Thursday, May 13, 2010

Air Canada's Introducing New Routes...But Should You Care?

Usually when a carrier begins a new route, its a good thing for passengers. The newcomer to that corner of the market undercuts the competition to establish itself, every one's prices drop and bingo! Consumers get a deal. Increased competition leads to lower prices.

Well, it seems that Air Canada doesn't use that playbook. Sure, its website pays lip-service to the idea that travelers will snag a steal if they book these new European non-stops before the deadline (May 18 in this case). The fares listed certainly look tempting--$403 each way Toronto to Copenhagen! $415 to Brussels! $425 to Rome. But once you get all the way to the end of the booking process, what with fuel surcharges, fees and taxes, rates across the pond are a good $350 higher than expected. And if you go to a general search engine or the website of one of Air Canada's competitors on these routes--as you should--you find that the other carriers are slaughtering Air Canada on price, often to the tune of $200 to $300 less. Air Canada's vaunted non-stops didn't come up in the affordable end of any of the searches I did, either.

After a good two hours price shopping on the web (one of the more exciting parts of my job), I found that Air Canada beat the competition on these routes only about 20% of the time. I searched for flights in July and August and if I boil down the results here's how they play:
  • Toronto to Copenhagen: Icelandair and JetAirways India are consistently the price leaders, beating Air Canada by a range of $30 to $200
  • Toronto to Brussels: A fairer fight. On this route, Air Canada came in first a number of times, though Lufthansa and US Airways were never far behind (and often bested AC)
  • Toronto to Rome: The starkest difference. On this route, Air Canada was pretty much whupped, often by as much as $300 by Lufthansa and Brussels Airlines
  • Toronto to Madrid: Air Canada was either  behind JetAirways India and Finnair by a little (about $40) and a lot (closer to $200). On the dates I checked, it never beat the competition
  • Toronto to Athens: A rare route on which Air Canada shone, offering lower prices than the others a good amount of the time. Its closest rivals were US Airways and Lufthansa
Of course, sometimes it was no one airline that beat Air Canada, but a combo flight of two different carriers. These tended to be put together by such booking engines as OneTravel and Expedia .

Another reason, perhaps, to ignore Air Canada's sale UNLESS, and I know this will pertain to a lot of readers, unless you're a member of Air Canada's loyalty program. Then you're going to have to weigh for yourself the difference in costs with the advantages of accruing miles on such long hops.

However you end up booking, know that, for now, your loonie is going to go a wee bit farther in Europe than it would have several months ago. The euro and the pound have been hurting, good news for Canadian and US travelers. Those lowered costs on the ground may just ease the sting of hefty airfares.

No comments:

Post a Comment