Air Canada this week began selling a five-tier economy fare structure that provides stripped-down airport and onboard amenities at the cheapest rates, with more comfort for the most expensive fares.
The most expensive “Latitude” fare offers a fully refundable ticket, priority check-in, two complimentary checked bags, access to preferred seats when available, a complimentary Air Canada Bistro Voucher, 125 percent Aeroplan Miles accrual and access to the carrier’s Maple Leaf airport lounge for a fee.
At the bottom end, Air Canada’s most restrictive “Basic” fares do not permit changes, are not eligible for upgrades and do not earn Aeroplan Miles. Customers can pay for checked bags, advance seat selection, as well as inflight meals and beverages.
The “Basic” fares will only be available on select routes and flights and for booking exclusively through Air Canada channels.
All Economy fare types are currently available for booking, and will still offer complimentary carry-on baggage, free inflight entertainment, and the option to purchase onboard WiFi access where available. The fare types are also available on Air Canada Rouge.
“This is Air Canada's attempt to keep up with, and match, the pricing structure that was introduced by WestJet in March,” said Heather Clifton, cruise and travel consultant at CruiseExperts Travel in Vancouver.
"More options and more choice is a good way to go, and allows the airline to move further away from the one-size-fits-all approach of the past," said Mike Foster, president of Nexion Canada. "I also feel that it is good for the travel agent community as the great the number of options and choices, the more confusing it can be for travelers, and the more value that agents can provide by finding the best fit for the consumer."
Early this year, Air Canada launched a basic economy fare for price-sensitive travelers, and was followed soon after by WestJet with its “Econo (Lowest)” fares. In addition, WestJet is launching a separate ultra-low-cost carrier called Swoop in June, which, while flying out of secondary airports like Hamilton, south of Toronto, is offering one-way fares close to the levels of Air Canada’s Basic fare tier.
“I think that, for the leisure traveler, the Basic options will be good as long as they understand the limitations that come with the lower fare,” she said, adding that the increasingly complex fare structures in Canada are “another reason why people should use a travel consultant when making their travel plans. A good travel consultant will be able to explain the different levels of pricing and the benefits and/or the restrictions so as to make sure the traveler's needs are being met.”
Flemming Friisdahl, president of host network The Travel Agent Next Door, welcomed the broader range of fares as another attempt for Air Canada to ensure it is meeting the needs of all who want to fly. “Any time a travel professional has the opportunity to sell a customer exactly what they want, the better it is for all of us,” he said.
Additional fare classes include Comfort, which offers much of the same services that the airline’s Latitude fares offer, but with a slightly lower Aeroplan Miles accrual rate. The next least expensive fare class is called Flex, which offers ticket changes for a fee, advance seat selection, a complimentary checked bag, 100 percent Aeroplan Miles accrual and Maple Leaf Lounge access for purchase.
The fourth tier is Air Canada’s Standard Economy class, with ticket changes permitted for a fee, 50 percent Aeroplan Miles accrual for transborder flights and 25 per cent Aeroplan Miles accrual for domestic flights.
"Air Canada recognizes that people have different requirements when they travel, so we are expanding the range of choice for our Economy customers with our new suite of fares," said Lucie Guillemette, Air Canada executive vice president and chief commercial officer.