The busy parallel runways at SFO often make for good pictures and interesting window seat experiences. They however are eclipsed by this great little time lapse video. Can’t wait tot try this for myself at YTZ or YYZ.
Archive for 2011
In my web travels this morning I stumbled on this video. Some people are crazy!
A year ago I was invited to Calgary to participate in a prelaunch preview of the revamped WestJet.com. After the session I was asked if I would be interested in coming back for future previews including that of the WestJet Vacations site. As I was saying yes to the question I realized that I had in fact never even been on the site. That lack of visibility is one of several things that are sure to change now that WestJetVacations.com has been re-launched.
The new WestJetVacations.com is now nestled right into the mother ship – WestJet.com. Given the strong brand image WestJet has it makes perfect sense to merge the two. I am told that this apparent synergy was not just conjecture and that a study of traffic to the sites showed that most visitors to the vacations site only got there after a visit to the main site. Fewer clicks to conversion can only be a good thing. Given its new surroundings it should come as no surprise that the look and feel of the new site exactly match that of WestJet.com – uncluttered, easy to read and easy to navigate.
While a less ambitious outfit might have been happy with just the above, the folks at WestJet wanted to go bigger. And they did. Several thousand pages bigger in fact. A key component of the newly launched site is a crowd sourcing-based review system. Guests can submit written reviews and multimedia detailing the ins and outs of their stays at resorts and hotels booked though WestJetVacations.com. The logic is simple; more in situ content, more user retention, more bookings. Obviously for this play to work the site needs to reach a critical mass of content to keep users interested. To get there more quickly the site is already cross-populated with reviews submitted to Trip Advisor. To grow this further, WestJet plans to incentivize its guests to submit their own reviews with a view to hitting that critical mass sooner rather than later.
Beyond the massive changes listed above there are some smaller additions on the horizon, including some interesting social media tie-ins. I’ll be watching with interest to see these take shape and so should you. In fact, while you’re watching, book me a trip somewhere nice; window seat, waterfront view, adults only. Go!
Some snaps of the new site:
This week I was lucky enough to visit WestJet headquarters in Calgary. As part of my trip they treated me (and @AbFabSkyLife and @SarahDeveau) to some play time in a 737-700 simulator. This was my first time in a simulator and it was fantastic. It took a while to get to grips with the beast – sweaty palms didn’t help! I found getting a feel for the delay when banking especially tricky. I must have heard the “bank angle” prompt a hundred times. We got to experience flying in and out of YVR and HNL; by day, by night, in clear and overcast skies (aka flying blind) and with some interesting turbulence that caused an iPhone to go AWOL for about 5 minutes. When I win the lottery this Friday, CAE will definitely be getting a call from me. Thanks again to the entire @WestJet team! View Full Article »
Chances are excellent that if you’re an aviation nut you have already seen this; yesterday a LOT 767 with 230 people on board made an emergency landing in Warsaw after crossing the pond from Newark. Dramatic stuff – tragedy averted by excellent airmanship.
In a move that few saw coming, it was announced this week that Qatar Airways had been granted 9th freedom permissions to fly domestic air routes within Iran. Iran – it seems – has found a silver bullet to its domestic air travel woes and Qatar Airways have blown the doors off a new market. At this stage little is known about these future domestic operations. What is clear from Qatar Airways’ announced schedule changes is that they have grand plans for Iran.
So far the following changes are set to take effect:
|Route||Flight Changes||Effective Date|
|Doha (DOH) – Tehran (IKA)||2 daily to 3 daily flights||December 1 2011|
|Doha (DOH) – Mashad (MHD)||5 weekly to 2 daily||March 1 2012|
|Doha (DOH) – Shiraz (SYZ)||2 weekly to daily||December 1 2011|
|Doha (DOH) – Shiraz (SYZ)||daily to 10 weekly||March 1 2012|
|Doha (DOH) – Isfahan (IFN)||new daily route||January 11 2012|
Qatar Airways themselves are billing this as a 150% capacity increase into Iran – massive no matter how you spin it. While we wait to see what comes of the domestic operations we can say that Doha has become to Iran what Incheon has become Japan – a domestic hub overseas.
At around four hours this is, of course, a much shorter mission than the 787 will typically fly. During the early stages of adopotion into the fleet, shorter flights such as these are used for crew training and familiarization. In fact this flight itself is a special charter. Regular operations will start on November 1st with the 787 set to operate flights from Haneda and Okayama and Hiroshima. In the longer term the 787 will be phased onto routes from Tokyo to Beijing and then Frankfurt.
In my web travels I stumbled upon this video. Just what the doctor ordered for a slow Friday morning.
Qantas has announced an overhaul of its international operations to try to right the ship from the tough position it currently sits in. These changes were announced in a document entitled “Building a Stronger Qantas” released to investors on August 16th. Having read the document (twice) my outsider’s assessment is that there appears to be a bit of a lack of coherent focus.
Qantas services to London Heathrow will be dropped to two daily flights via Singapore. Existing services via Hong Kong and Bangkok will terminate in those cities. Passengers will transfer onto flights operated by British Airways. Not too long ago there was talk of Heathrow becoming an all A380 station for Qantas. The newly released document now states Heathrow will be served by “A380 aircraft or equivalent product.” This, I presume, is in reference to the 9 747s Qantas plan to retrofit to “A380” standard.
Sydney – Buenos Aires flights will be dropped in favour of a Sydney – Santiago service. This makes sense. Santiago is alliance partner, LAN’s biggest hub. This switch makes numerous places in South America accessible with a single stop. Add to this the fact that Aerolineas Argentinas is destined to join Skyteam, SYD-EZE makes less sense than ever.
Delivery deferral of 6 A380s by 5 years (FY’14 to FY’19) This decision was likely based on a simple total cost of operation calculation. There is no doubt that the A380 is the sexier offering but the fact that the 747s are paid off make them more viable at this time.
Qantas will focus on Premium International Travel ex-Australia. Given the lower cost of labour and (perceived?) better service on the numerous Asian carriers that service Australia, is this wise? Qantas is no slouch but topping titans like Singapore Airlines is not going to be easy. I fear that this may be too big a hill for Qantas to climb.
The document also indicates that Qantas will set up a “new premium, full-service airline based in Asia under a new brand.” At the time of writing, no “base” has been chosen. I would imagine any base would have to be chosen with some synergies with Qantas and/or its OneWorld partners in mind. This would suggest that it would have to be Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Given the scale back in both Hong Kong and Bangkok, neither of those appears to be the frontrunner. Singapore is already quite a ferocious market and I have a hard time believing Qantas has the stomach for it. This leaves Kuala Lumpur. Geographically speaking it’s well placed to serve most of Asia but given that it’s in a region with an appetite for LCC flying isn’t this too a bloodbath waiting to happen?
In addition, Qantas plans to launch Jetstar Japan in 2012. Japan is not an easy marketplace at the best of times but the current economic climate and the fact that the key partner in this venture is JAL – a carrier with deep problems of its own – really make me wonder if this is ever going to be anything more than a pipe dream.
Good luck Qantas, you’re going to need it!
As expected, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office announced on August 8th that a new treaty bringing greater liberalization of air ties between Canada had been signed. Initially I assumed that this was an open skies agreement and that we might see an interesting flurry of aviation activity between the two countries. I did some digging but found precious little detail, just horrifically nebulous statements released through the PM’s website and wire pieces describing the agreement as being open-skies-like. Interestingly enough WestJet released a statement welcoming this liberalization before Air Canada – some good sabre rattling.
In the absence of detail, I have elected to offer conjecture:
The two carriers this affects the most are Air Canada and TAM. Air Canada is the only carrier from either country that operates regular flights between the two countries – a daily 777-300ER service between Toronto and Sao Paulo with a TAM code share. Assuming the agreement permits fifth freedom traffic rights, I’m sure Air Canada will pounce and stick a tag-on leg onto this flight. After all having a 777 sit on the ground in Sao Paulo for 11 hours is hardly good commercial sense. Toronto-Sao Paulo-Buenos Aires jumps out a viable possibility. The Canada-Argentina Air Transport Agreement permits Air Canada (as the designated Canadian carrier) rights to fly from any point in Canada to Buenos Aires via Lima, Santiago and two other yet-to-be-named points (outside the USA and the Caribbean). Buenos Aires aside I can’t think of any desirable points near Sao Paolo that would make sense as an add-on. That is of course working on the assumption that the Brazilians did not agree to allow Canadian carriers to fly intra-Brazil.
Given the statistics being put out by the Canadian Tourism Commission, I feel that there is likely enough (business and tourist) traffic to start either a Toronto–Rio de Janeiro or a Montreal–Rio de Janeiro service. While doing some research I stumbled upon the fact that YYZ-GRU and YUL-GIG are exactly the same great circle distance – 5075nm – well within the reach of a 767-330, A330-300 or a 777-300ER. All three of these models are operated by both TAM and AC. It really just becomes a question of aircraft availability and will. I predict it will be AC who pursues this first – with a TAM code share of course.
It wasn’t cognac. It wasn’t scotch. It wasn’t champagne. It was lemonade. Yes lemonade. On Wednesday Federal Court Justice Marie-Josée Bédard saw fit to award an Ottawa man $12,000 dollars in damages and a formal apology for the “pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of their vacation” caused by having to order a drink in English rather than his preferred language – French. I say preferred because the complainant is a fluent speaker of both English and French.
Since its privatization in 1988, Air Canada has been forced to continue to operate in both French and English as a subject of the Official Languages Act. In addition Air Canada is required to maintain its head office in Montreal. In my opinion it is patently ridiculous that a private corporation can be held to different standards than its competitors. Wasn’t the whole point of deregulation to move towards market driven corrections and market determination of services? Surely it’s time that these additional burdensome requirements on Air Canada were put to bed?
What’s totally laughable is that this saga centers around an incident in 2009 in which the complainant in question – Michel Thibodeau – asked for a 7Up in French but received a Sprite. (No word on if he said sept or seven.) So what’s the real issue here? I don’t believe Air Canada carries Pepsi products, so he wouldn’t have been able to get a 7Up had he received service in French, English or Swahili for that matter. Was it just such a huge burden to have to ask in English? I think not.
Whether you agree with Air Canada being bound by the official languages act or not, the simple fact is that they are and they did come up short. They should be fined and those monies should be made available to organizations promoting French language and culture. By handing this money over to – let’s face it – an ambulance-chaser masquerading as a language martyr the court has declared open season on Air Canada for a battery of similar suits.