Agents React to Air Canada’s New Fare Structure

by Richard D'Ambrosio
Agents React to Air Canada’s New Fare Structure

Travel agents are still assessing the pros and cons emerging from Air Canada’s announcement last week, that it would compete with a growing network of low-cost carriers by broadening its economy class offerings to five, with each class offering fewer benefits the cheaper the airfare.

Some agents said that consumers were already growing confused since February, when Air Canada launched a basic economy fare for price-sensitive travelers, which was followed soon after by WestJet with its “Econo (Lowest)” fares.

The variety of fares and restrictions in Canada is growing as WestJet will launch a separate ultra-low-cost carrier called Swoop in June, flying out of secondary airports like Hamilton, south of Toronto.

“My clients are calling me to ask which [of Air Canada’s economy fares] is better and why, so it's giving the agents who get zero commission booking these fares more homework to do, so we can educate and assist clients to make the right choice,” said Lorraine Simpson, CEO of the Concierge Travel Group, in Fonthill, Ontario. “So, in this case, I'm torn.”

Wendy Edwardson, travel advisor at Vision Travel Solutions, in Calgary, Alberta, said: “I reviewed the tables provided by Air Canada and even printed off the grids to help me navigate the choices. I have heard lots of grumbling and it appears our agents are being asked to deal directly with Air Canada when making bookings moving forward. Some agents have advised they may be dealing with consolidators in the future.”

“Having said that, to date, it has not really affected me. Most of my clients travel business class or book their own air. However, as clients become more aware of the addition of comfort and the rebranding of Tango to Standard, I may be fielding questions in the future,” Edwardson added.

Sandra Aaron, travel consultant and owner at Simcha Travel, Toronto, said she is still deciding whether the broadened fare offering is good or bad for her agency and her clients.

“My first impression when I heard the news was trepidation, because I'm not a fan of the recent trend towards ‘no frills’ type fares. On the other hand, I appreciate the fact, Air Canada has structured the new classes in a way that passengers can choose which services fit their travel styles best,” Aaron said.

She noted that the growing reach of low-cost airlines in Canada has caused her to spend more time educating clients about the differences between the low fares they see advertised and what they are used to. “Although, it will take some time to explain the new fare structures to clients, those ‘apples-to-oranges’ type conversations will hopefully be minimized a bit, because the "Basic" fare is only available through official Air Canada channels.

Canadians like packaged offerings
“As Canadians, we like to have everything packaged,” Simpson said. “All-inclusive is very popular here, and a fare that basically gives you everything you would want in a neat little package is a good one. However, my other personal opinion is that it gives the airline an opportunity to skim a bit extra in the fare.”

Simpson explained, using Air Canada’s Rouge product as an example: “When that came out, it was meant to be a less expensive option with fewer comforts. The seats are far under the quality of a regular seat on Air Canada or comparable scheduled airlines, but it seems to me that the price is the same as other scheduled air, yet it gives you much less.”

For long-haul flights, Simpson said she prefers Toronto-based Sunwing.

Tip of the Day
The professional travel advisor’s job is to equip the traveler with the necessary information to enable a good decision that will reflect that person’s own risk tolerance.
Paul Ruden
Daily Top List

Most Powerful Passports in the World

1. United Arab Emirates

2. Singapore

3. Germany

4. Denmark

5. Sweden

Source: Passport Index


Why Travel Makes the Perfect Holiday Gift

Travel advisors are seizing the opportunity to encourage clients to give the gift that can be enjoyed any time of the year.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Air Canada Launches Montreal to Bordeaux Service
Air Canada Launches Montreal to Bordeaux Service

The service will run four days a week starting next summer. 

Air Canada and WestJet Raise Bag Fees
Air Canada and WestJet Raise Bag Fees

A day after JetBlue announced it will hike the price of checked bags, the two largest carriers in Canada revealed similar plans.

WestJet Adds Service to Maui, Las Vegas and More for Winter 2018-2019
WestJet Adds Service to Maui, Las Vegas and More for Winter 2018-2019

Canadian travelers will have additional flight options to warm-weather destinations, as well as schedule improvements.

Could Mobile Passport Renewal Be Coming to Canada?
Could Mobile Passport Renewal Be Coming to Canada?

A majority of consumers surveyed said they would be likely to use a passport renewal app because of the convenience, but expressed security concerns.

Canadian Low-Cost Carrier Swoop Adds Flights to Five U.S. Cities
Canadian Low-Cost Carrier Swoop Adds Flights to Five U.S. Cities

Canada’s newest, low-cost airline is opening up its schedule to international flights.

Canada Expands Biometrics Screening Program
Canada Expands Biometrics Screening Program

The initiative is part of a joint border security information-sharing arrangement with the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Tauck