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Why the golden age of flying is never coming back — and it might not be a bad thing

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Price of Dwelling8:59Why the golden age of flying isn’t coming again

From expensive parking to pat downs at safety and lengthy lineups in every single place you flip, air journey lately could be disagreeable. 

“I get on a airplane now no less than as soon as a month and to me, it is like driving on a bus within the sky. Herd me on, sit me down, get me off. They’ve taken away the lure of the journey,” mentioned Susan Barnes, 75, of Halfmoon Bay, B.C., who has been a frequent flyer for greater than half a century.

Barnes, who was a flight attendant within the Sixties and ’70s, says she remembers when flying was like a Mad Males cocktail occasion within the sky. She jetted across the globe pouring free champagne for passengers flying CP Air, a service that operated till 1986 when it was taken over by Pacific Western Airways (PWA) after which, Canadian Airways.

Barnes mentioned her job was to supply high notch remedy to each passenger, even these sitting in financial system. That meant handing out scorching towels earlier than and after each meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner have been served on actual china, with silverware and fabric napkins — then out got here espresso, tea and a fruit basket. 

This composite photo shows a young woman in a flight attendant uniform at left and the same woman, now 75, as she appears today.
Susan Barnes, 75, of Halfmoon Bay, B.C. is pictured at proper, and in her CP Air flight attendant uniform in 1968, at left. (Submitted by Susan Barnes)

“We have been treating these folks as in the event that they have been in a first-class institution. We simply occurred to be within the air,” Barnes mentioned.

Barnes and different retired CP Air, Canadian and Air Canada flight attendants interviewed by the Cost of Living described flying again then as “a pleasure.” 

It is a far cry from the expertise hundreds of Canadians had with airways this previous vacation season. Employees shortages, climate points and computer outages resulted in misplaced baggage, cancelled flights and stranded passengers who at the moment are battling air carriers for compensation

This, together with a summer season of major travel disruptions attributable to COVID-19 labour shortages, has the federal authorities promising to overhaul Canada’s airline passenger invoice of rights.

If you happen to’ve been caught in that tangled net of journey chaos, it’s possible you’ll be asking your self what occurred. Specialists say it comes right down to prices, and competitors — and that we’re unlikely to ever return to that golden age of flying.

Maintaining costs aggressive meant airways needed to be extra ruthless in regards to the backside line, mentioned Fred Lazar, an affiliate professor of economics at York College.

“Here is a fare, it will get you a seat from A to B. Anything prices extra.”

Service competitors

What most Canadians keep in mind because the golden age of flying was the period when industrial aviation was regulated, defined Lazar. It was a time when airways did not have to chop prices to remain aggressive, as a result of the federal authorities did not enable them to compete with each other.

“So it was basically the federal government saying that is the place you may fly, when you may fly and these are the costs.”

Up till 1986, the 2 huge gamers have been non-public service CP Air and government-owned Air Canada (previously Trans-Canada Airways), mentioned Lazar, and the federal government didn’t enable a lot overlap on routes.

Within the absence of competitors, specialists say Canadian carriers have been assured to draw clients and generate income, which meant they may afford to supply perks on their flights to passengers. 

In line with Julie LeBlond Parker, who began as a flight attendant for CP Air in 1968, airways additionally invested of their employees. She obtained intensive coaching in “decorum” and “finesse” earlier than taking to the sky.

“The service was based mostly on outdated European service. It was a really excessive customary,” mentioned LeBlond Parker, who now lives in South Surrey, B.C.

However the golden age of air journey was additionally out of attain for a lot of Canadians. Fare schedules from collectors and the archives of the Canada Aviation and Area Museum reveal that all through the Nineteen Forties, ’50s and ’60s, flying was extremely costly.

In 1950, a return flight on Trans-Canada Airways from Vancouver to Johannesburg, South Africa, price over $21,000 when adjusted for inflation. Flying Toronto to Vancouver in 1962 on CP Air was roughly $1,900. 

With costs like that, LeBlond Parker, mentioned the regulars on her flights have been enterprise travellers, not vacationers. Leisure travellers have been often newlyweds, {couples} and households embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime journey.

“What was actually wonderful about it’s that all of them dressed up. They most likely received a brand new outfit simply to fly as a result of it was particular. It was a really particular factor.”

Old black and white photo of men and women sitting in their seats on an airplane. They are dressed formally.
Passengers sit aboard the Canadian Pacific Airways Empress of Vancouver in 1949. (Metropolis of Vancouver Archives)

Goodbye blankets, hi there bargains

Barry Prentice, the director of the Transport Institute on the College of Manitoba, mentioned Canadians noticed a “great drop” in airfares south of the border when the U.S. deregulated its airways in 1978.

“They went from $700 to $200, or one thing. And everyone in Canada was sitting there, you understand, questioning, ‘properly, why do not we have now that?'”

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Prentice mentioned the Canadian authorities adopted the U.S., loosening its grip on the airline business all through the Eighties and ’90s. Throughout that point, Air Canada turned privatized and extra carriers entered the Canadian market. As competitors ramped up, airfares went down. 

However that is not the one purpose flying turned cheaper, defined Prentice. 

Advances in aviation know-how meant planes turned extra gasoline environment friendly and bigger, which elevated air cargo and passenger capability. Prentice mentioned that — together with the Eighties oil glut, introduced down the worth per seat.

Even when crude costs rebounded, legacy airways like Air Canada could not return to charging passengers as a lot for flights as they did earlier than deregulation as a result of they have been up towards the à la carte pricing mannequin of no-frills carriers, mentioned Lazar.

cabin crew, pilot, airplane, flight attendants
A cabin crew within the early Seventies on a CP Air airplane. (Submitted by Julie LeBlond Parker)

“Many individuals mentioned, ‘We did not need to pay for luggage, we received meals totally free, we did not need to pay for earphones,” Lazar mentioned.

“Effectively now, within the lowest-fare classes, you do, as a result of the airways wish to compete with the extremely low-cost carriers. And that is the one approach they’ll do it.”

Lazar, who has additionally labored as a advisor for Qantas, Air Canada and Porter Airways, mentioned stripping away the luxuries and packing extra seats on planes is a “main contributing issue to creating flying in financial system a lot much less snug and engaging, but rather more reasonably priced.”

Snafus at safety

Whereas Canadians usually blame airways for a awful flying expertise, chaos at airport safety and gates may also contribute to the general unpleasantness of air journey. Specialists say that is as a result of airports aren’t designed for the realities of as we speak’s journey.

Between 1973 and 2008, Anthony Wade-Cooper was a flight attendant for CP Air, Canadian and Air Canada. He says earlier than 9/11, he might make it from the check-in counter to the gate in 20 minutes.

“It was simply so totally different. You simply walked into the airport and you bought on a flight,” he mentioned Wade-Cooper, who’s now retired in a city referred to as Mooloolaba on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.

These days, airways ask passengers flying home to reach on the airport two hours upfront and Wade-Cooper mentioned he usually spends most of that point standing in a queue.

Unclaimed checked bags are shown at the Vancouver International Airport.
Unclaimed checked luggage are proven on the Vancouver Worldwide Airport in January. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has promised adjustments to the air passenger invoice of rights are coming this spring. (Brenna Owen/The Canadian Press)

Safety snafus are additionally a results of a gentle improve in air journey during the last decade — peaking in 2019 with almost 163 million passengers passing by means of Canadian airports, according to Statistics Canada.

In line with Lazar, most airports weren’t constructed for a post-9/11 world the place each traveller has to take off their belt and sneakers. There are additionally design issues when passengers arrive at gates. Lazar says some airports are designed like malls — numerous retailers and eating places however not numerous seating.

“There is no place to sit down. You realize, you probably have lengthy delays, the place are you going to go?”

However what we get in trade for fewer perks and busier airports, mentioned Prentice, are cheaper flights — and meaning extra folks than ever can afford to fly. Which he thinks is a “actually good factor.”

“Extra households can journey and, over time, households have break up up wider and wider. My grandchildren are in Montreal and I am in Winnipeg and I would not see them fairly often if it weren’t for air journey.”

If you happen to’re questioning if there is a strategy to get again a little bit of the magnificence or no less than the enjoyment of flying, Lazar mentioned you may’t anticipate to pay all-time low costs.

He mentioned the one approach again to the golden age of journey is to fly first-class or hire a personal jet. 

“In any other case, simply settle for the truth that air journey is actually the identical as travelling on a bus. Besides it will get you from A to B rather more rapidly.”

An old-fashioned photo shows a woman serving a couple a meal aboard an airplane
A flight attended serves a pair a meal aboard a flight within the Nineteen Fifties. (Air Canada)

Supply: www.cbc.ca

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