US vs Canadian Airlines? It's in the bag

Well, which is it?

This topic comes up with some frequency when I’m researching flight options for clients. Some flight options are presented to the client for review; they respond by saying that they can find a cheaper flight using a “fill in the blank US based airline”. In most cases I respond that similar flights using a Canadian airline, when practical, often offer far better value in the end. Here’s why:

  • Flown a US airline recently? Some may complain about their poor experience on a Canadian airline (it happens to everybody). Not every airline can be the Wardair of the skies (remember them? I’ll bet you do...and very fondly). There is no comparison when it comes to that often-overlooked factor: the flight experience. The service (or lack thereof) when traveling with most of the mainline US airlines is renowned: starting with disinterested/rude on ground staff, stewardesses, old & dirty aircraft, incorrect information from representatives, overhead bins packed to the rafters etc. How often have you experienced this with our 2 main Canadian airlines?

  • While on the subject of stuffed overhead bins, you certainly know why. US airlines (and others) have resorted to service fees in an effort to generate much needed revenue. The biggest contributor to their ancillary revenue is the fees associated with your luggage. Where it once was free to check in 2 pieces per person, no more. Baggage fees have been implemented; min $20 US for the first bag, even more for the second bag. Luggage overweight? Bring the credit card out; hefty fees will certainly lighten up your wallet in no time. To add insult to injury, in recent weeks most of the USA airlines have hiked their fees even more; tack another $5 US for the first bag and maybe more for the second. Ouch! On the other hand, let’s look at our main Canadian airlines baggage fees. 1 bag to be check in? No problem...that will be gratis. Bringing your golf clubs along? Again, that will be gratis.

Of course, there are times when it make sense to fly with a US airline. Maybe one of the major Canadian airlines does not fly to where you need to go to or their schedule doesn’t meet your needs (i.e. to meet cruise connections). Or you just need to get from point A to point B on short notice. Or the price is simply no comparison...the US airline flight is MUCH cheaper even when baggage fees are factored in (it does happen).

In the end, in light of the poor service & baggage fees that border (cross?) the line of gouging, that extra $40 or $60 in upfront cost to fly Westjet or Air Canada may well be worth the expenditure; the decision is yours. I know what I would I just have to change some other peoples minds.

Comments welcomed!

What's in the bag? New Security regulations for US bound passengers

In light of recent events over the past holiday season, new security rules have been implemented by the Canadian & American government affecting carry-on baggage limits. In a nutshell, these are more restrictive then in the past and may adversely affect your travel experience. The following recommendations will go far towards alleviating the potential for problems:

  • consult the CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security  Authority)  for a comprehensive description of what will or be will not be permissible as carry-on. We suggest you consult their webiste on a daily basis prior to dpearture for the most current information. please click on this link to go the website.
  • on your day of departure, check the status of your flight online before going to the airport
  • plan to arrive well in advance of your normal check-in times to allow for additional security measures i.e.secondary personal searches.
These requirements are in addition to the fall 2009 US governments Secure Flight Program implementation. This program requires the following additional information be provided a minimum of 72hrs prior to departure:
  • Full name as it appears on your passport (inc. middle name if present on your passport)
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
If you book within 72 hours of departure, this information must be provided at time of your ticket purchase.

As your travel agent of choice, we will collect this information on your behalf.

We highly recommend that you check the CATSA & your flight operators website often in the days prior to your departure for updated information!

Mexico Bound? Passport now required!


Effective March 1st 2010, the Mexican government has advised that new entry requirements will be implemented for all Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents in Canada planning to travel to Mexico.

ALL CANADIAN CITIZENS will be required to present:
a) Valid passport

ALL PERMANENT RESIDENTS in CANADA will be required to present one of the following:

a) Permanent Resident Card or
b) Certificate of Identity or
c) Refugee Travel Document

The new requirement aligns Mexico to all security measures established by the ICAO (“International Civil Aviation Organzation”)

**VISA is NOT REQUIRED for Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents in Canada to enter Mexico as a tourist.

For up to date information on entry requirement, please refer to the appropriate embassy or consulate.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good: More room

Some airlines are finally acknowledging what you, the customer & we, the travel agent have already known.... that they have been squishing people into economy seats like sardines. This is slowly changing as the charter airlines are now just figuring out that a comfortable guest is a happy customer (and potentially a repeat customer). This bodes well for everybody who flys on a charter flight; starting with Air Transat this June, they will be offering additional leg room for all their future flights. Other operators are now offering seat upgrades for somewhat more nominal rates. This is all good for everybody.

The Bad: More service fees

In order to offset rapidly rising fuel costs, airlines are adopting whatever it takes to reduce the weight of the planes and generate more revenue. Major US airlines (including United, American, US Air, Continental, Delta, Northwest, Alaska) have now implemented a $25 fee in most cases for checking in a 2nd bag for travel within North America. The only Canadian airline that has adopted this policy to date is Air Canada. Unless you are member of the carriers frequent flyer plan or flying business/ first class (these individuals are currently excluded from these baggage restrictions), the message to all flyers is to pack lightly or be prepared to pay. It is highly suggested that you check the website of the carrier you are travelling with for more details.

To add insult to injury, many airlines have also increased their fees for incidental items as well. Traveling with pets (if even allowed) will now cost you more. Flight change fees have also increased with some airlines along with new fees associated with the carriage of sporting items (hockey bags, sticks, ski boots etc.) if not registered in advance. Beware if you are traveling with Air Canada...if these items are not pre-registered expect to be paying an extra checked bag fee ($125 fee is not uncommon). You can prevent this if you or your travel agent pre-register these items. Naturally, we will take care of these details for you if your travel arrangements are made through us.

The UGLY: Fuel surcharges

They now prevail for all flights with Canadian carriers; both Air Canada and Westjet have now implemented fuel surcharges based on the distance flown. These surcharges currently range from $20-40 each way. Thinking of a winter vacation? You will not be able to escape the fuel surcharges there either; the major Canadian tour operators (Air Transat, Nolitours, Sunquest, Signature Vacations) have also introduced fuel surcharges averaging $160 return per person.

What does this mean to you?

If you have your heart set on an inexpensive last minute holiday or that special holiday vacation, it’s best to research it and then book at the earliest opportunity to avoid future surcharge increases (fuel surcharges are not regulated so the airlines/tour operators can raise the prices at any time). Again, we can help you with all your travel needs... just call us at 780.901.9855 or email “”.