A couple of days back I watched a few YouTube videos of my favourite Canadian airline, the legendary Wardair. Max Ward brought us the pinnacle of Canadian air travel and it's all been downhill ever since. Spacious, comfortable seats. Meals served on china with stainless cutlery and wine served in something called crystal. Even back then it felt like Heaven.
Those days are gone. Wardair is gone, bought out in the late 80s by Pacific Western Airlines, bought out in turn by Canadian Pacific Airlines, and ultimately consumed after a dog eat dog death match by Air Canada.
The people's airline introduced the unwashed horde to a new level of service often called "cattle class" in honour of feedlots across the country. If you want to be treated somewhat decently you up the ante and pay for business class or, if you're mentioned in the will, first class. Anything to avoid the humiliation and debasement of economy.
It was about that time that I parted company with commercial aviation. I'd pretty much been where I wanted to go. I'd seen what I wanted to see. I had my share of air travel and plenty of it.
Yet I was still struck today when I read the teaser on the CBC web site, "Are Canadians ready for no-frills flying?" WTF? They've been living with no-frills flying for the past 20 or so years, or so I thought. Guess I was wrong. Apparently the airlines have put their furious minds to how they can make the ordeal of modern air travel even more unpleasant.
Passengers pay extra for food and luggage; we're all used to that. There's a fee for carry-on baggage as well, in most cases. You want to get on early, so that you can stow that bag in the overhead compartment? There's a fee for that. Can't print your boarding pass at home. That'll cost you. The innovation is limitless. Uzbekistan Airways and Samoan Air charge passengers by weight. Just saying.
Most Canadians have flirted with ULCCs in Europe or the U.S., or even here in Canada with NewLeaf in the past year, but the no-frills airline is going mainstream now with WestJet's entry into the market.
Well, if ultra-low cost carriers are your thing, be my guest. At least there are some things they won't be able to charge extra for, luxuries such as elbows in your ribs, the noise and, of course, the smell.