WestJet chooses Bombardier, AirCanada TO-Montreal sale & movie improvements
The Great Canadian Airline wars continue today, with breaking news all over the joint. My email and Twitter feeds went a little bonkers this morning, with headline after headline rolling in on all sorts of changes.
Possibly the biggest news for consumers here in Toronto is that Air Canada is celebrating its one-year anniversary of returning to the Toronto Island/Billy Bishop Airport by launching fares as low as $75 one-way from the island to Dorval in Montreal. That includes all taxes and fees, folks, so it's quite the steal. Heck, you could spend $75 just getting to Pearson from downtown Toronto by cab, as my recent expense form to the boss suggests.
The deal is on until May 6, and it covers travel from May 8 to Aug. 30, which means a solid summer of savings if you can snag the lowest rate. The ad in the Star lists the lowest fare as $21, plus $54 in taxes and fees for a combined $75. Even if you had to pay $100 or $125 each way, it's a bargain for a great city like Montreal. And that includes a full-service bar and snacks.
Porter, which still pretty much owns the Island Airport, is offering 50 per cent off base fares if you book by May 4, according to their latest ads. Montreal fares are listed at $124, all inclusive, while fares to Halifax are $198 and flights to Newark/New York are $180 each-way.
I haven't seen any big WestJet announcements on sales this morning, but they did make a big splash today by announcing that they've chosen Bombardier's Q400 as their new regional airplane, opting for the Montreal-based company over ATR out of Europe.
The new plane is part of WestJet's plan to challenge AirCanada and Porter with a regional airline, set to launch in the second half of 2013. Officials say the new plane will allow them to serve new cities, plus existing destinations not currently connected by WestJet, and will allow for schedule improvements on certain routes where a smaller aircraft can efficiently provide greater frequency.
"We are very impressed with the Q400," said Gregg Saretsky, WestJet President and CEO (see photo). "Both ATR and Bombardier put forward excellent proposals and ultimately we believe the Bombardier Q400's combination of range, speed and seat density is the best choice to meet the needs of the market and how we plan to operate the regional airline. We look forward to working with another great Canadian company."
Some experts had suggested the ATR was the better choice given fuel efficiency issues. But WestJet opted to buy Canadian, which is certainly a good political move and one that undoubtedly will bolster spirits in Montreal, as well as perhaps Bay Street.
Round about the same time all these announcements were being made, Air Canada sent out a missive saying they're bumping up the number of movies available on those terrific (mostly) seat-back TV's they offer on most of their planes. The airline said it's doubling the number of movies available and will now offer up to 150.
That's pretty outstanding, folks, especially when you consider some airlines still make you watch Adam Sandler pictures on a tiny overhead screen that's 30 feet away. If you're really lucky, it's 35 feet.
I like the movies for the most part. But I never quite get the "classic" movies Air Canada offers. It seems to me it's always a bunch of black and white films with Charlie Chaplin and never enough of "Gone With The Wind" or "Casablanca." Personally, I'd like a wider variety in that category. Not that anyone was asking...
OOPS - BAD TIMING FOR PARKS CANADA CUTS
This is awkward. On Monday, the Canadian Tourism Commission announced it was adding a slew of new "Signature Experiences" to its list of great things tourists can do when they visit Canada.
Among the new top-rated experiences listed is a tour of the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. That release came around 9 a.m. Later in the day came news that federal budget cuts could mean reduced staffing at the Fortress; perhaps as many as 120 fewer jobs.
BIZ STUDY PUTS TORONTO ON THE MAP
A company called Concur recently published a study of business travel and entertainment spending. Based on overnight stays at hotels, the company said the most visited city for U.S. biz types were London, Shanghai, Singapore, Beijing and Toronto. Nice we're fifth, but it's interesting that Beijing and Shanghai were both ahead of us. A real testament to the Chinese economy, I suspect.
Anyway, Montreal was 9th on the list, Calgary 16th and Vancouver 19th.
The study also analyzed the cost of travel and entertainment to cities around the world. Topping the list (not a list you want to be on top of) was Tokyo, at an average daily cost of $528.43. Next was Copenhagen, then Perth Australia ($502.65), Sydney, Stockholm, London, Brisbane Australia, Zurich, Melbourne and Paris ($440.65). That's four Australian cities in the top 10, but you have to keep in mind that the cost of getting to the city was included.
I'm sure it's cheaper to stay in Perth (see photo at left) than it is in Paris, but for most Americans, and North Americans, it's a lot cheaper to fly to Europe than to Australia.