falls to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which handles such matters at all Canadian airports.
Folks from Garda weren't commenting yesterday. A spokesman for CATSA said it's not his company's role to advise or direct the way screening contractors manage their workforce.
Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow said the layoffs will almost certainly affect security.
"There's absolutely no excuse to lay off airport screeners," she said.
OSCAR TRAVELS THE WORLD
A nice piece in USA Today this morning on how you can see the world through Oscar's eyes.
Two particular Oscar-nominated films come to my mind with real travel connections: The Descendants and Midnight in Paris.
The Descendants shows Hawaii in all her glory, especially the "Garden Isle" of Kauai. Most of the film takes place up near Hanalei Bay, a gorgeous stretch of beach that's backed by a verdant, impossibly green valley and a long, spiky ridge of deep-green mountains that pierce the sky in true South Pacific-looking fashion. It's a quiet spot but with elegant hotels, a fun little "town" and great golf at the Princeville Resort. There's also incredible hiking, great snorkeling and more.
Parts of the film also showcase Honolulu, although not as much as Kauai, and also show off a bit of the Big Island (ditto).
It's been in theatres a lot longer, but another travel-worthy film is Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. It showcases the Paris of long ago, but it's quite easy to get in the mood in the Paris of today.
One great spot to check out is Le Bristol, a glorious hotel near the Champs Elysees where a good deal of the movie takes place. I had the good fortune of staying there a year and a bit ago and it was truly outstanding. Even if you can only afford a drink at the bar, and that'll cost a pretty Euro or two, it's worth checking out.
Also with travel connections is The Help, filmed in the Delta towns of Greenwood and Clarksdale and Jackson - where you can plot a driving tour of downtown and the city's historic Belhaven neighbourhood, USA Today explains.
And don't forget Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which is centred on 9/11 in New York City. The National Sept. 11 Memorial opened in lower Manhattan last Sept. 12 and already has attracted more than a million visitors.
War Horse is attracting folks to Devon and Dartmoor in England, and they already have tours set up where you can see where some of the film was shot.
There's also Moneyball, but even a Toronto travel editor who was born in Oakland and raised watching the Oakland Raiders play football at the Oakland Coliseum wouldn't suggest a visit to such a dreary stadium. Unless the Blue Jays happen to be in town, that is, in which case you could probably get a ticket behind home plate and be one of maybe 5,000 fans in the ballpark.