Saturday, December 20, 2008

Come on up

I got to say, while it's the most expensive haircut I've ever had, which is ironic given the amount of hair on my head these days, there is something nice about sitting down and have a chat with Scotty, the local barber.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, a hair cut is $25, and I always tip an extra $5 - so it's $30 for about 15-20 minutes work.

Previous discussions have been about vacations or politics, but today's topic was Westjet's decision to start flying from Edmonton to Yellowknife for a whopping $376 return, and that includes all taxes and surcharges. Not to be outdone, Canadian North and First Air promptly dropped their flights from about $600 return to $273 return.

Granted, Westjet is only flying to Yellowknife from the beginning of May to the end of October. Still, it's a big move and one that a lot of people in the north are watching closely. Even those of us who live in the Eastern Arctic.

I don't think anyone in Iqaluit would really be expecting a $375 return flight to Ottawa, but we could certainly go for a $800-$900 one, no problem. There's a lot of grumbling with the northern airline right now. Granted, people often tend to be crooked with them, but First Air did itself no big public relations favour by giving its board of directors a massive series of bonuses for no good reason.

People have a degree of understanding that it's expensive to operate in the north and will cut you some slack...right up to the moment you give yourself huge bonuses and appear to show no remorse over it. Then all bets, and loyalty, are off.

So with Westjet going into Yellowknife a lot of people around town seem to be hoping that they might find their way from Ottawa up here. And yes, the northern airlines are "threatening" to reevaluate the way they do business by giving "free" blankets, towels, meals, etc with this increased competition.

Look, it's a three hour flight from here to Ottawa. All I require from that plane is the following - that it leave on time, that it get to its destination safely and on time, that I have a bit of legroom and the seat be reasonably comfortable. That's it. The rest is nice, but hardly requiring a $1,800 ticket price. Oh yeah, prices don't seem to have dropped back much from when oil was $140 a barrel to where it is now, closer to $40. Funny how that works.

So yeah, I'd love to see Westjet give Iqaluit a try. I'd support them even when Canadian North and First Air would do the predictable - undercut them by $100 or so. Because they're hoping you do the greedy thing and go with the cheaper fare and drive away the new competitor. If the new guy gives up, well, you're back to $1,800 plane tickets again.

This is all speculation, of course. Westjet hasn't said they're coming here. But boy, there sure seems to be a lot of people hoping they give Iqaluit a try. Maybe I should go and drop them a line...just to give them a bit of encouragement.

Last Five
1. The hardest part - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals*
2. Saint Simon - The Shins
3. Shame on you - Hot Hot Heat
4. Finest work song - REM
5. Neighbourhood #3 (Power out) - The Arcade Fire


Anonymous said...

How many people do you see on a typical flight from YFB-YOW? 30? 50? 100? How much cargo? How many combi's does Westjet operate? How do you think the folks from Rankin, Cambridge, Pond, Gjoa, etc will be affected if Westjet poaches the cream of the Northern route structure? What about sponsorships, northern employment, community support? Will Westjet do that? In regards to fuel pricing, doesn't Nunavut set their price once a year? In that case, do you think the price has dropped at YFB yet?

Just a few things to consider...

Mireille Sampson said...

If the airline is publicly owned/traded then it was most likely the board of directors who gave the raise to themselves. Nice little trick, just like the MPs.

You could always become a shareholder - owning just one share gives you the right to speak at the annual general meeting. To be a fly on the wall...

towniebastard said...

They are all things to consider. And I don't pretend to understand all the complexities of the airline industry. I don't know why there isn't a once a week flight from Iqaluit to Greenland. Or why Air Labrador doesn't run a flight from St. John's to Iqaluit.

But what I do know is there is no competition in the Iqaluit-Ottawa run. Canadian North and First Air might as well be the same airline. Their flights leave within minutes. If there's a seat sale by one, the other has one shortly afterwards. Their prices are exactly the same.

So yes, it might cause problems and disrupt things. But I really think things could stand some shaking up. Because $1,800 really is a silly amount for a three hour flight. My dad can fly from St. John's to Thailand for cheaper than that. So that's just wrong.

Aida said...

that would be grand if Westjet do the YFB - YOW route. At least there is competition per se in Baffin, we are pretty much stuck with Calm Air, Kivalliq Air used to fly here but now they only do charters. Its sickening to pay $1500 on a plane ticket to winnipeg. and what makes it even more annoying, we are still unable to redeem aeroplan miles and its been almost a year.

OT - so i guess i am just venting about the airline we hv here.

Michael said...

When you think about it, you could run the whole Canadian arctic out of China somewhere - that's right, ship the whole thing over there - and everyone could get free tickets home once a year and the thing would still save everyone money! But don't get me started on the airfare ripoff in northern Canada!

Brian said...

I agree all things considered we do get ripped off, even in the sub arctic.
Re: Air Labrador. Couple year’s back they did try a St. John’s Iqaluit flight, traffic OK when school holidays started and finished, not so good the rest of time. Not sure of the ticket price, most likely high.