No one airline should have all that power

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Photo credit: www.lowestrates.ca

As of Dec. 15, no pets will be allowed as checked baggage on Air Canada or WestJet flights during the holiday travel season. This Air Canada update is one of the few changes that have been announced for passengers in the past few months. It follows the airline’s decision to charge $25 for baggage as well as the one-to-50 ratio.

The one-to-50 ratio represents the 50 passengers one flight attendant is responsible for. The ratio had always been one-to-40 before this change. Air Canada’s spokesperson, Peter Fitzpatrick, said the one-to-50 ratio is “absolutely safe” and is an internationally accepted standard. The airline’s union tried to fight its implementation arguing compromised passenger safety and service is at stake. Add this to stagnant high fares despite the drop in cost of fuel and Canadian passengers are left to accept whatever the travel oligopoly throws their way.

Canada has one large carrier in Air Canada, and one mid-sized carrier in WestJet, which together account for more than 90 per cent of passenger miles flown domestically. On international routes, Air Canada has an even greater reign on passengers. This implies that when Canadians want to fly abroad, it is often difficult to do so on anything other than Air Canada or one of its Star Alliance partners.

Canada, which limits foreign investment to 25 per cent, lags other jurisdictions and leaves Canadian passengers with sky rocketing fares. The European Union and Australia allow outsiders to control 49 per cent of their airlines. The map below compares the fare differences between airlines in the EU, US and Canada.

The case against allowing foreign carriers into Canada is the concern of taking domestic jobs and revenue. However, when Australia brought in foreign carriers, this issue did not arise. According to Canadian Business News, competition between Australia’s six domestic airlines dropped fares by 21 per cent in the first year of the new rules, flight frequency increased and carriers saw an uptick in travellers. Also, flights were on schedule 80 per cent of the time.

Only 58 per cent of Air Canada flights were on time in January while the industry average is 78 per cent, according to tracking service Flightstats. This is just one of the problems cited with the carrier.

If the private corporation is not challenged to innovate and lower costs in the face of foreign competition, the increasing disappointment of passengers might not break and fares might touch the sky more than the average Canadian will.

Flight Rights Canada developed four travel rights for Canadians which major air carriers have since adopted. View the slideshow below for more information.