Category: Aviation

Why are domestic flights so expensive in Canada?

Reader @WorthTheJetLag asks on Twitter: “Why are domestic flights so expensive?” The Globe’s Airline Industry reporter Greg Keenan has your answer:

Airline fares in Canada have generally been falling in recent years, but look high when compared with what Americans pay. Fares vary by route, but examples from two Canadian and two U.S. airline websites show the effect of competition and demand, two of the key reasons why Canadian fares are higher.

On one of the highest-demand routes in Canada, Toronto-Ottawa, Air Canada runs 16 flights a day. A return flight at Air Canada’s cheapest rate, booked for May 4, costs $220.

On New York to Washington flights, which are a roughly equivalent U.S. route, the return fare on American Airlines, also on May 4, is $183 (U.S.). American runs 19 non-stop flights a day to Washington out of the two main New York airports.

That’s not a huge difference from the Toronto-Ottawa Air Canada fare, given that there is much higher demand for the New York-Washington flight and American faces more competition on that route than Air Canada does on the Toronto-Ottawa run.

There’s a sharper contrast on longer-haul flights. A WestJet flight from Vancouver to Montreal booked for May 4 with a return date of May 8 would cost $614.90 (Canadian).

A Delta return flight between Los Angeles and Boston on the same days carries a fare of $326 (U.S.).

That underlines another factor that keeps Canadian fares higher – geography. Airlines in Canada are serving a small population spread out in a relatively thin line in a giant country. The U.S. market is roughly 10 times the size of Canada’s with high demand on many routes. Consumers benefit from fierce competition between four major domestic airlines and several low-cost carriers.

Taxes and fees are also higher in Canada.

There are at least two groups trying to start up low-cost airlines in Canada. If they are successful that should help bring down Canadian fares.

Follow Keenan on Twitter, and watch Why airline passengers won’t benefit from lower fuel prices.

Why don’t commercial airplanes livestream GPS location?

“The disappearing Air Asia flight makes one wonder that with the presence of in-flight Wi-Fi and GPS, why  airplanes don’t use it?” writes Abel Leung from Toronto. “Pilot voices and photos could be stored to cloud data, and there would be no need to wait for the black boxes, weeks later.” We posed this question to Jock Williams, a retired RCAF fighter pilot and aviation expert in Toronto.  “This question has to be answered in two separate parts, because it deals with both cause and effect where this tragedy is concerned,” he says:

First, it must be made very clear that no amount of live streaming of information in any form would have prevented the loss of the aircraft. While at the moment we have no concrete evidence of what occurred on the lost aircraft during it’s demise we do know that the pilots, who could have utilized their radios or other electronics to communicate their distress did not do so. One must assume that they were either too busy or were overtaken by events too quickly to respond. Wi Fi and GPS would have had no impact on this situation.

Since the aircraft was lost well over a week ago, it has not been the physical location of the wreckage that has posed the problem but the weather and sea conditions in the impact zone that has posed almost insuperable challenges to searchers and to the recovery process. Waves and water visibility do not respond to WiFi and GPS. If we had possessed  absolutely exact GPS data regarding the aircraft’s location at the moment of (apparently) inflight breakup, that would not have pinpointed seabed locations after a fall of 30,000 plus feet and over a week of drift caused by winds and currents after surface contact.

It must be underlined that, while livestreaming of what is now CVR and FDR data is an interesting concept, it would only speed the accident investigation, and would in no way prevent it from occurring.

Nonetheless, livestreaming of GPS location, strengthened recorder “pingers” and vastly improved Emergency Locator Transmitters are all reachable goals –  and honestly, it is a mystery to me why both have not been universally mandated by International Civil Aviation Organization regulations, especially after the MH370 disappearance.

It is to Canada’s credit that the sole company worldwide that does employ such systems is Ottawa’s FirstAir, a world leader in Arctic air transport.

Follow our ongoing coverage of the Air Asia flight recovery here