Friday, April 27, 2007

Classic Porter type service brought to the nickel and dime world of airlines

Going to work on the new Porter Airlines who operates out of Toronto City Center airport (CYTZ). This is my first ride on a Dash 8 Q400 and I must admit that it is the perfect airplane for this type of work. It has a very roomy interior, more so then a CRJ-200 which I personally hate because the window is at about waist level and I have to crouch walking down the aisle.

It is much quieter then previous Dash 8's I have flown on (hence the Q(quiet) active noise canceling speakers throughout the cabin) and the seats were comfortable and I actually had leg room for once. Porter Airlines is going after the business commuter and is trying to bring back the service that airlines used to be known for, before they sold their souls to the devil. Offering 49 dollar fares between Ottawa and Toronto fills seats but it's not really great valued seats so you have to pay for everything except for coffee and juice.

Porter offers free beer and wine, all served in glass or coffee in mugs. It was so odd to be served with a real glass, it had the feelings of J class on Air Canada but this service was provided to anyone holding a ticket and not having to pay 2000 dollars on an hour flight to get a real glass and a comfy seat.

Because Porter caters to the business commuter going for the day to Toronto or Ottawa there was no line up at check in. People just mostly have carry on (except me of course and for good reason, I spent the next 8 days living out of my suitcase:) At the gate I could see that this flight had a good load going out. Not nearly full but when you actually charge a fare that covers your costs you don't need to fill the seats with 50 dollar ticket holders :)

I was reading about this type of mentality on a post on AvCanada not too long ago. It is a principle called "Race to the bottom" it applies more to government but airlines seem to be going down the same road to be competitive. I am no economist or do I have any business sense whatsoever (hell for anyone that knows aviation it's the worst industry to be in but the best job in the world) but it seems that if airlines would come to a truce stating that they will actually charge a fare that will allow them to not go into bankruptcy protection and focus on branding their service in order to attract consumers instead of going to the lowest bidder....Porter it seems is doing that, they offer service to downtown Toronto, quick speedy check in, nice planes, free BOOZE which is best of all :)

I look at things by how they affected me and do not profess to know the how and why business's do what they do. But I think the consumer is also responsible for the race to the bottom. I remember when WestJet started a new route and offered introductory fares in order to get people to try their service. To get that fare you had to book two weeks in advance and there was only so many fares available. The competition for the route they were operating on was an airline that had a well established monopoly and the price for a one way ticket out of town before WestJet came was around 500 dollars. So with WestJet's arrival with a new intro fare of 89 dollars the other airline who had been screwing over the town full of people for the past 30 years had to to lower their fare's to compete.

The problem then lies is that the other airline had more frequency and better times so now with the new fares people chose the old airline and did not give their dollar vote to the reason why they now can fly for half the price. I have been guilty in the past of choosing something that is more efficient schedule wise even if it's the same price but for the most part I want to help out "the other guy" trying to make it. So when it came time for WestJet to review this new destination it got axed because of light loads. People bitch and whine because they pulled out but where were they when WestJet brought them a great service for a descent price ? I am glad they now have to pay crazy rates to leave town as they are mostly to blame for it.

Back in the early days WestJet pulled out of Winnipeg because of lack of loads...only to later come back with resounding success because people actually paid attention and started to use their dollar votes on the great service. In time frequency will get better as will the schedule. When buying something do you normally go for the cheapest product or do you shop for the most value ? I think when it comes to airlines people go for the cheapest without any forward thinking. Maybe it's because this issue effects me financially and it is in my industry that I pay attention to it.

I wish Porter great success in their business and I hope they are around offering their great service for years to come. All we need now is Jazz to start competing with them out of Toronto Island slashing fares to see who can bleed the longest....well I know how much Jazz pays their pilots so they might win !

On to a less political and emotionally charged picture :)....This is the Manicougan Crater in south central Quebec. I have blogged about it in the past I believe but this time I actually got some pictures of it. We are en-route from Montreal to Wabush, NFLD. Quebec hydro has hydro-electric dams up here and raised the water level doing so, it is also called the Manicougan Reservoir. As I was flying over this area I stopped and thought for a moment how our lives seem so structured and the world has a framework about it that we can plan on always being the same. But what the hell was it like when a 5 km wide asteroid hit the earth to make this crater ? I mean we have zero control on stuff like this happening so order and control is just an idea in our minds but chaos could erupt any second really.

This year I have been watching the TV show 24 with Keifer Sutherland. In this years show there has been a nuclear attack on the US by terrorists, then a second bomb goes off and there are still 3 more bombs to be found. The nation is one step from complete chaos. People are panicking, people of middle eastern decent are being beaten because people are just scared and reacting with hatred and violence. The government is almost out of control of the entire situation. It then makes you think that if a scenario like this were to happen everything in your life you had ever planned for or had thought was gonna happen would all change. Crazy stuff really, so I will move on to more happier things to talk about :)

The small center ring around the little airplane is 20 nautical miles, it pretty much is the same size as the crater. When I see landforms such as this I try to figure out how it got to look as it does. I mean there has to be so many processes at work here and my human brain can imagine 100, 500 years ago but 214 million years ? Almost like trying to think of infinite or the outer edge of the universe.

This post is starting to look like an ad for WestJet isn't it ? :) Well here I am after I thought I was on days off flying back to Toronto to do "one" more flight and then back home the next evening to start my days off. A little glimpse into the future....I lost 2 days off but was flying with a good friend and great pilot so it felt like I spent my first two days off hanging out with him then actually working. I really never feel like I work I guess, I just feel like I am on a vacation and that I can't wait to get home just to sleep in my own bed and not have to live out of a suitcase.

Here we are just level at FL340 and just skimming the tops of the clouds. The weather on departure was in meteorological terms "poo poo". It was bumpy all the way up to cruise, there was a low to the south and a warm front over Ottawa so the clouds went to FL300ish. It was windy in Toronto and the FO planted it on pretty good. A beautiful night to fly if you could climb out of the clouds.

This post is dedicated to startup airlines who come out to try something new in the make money, treat employees as well as stock holders well. So the next time you go to fly on an airline, think before you click on the lowest price because it might end up costing you more then you think :)


david said...

" seems that if airlines would come to a truce stating that they will actually charge a fare that will allow them to not go into bankruptcy protection and focus on branding their service in order to attract consumers instead of going to the lowest bidder"

The downside of that would be the hassle of constantly hiring new CEOs as the each one is sent to the penitentiary for price fixing.

GrowSmarter said...

I'm sure you are a talented and deserving individual. You have also chosen to work for an airline that got started with a taxpayers'legal settlement, signed a sweetheart deal to avoid competition, and has avoided revealing its load factors. Worst of all, you are part of a group that spews pollution and noise into the Toronto waterfront 59 times a day.
The next time you land or takeoff think of all of the people whose lives you impact in the name of free booze.