Air Canada cuts pets, luggage
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Air Canada cuts pets, luggage
October 13, 2005

Forget Fido, the fluffy pillow and the fully loaded luggage.

Air Canada raised fees for transporting pets and cut back its baggage allowance Wednesday, part of a series of measures designed to combat soaring fuel prices. On overseas flights, pets are no longer allowed in the cabin, at any price.

And starting Nov. 1 on short-haul flights, Air Canada will charge $2 for a “comfort zone” kit that includes an inflatable plastic pillow and polyester blanket.

Passengers who fork over the toonie can keep the kit, which is actually a plastic pouch that includes a pillow case, a blanket and an instruction card on blowing up the pouch into a pillow, an Air Canada agent said Wednesday. The optional kit is for domestic routes and transborder flights into the United States lasting 90 minutes or less, she said.

The idea is that every little bit helps when it comes to reducing the costs of replacing or cleaning pillowcases and blankets aboard short-haul flights. The new, lighter-weight kits help to lessen the loads on aircraft to conserve fuel.

“We all need to remain extremely sensitive and vigilant as to how we utilize our fuel and conserve energy,” Air Canada president Montie Brewer said in a statement.

He estimated that the Montreal-based airline's so-called “weight reduction team” has identified various savings that could be worth $45-million annually in reduced fuel bills.

Air Canada is seeking to post its first annual profit since 1999.

And to pull it off this year, Air Canada, which emerged from bankruptcy protection a year ago, has been scouring its operations for ways to bolster revenue and slash costs.

Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. already have raised fuel surcharges twice this past summer. Both carriers have also started fuel-hedging programs in an effort to control their energy bills.

While the two airlines remain in a fierce battle for passengers, WestJet never offered pillows in the first place, so Air Canada didn't feel pressure to engage in a “pillow fight,” choosing to sacrifice cabin comfort, consumer advocates say.

“When you're on a flight, creature comforts are important. Airlines are nickel and diming people to death,” complained Harry Gow, a spokesman for lobby group Transport 2000.

Michael Janigan, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa, said he isn't impressed by various extra charges and “annoying” service downgrades.

“It's a constant search to see how many ways that passengers' pockets can be picked,” he said.

He noted that on Air Canada's lowest fare category called Tango, passengers have to pay $15 each for one-way, advance seat selection.

For budget-minded families, “it could mean having the children in the back and the parents in the front,” Mr. Janigan said.

“I think there should be a minimal level of service that a passenger is entitled to, with the purchase of a ticket.”

WestJet is considering implementing an optional fee, where a passenger could choose to receive a sandwich, drink, higher-quality headset and movie. Advance seat selection is currently free, but could become a perk.

U.S. carriers also have been paring their expenses wherever possible. This month, American Airlines Inc. cut scheduled service at its Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago hubs. Earlier this year, American emptied pillows from its first-class and coach cabins on domestic flights, except its Hawaiian route.

Air Canada insists it's now charging fees that better reflect the extra costs of special services, and many consumers are willing to pay higher fares for improved service and greater flexibility.

Air Canada's website Wednesday outlined charges for pets, including $105 for a one-way flight within North America, either in the cabin or in cargo as checked luggage. That new “blended continental fee” is up from $40 in Canada, but down from $110 in the United States. Pets have to go in a secure container and fit under the seat to fly in the cabin on North America flights.

But on overseas flights, even if Fido fits under the seat, Air Canada now bans pets from the cabin, although flying cargo internationally is an option for a $245 fee.

Air Canada also tightened weight limits Wednesday for its free checked baggage allowance. The free luggage allowance for two bags will fall to nearly 23 kilograms each from almost 32 kilograms each. In that instance, travellers with a bag weighing 23 kilograms to 32 kilograms face a $35 fee for North American travel and $60 fee for international travel.

Separately, the upper limit for a single checked bag falls to 32 kilograms from 45 kilograms.

In other changes, the “unaccompanied minor fee” rises to $60 from $40 one-way, affecting children aged 5 to 11 who board a plane without a parent or other adult but under the supervision of Air Canada staff.

Children aged 12 to 17 who travel without a parent or adult now face a $60 fee for Air Canada supervision, compared with free service previously.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com

FlyForLess is not affiliated with any media companies nor does it represent or work for Air Canada. This article is published with the sole purpose of making information available for those who wish to stay informed on Air Canada's actualities.

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