Air Canada pilots making a mess but can you blame them? China's hotel boom
Air Canada pilots are making rather a mess of things for travelers.
Folks coming home from March break, and travellers in general, were inconvenienced on the weekend when a significant number of Air Canada pilots called in sick. This came after the chair of the union apparently said in an internal newsletter to pilots that he felt unfit to fly because of his workload and lack of sleep.
Brent Jang of the Globe and Mail today quoted Captain Jean-Marc Belanger as saying he would've loved to help out on a busy weekend but wasn't able to.
“I believe in leading by example and I will therefore take the same reduction in income that all of you are faced with when booked off. I had a discussion with my doctor last month and she reminded me of the symptoms that are indicative of a reduced spare mental capacity.”
Air Canada reported 23 flight cancellations on Saturday; a pretty significant hit. Fog and a fire were partly to blame but there were 40 cancellations at Pearson on Sunday. Air Canada's administration has asked the Canada Industrial Relations Board to declare that the Air Canada Pilots Association have essentially engaged in strike activity, which could result in fines or other action against the union.
It's extremely unfortunate. I'm flying Air Canada on Saturday and certainly hope I don't get delayed as I have a connecting flight to catch on another Air Canada plane. But I don't blame pilots for being upset. They've been trying to reach a deal with Air Canada but haven't been able to resolve their differences. And then the whole thing got sent last week to the CIRB for them to resolve; a move the Tory government has repeatedly gone to whenever there's the threat of labour action with Air Canada.
The pilots clearly feel they've been treated badly, but they have few ways to express their displeasure. With the Tories effectively ending any chance of a strike by sending the dispute to the CIRB, pilots apparently felt they had no choice but to register their complaints via a few sick calls.
If there's any silver lining here, I suspect it's that this was probably a one-weekend move. With the threat of fines looming, I can't see any large scale book-offs in the next couple weeks.
CHINA HOTEL BOOM
According to a report in the China Daily, a whopping 44 per cent of the hotel rooms that Starwood Hotel Group (Westin, Hilton, Sheraton Hampton, etc...) has planned will be in China.
Starwood last year opened its 200th hotel in the Asia-Pacific region, and there's talk they'll be over 300 by the end of 2014.
“Demand for our high-caliber brands continues to soar across Asia’s many dynamic markets, driven by phenomenal economic growth and significant increases in outbound travel, particularly from China and India," Frits van Paasschen, President & CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., said in a press release last fall.
The China Daily story says there are 53 five-star hotels in Shanghai alone (see photo at right), which I find hard to believe. They also said Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, now has a dozen five-star properties and will have 35 in the next four years. Then again, different countries have different ideas of what constitutes a five-star hotel. The Canadian Automobile Association has recognized only two in all of Canada; the Ritz-Carlton Toronto and the Four Seasons in Whistler, so I suspect the China Daily numbers are somewhat greatly overstated.
Still, there's no doubt that hotel chains are bonkers for China. Fairmont, for example, is building a new hotel in Chengdu, which has a very busy airport and is an increasingly important financial hub in southwest China.
Writing in USA Today, hotel expert Barbara De Lollis reports that Holiday Inn-parent IHG has announced the launch of a Chinese hotel brand called Hualuxe Hotels & Resorts. Plans call for a tea house instead of a bar, restaurants that offer local food vs. fine dining, and foot massage instead of a spa, China Daily reports.
China's hotel market is expected to overtake the USA as the world's largest in 2025, the story says. By 2039, there could be 9.1 million hotel rooms in China; four times as many as exist today.
THIS AND THAT
Nice story out of Scotland on a Newfoundland tourist who lost his wallet, and had it sent back with all his cash and credit cards intact. Good to know there are plenty of honest folks around ... An item on travelmole.com today says tour/travel company Thomas Cook claims it has no plans to discount despite reports that the operator has 100,000 unsold tickets and hotel rooms for the London Olympics.
The operator has already committed to paying for the tickets and hotels, which the Daily Telegraph reports could result in a £10 million loss. But a company spokesman said it has no current plans to discount tickets ...