Kudos to Air Canada for all-in prices - Porter changes, too/CAA hotel/food ratings
For years I've railed against airlines that bury their taxes and surcharges in fine print. The Canadian government, in a surprising move, recently said they would ban such ads, although it might take a year.
So, lo and behold, what do I see in today's A-section of the Toronto Star? An Air Canada 75th anniversary ad with sale prices that, be sure you're sitting down for this, INCLUDE TAXES AND FEES AND SURCHARGES.
But how about the inclusion of taxes and fees? What a great public relations move, beating Ottawa to the punch and being the first Canadian airline, to my knowledge, to do this. Brilliant marketing move, I'd say.
Of course, with a potential pilot's job action waiting in the wings (see today's business section story by Vanessa Lu), maybe they figured it's a good time to build up some good karma. Either way, they didn't have to make the move but they just made travelling that much easier and simpler for average Canadians, not to mention folks who might want to visit our corner of the world (and 'Hello China,' says Prime Minister Stephen Harper).
Here's an example of today's Air Canada ad. They advertise a one-way ticket from Toronto to Halifax as being $129 plus $73 in extra charges, then put the total of $202 in LARGE PRINT so it's easy to see what you're getting. What a concept!!! Prices for London Heatherow are $244, plus a whopping $643 in extra charges, for $887 in total. That's only for flights from today to April 1, and then from Oct. 26 to Dec. 16. No discounts for folks heading to the Summer Olympics, I guess.
WestJet said it made similar changes in January and list the taxes/fees/surcharges along with base fares. Which sounds a lot like what Air Canada did, so congrats to WestJet for that.
Porter went perhaps one better. They sent out a press release today, Wednesday, to say they are "the first airline in Canada to advertise the total cost of a flight as a single simple number with all taxes, surcharges and mandatory fees included."
"No required cost will be added to prices displayed in advertising or on Porter's website," they said.
Porter said the change takes effect on Friday, Feb. 10.
“Unlike other carriers, Porter will show one price for the customer without highlighting fees and taxes separately,” said Robert Deluce, president and CEO of Porter Airlines. “We’ve been able to change what passengers expect from an airline by introducing standard premium amenities and affordable flights. Now, we’re extending this experience to the booking process, making it easy to immediately understand how much a flight costs by showing one number.”
WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer sent me a note to say his airline plans to "continue to display all elements of the price so people can see what the base fare actually is. Obviously, that's the only piece we can control."
Airlines often face government fees. They often levy fuel surcharges of their own, but those are supposed to be based on jet fuel prices.
Good stuff all around for consumers. And isn't it amazing how the threat of government action brought about these welcome changes? I guess I should send congrats to the Harper government for bringing down the threat of legislation, while I'm at it. I didn't think they'd ever do it, but they did. And they deserve credit for it.
NEW CAA RATINGS FOR CANADIAN HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS OUT TODAY
I've only had one cup of coffee, but the way I read the stats is that there still are only two five-diamond hotels in Canada - the Four Seasons Whistler and the new Ritz-Carlton in Toronto (see photo of lobby). Things were a touch looser in the five-diamond restaurant category, with five properties in Canada getting the nod. Those were Eden at the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff, Alberta, Langdon Hall Dining Room and Terrace at Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario, Le Baccara in Gatineau, QC, Restaurant Toque! in Montreal and Restaurant Initiale in Quebec City, which made its debut on the five-diamond list.
Pretty good haul for Quebec on that front, but that's no surprise to folks who've dined in the province. A tad embarrassing, perhaps, for Toronto to be shut out completely. But at least we got the five-diamond hotel award for the Ritz, which is a wonderful property.
Things were much brighter for the Big Smoke in terms of four-diamond restaurants. There are 110 such spots in all of Canada, the always-tough CAA inspectors said. Of those, a full 55 (one-half of all in the country if you're keeping score at home) are in Ontario. And a whopping 25 of those are in Toronto; meaning nearly one out of every five four-star dining spots in the true north can be found in Hogtown.
Quebec has 24 such places, but Montreal only got five of them. Shame, Montreal. Shame! Quebec City, on the other hand, had eight. There were 13 listed in British Columbia, nine of them in Vancouver.
The CAA is notoriousy tight on giving out top awards, as I found out when I accompanied one of their inspectors on a lunch date and checked out a couple hotels in Montreal last summer. It's quite something to see the lengths they go to. They told me there's nothing wrong, of course, with falling short of four-diamond status, as they really are quite tough on the restaurants and the hotels. It often comes down to service, they explained.
As for hotels, the quick tally I did this morning shows there are 138 such lodgings in Canada. Fifty six of those are in Ontario, and a full 23 in Toronto. Quebec had 37 such properties, 17 of those in Montreal. B.C. had 28, including 13 in Vancouver. Alberta had 12, six of them in Calgary.
There was only one four-diamond hotel listed in PEI, the Rodd Crowbush Golf and Beach Resort. And only four in Nova Scotia. Poor Newfoundland/Labrador got shut out of the four and five-diamond hotel category, as did New Brunswick, Manitoba (a surprise to me) and Saskatchewan.
The smaller provinces didn't do so well in the food department either. There were a scattering of places listed for Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and one in PEI. Also one in Manitoa (the Velvet Glove in Winnipeg). Poor Saskatchewan got shut out...
SHANGRI-LA TORONTO AND ROMANCE IN WINNIPEG AND KINGSTON
Yesterday marked the six-month date out for the Shangri-La Toronto. I'll write up more on the hotel in tomorrow's blog, but it sounds like they'll try to give Trump and the Ritz a serious run for their money...A study by Amazon.ca suggests Kingston (see photo at left) is the most romantic city in all of Canada. The survey took into account sales of romance novels, sex and relationship books and, get this, sales of Michael Buble CD's. Doncha love it? I think it's hilarious. Second place for Canada was Guelph, then Kelowna B.C., Oakville and Victoria ... On the other hand, TripAdvisor suggests a hotel in downtown Winnipeg (not a four-diamond one by CAA standards, but there you go) is one of the most romantic IN THE WORLD. Based on travellers' reviews, The Mariaggi's Theme Suites Hotel is right up there with posh hotels in the South Pacific, Hawaii, St. Lucia and Greece. Ranked number nine in the world, the hotel is known for exotic suites with themes such as "African jungle," with a grass-thatched hut over the bed and a hot tub, or the "sheik's tent" with Moroccan statues and burning incense. Sounds pretty goofy to me, but I know lots of folks who enjoy this sort of thing. There's a similar kind of spot in San Luis Obispo, California called the Madonna Inn that some people just rave about, with kitschy rooms decorated like a cave and all sorts of weirdness. Hey, to each his own!