air canada video Air Canada to begin monetizing its inflight video?

Reader Vince sends in this photo and asks what it really means:

Just got back from a trip on Air Canada and I think they may be setting it up to start charging passengers for inflight entertainment. Before your VOD starts it says “You personal entertainment experience is currently provided compliments of Air Canada.” Currently? I took a picture with my iphone…

It would be interesting to find out whether they are actually planning on starting to charge for this, as this message is fairly recent and was not shown when the service was originally launched.

Well, Vince, I asked Air Canada if they were planning to allow sponsorship of its inflight video system, or if the system were designed to be pay-per-use. “Currently” provided compliments of Air Canada sure suggests that free entertainment isn’t going to stay free for long. So are there plans to impose a fee for passengers, or is Air Canada vying for inflight entertainment sponsorships?

Air Canada’s media relations staff wouldn’t respond for comment.

So we’re left to speculate.

Obviously, the “currently” modifier clearly suggests that the price isn’t staying at $0.00 for long. And Air Canada was an early adopter of the “a la carte” pricing model for its tickets. It’s easily conceivable that some fare codes might get the video thrown in, while the cheapest seats pay per use.

Or, you might see a sponsorship deal, wherein all entertainment is “brought to you by Tim Horton’s” or something like that.

Without a sponsorship, the airline will likely resort to selling access to entertainment, but would that fundamentally be any different from selling headphones? (Yes, I realize that you can bring your own headphones, and that you can’t bring your own Air Canada video access code…)

Be forewarned, bring a good book, and be sure any electronic toys are charged before takeoff.

Flying in Canada? There’s a new rule that prohibits airlines from charging particularly large passengers an extra fee for taking up more than one seat.

The Canadian Transportation Agency ruling Thursday gives Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet one year to bring in a “one-person, one-fare” policy.

The ruling applies to disabled people, including the severely obese, who require two seats to accommodate them. It also applies to disabled persons who need an attendant seated with them on flights.
The agency estimates the new policy will cost Air Canada about $6.93 million a year, and WestJet about $1.48 million a year. That amounts to about 77 Canadian cents a ticket for Air Canada and 44 Canadian cents for WestJet.

In the U.S., Southwest has been charging an extra fee for some time (but only when flights are booked solid). They’ve been sued at least once, but the practice persists. It’s not just a North American thing, either: Air France was also sued for charging a passenger for an extra seat.

Lawsuits have typically charged discrimination, and that’s how the Canadian rule is framed.

My own view: It’s fine to give an oversized person a seat for the price of one ticket, as long as the other passengers aren’t required to give up their space. 17 inches width is little enough, that should be a minimum we fight to uphold.

But what do YOU think? Is Canada’s new policy fair or not? Should other countries follow suit? Are airlines doing enough?

Vote in the poll, and hit the comments with your thoughts.

large passenger poll results Canada prohibits airlines from charging overweight passengers for an extra seat

(Reading via the feed? Trouble reading the poll? Try here.)

- Travel by the pound
- Southwest’s “customer of size” Q&A
(Thanks again to reader J!)

Categorized in: airline seating, regulation

skybus inflight sales Backlog roundup: Skybus flies, directors shoot, curry explodes, TSA moonlights, and much more

It’s been a tough few weeks, so the posting machine has been running a bit slow. Time to clear some of the backlog:

Survivor: Skybus edition
Jaunted’s Mark Johnson played anthropologist in the airline world last week, doing some participant-observation onboard ultra-cheap negative-frills airline Skybus. The whole saga, with videos and pictures, can be found here. Photo above is Mark’s pic of a $9/hour Skybus flight attendant selling goods (on commission). Ah, the ubiquitous Toblerone, official chocolate of 35,000 feet. But ice wine? And those crew uniforms look remarkably like the folks in those hotels.com TV ads…

Bonus: Skybus is adding three cities to their roster. “Hartford/Springfield” — which is really Westover Metropolitan (CEF), 19 miles from Bradley (BDL). “Jacksonville/Daytona Beach” — which is really St. Augustine/St. John’s County (UST), a whopping 42 air miles from Jacksonville (JAX). And San Diego. Yes, it’s really San Diego. One out of three ain’t bad.

At least he didn’t threaten the flight attendants
The TSA reportedly detained director Mike Figgis for five hours at LAX, after he told security screeners that he was in town to “shoot a pilot.” What, LAX employees never heard the television-industry parlance of “pilot”? UPDATE: This never happened. Mike Figgis himself says it’s BS. But it’s a good story, I tells ya.

Arthur Frommer had better watch out
Latest competitor to Fodor’s, Frommer’s, and Lonely Planet? Borat!

Canadian citizenship for Kip Hawley?
Even though the Canadian government has created their own security lists, Canadian airlines are still using American no-fly lists. Will TSA Director Kip Hawley freedom baggies be far off?

I’d rather pay for my mortgage with miles
Gary Leff wants to pay his mortgage by credit card, so he can earn points. And it will soon be possible, via American Express and a small set of lenders, who take a $395 fee up front. Years ago, I checked out a rental apartment that let you use Visa to pay your rent. (I didn’t rent it.) The apartment sucked, but think of the miles I left on the table!

Villa livin’
Wendy Perrin has written a great guide to finding an affordable villa or vacation home. But the prices she mentions are still not ultra-cheap. I’m already a villa convert: In December 2005, my wife and I rented a small beachfront house in Anguilla. The house had its own pool, looked across the strait to the beautiful, mountainous island of St. Martin (or St. Maarten, if you prefer), and cost a little over $200 per night. It had no butler service, and, while comfortable, it wasn’t “luxury,” but it was amazing value.

Spend green to go green?
The city of Denver wants passengers to buy carbon offsets when they fly out of DEN. They’re setting up kiosks that let you buy offsets just like you might buy that Mutual of Omaha travel insurance. At the same time, Republican Congressmen are, perhaps ironically, championing a greater role for the federal government: regulating carbon offsets. Might not be a bad idea. I’m all for supporting the environment, but I’m suspicious of the offset idea. This skeptical op-ed in the Times of London doesn’t help.

Explosive curry
Explosive curry damages a Boeing 747. Say no more.

Boxers = Boeing, briefs = Airbus
Great moments in headline writing: “Hong Kong tycoon buys B787 jet after seeing passenger in underpants.”

Yes, that hamster is happy to see you
Jetlagged? Try popping a Viagra. After all, it works for hamsters!

Downgraded: Presidential security
The Secret Service is overburdened. So they’re bringing in the TSA! If presidential candidates look like they haven’t washed their hair, because their shampoo was confiscated, this will be why. God help us all.


Posted by: Mark Ashley

all you can eat meat Air Canadas all you can eat faresLike flying? A lot? Really, really a lot? Like Canada? Like the idea of going through American immigration in Canada? Have I got a deal for you…

Air Canada is rolling out all-you-can-fly fare passes for 3 and 6-month periods. The fares aren’t cheap, per se (fares start at ~$1700 per month), but if you commute between the US and Canada on a regular basis, this could be up your alley.

This nugget in their press release might be handy, too:

In addition, Air Canada is offering automatic top tier Elite frequent flyer status to its customers who purchase a six-month Unlimited ‘Flight Pass to Canada’ subscription at the Latitude fare level starting at $2,360 per month with additional flexibility and benefits.

All “Latitude” passes offer unlimited free upgrades (when available…). Alas, you’ll earn a fixed number of miles per month, depending on the fare level you purchase (10K/month for Tango Plus, 15K/month for Latitude), and you can’t credit the miles to another Star Alliance program.

Details on the 3-month unlimited flight passes are here. 6-month passes are here. The 6-month passes are here.

- Air Canada’s new menu of fare options
- Air Canada opens ALL seats to frequent flyer redemption
- Checked luggage now costs 20 bucks on lowest Air Canada fares


Categorized in: Air Canada
Posted by: Mark Ashley

 Holiday hours officially in effect

Upgrade: Travel Better is officially taking a few days off. May your holidays be good ones, and may you maintain that slim and sexy figure you’ve had for so long, despite the end-of-year gluttony. If you’re stuck at an airport, thanks to Denver’s snow or London’s fog, good luck getting to your destination, and safe travels.

But before returning to the feasting, here are a couple considerations for travel in the new year:

- Traveling to America’s national parks in 2007? Consider the $50 National Park Pass, valid for one year, while you still can. In the new year, the price goes up to $80 and the name changes to the “America the Beautiful Pass.” Same pass, new name, higher price. Buy now to save thirty bucks. (via Tim Leffel)

- Traveling in low season is always a good way to save money. But when IS the low season? CheapTickets has compiled a short list of the lowest of the low seasons, with the average hotel stay discount, measured from the peak. Some aren’t that helpful — Phoenix in June? But others are good to know, such as Hawaii in May.

- Through January 3, Air Canada is selling all-you-can-fly “Welcome Aboard” passes for as little as $229 (Canadian) per month, depending on destination. Flight days are limited (e.g., Tuesdays and Saturdays) and the rate goes up as you include a broader geographic range. And unfortunately, you can’t use the passes to rack up miles — you only receive a fixed number of miles per month. But it may be worth your while if you’re traveling within Canada or to/from the United States. FAQs are here. (Thanks to reader Ian!)


Categorized in: Air Canada, travel

aircanada Air Canadas new menu of fare options

Back in April, Air Canada introduced $20 discount for passengers who agreed 1) not to make any changes to their itinerary and 2) not to check any luggage.

Now, the airline is expanding the “Go Discount” program, making the calculation of your airfare even more a la carte:

The carrier is offering four fare types (Tango, Tango Plus, Latitude and Executive) and gives passengers the option to add or subtract items based on individual preferences. The offerings include value-added car rental and hotel services, lounge access for Latitude customers for C$25 ($22.30), advance seat selection for Tango customers (C$15), a C$5 inflight meal voucher option for Tango and Tango Plus customers and options for Tango, Tango Plus and Latitude passengers to save C$5 by not checking baggage and for Tango passengers to save C$7 by agreeing not to change or cancel flights and C$3 by declining frequent-flier miles.

The airline is claiming that the new policy increases price transparency. True enough, and there are some people who can probably benefit from this. But the benefits have their limits.

Putting a price tag on seat assignments — and such a high price tag — is obnoxious. I know, it’s already common practice in Europe, especially among charter airlines, but it’s still conduct unbecoming a full-service airline.

The meal vouchers are reasonable, in comparison. I’m not sure how many people would prefer the airline’s catering to a sandwich purchased in the airport, but at least the price is competitive.

It’s the C$3 discount for declining frequent flyer miles that really gets me. Besides the fact that not earning miles is heresy if you’re under my roof, it’s valuing the miles far too cheaply. I understand that this is aimed at the very infrequent flyer who never collects enough mileage to be worth a free trip, but 3 Canadian bucks?? A flight from Toronto to Vancouver covers 2085 miles each way — even at a conservative 1 cent per mile, that’s over C$40 worth…

It will be interesting to see if any American airlines follow suit. American Airlines has toyed with various fees (like the $1 soft drink experiment) so they might try this. Southwest, JetBlue, and USAirways are all prime candidates for this sort of pricing, too. But it will be difficult to align a menu of flight options with Expedia, Orbitz, etc. And it will make apples-to-apples comparisons of fares even harder, going forward.