With its inaugural flight to Tokyo, WestJet celebrates its first route to Asia

WestJet dreamliner

It’s a good day for Canadian travellers when another Canadian airline starts flying to Asia. In this case, it’s WestJet which celebrated the departure of flight WS80 from YYC Calgary International Airport to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport Sunday.

“Not only does this new route increase opportunities for business, leisure and cargo customers to expand their horizons in Asia, it also provides an exceptional opportunity to welcome transpacific leisure and business travellers direct to Calgary and Alberta,” said John Weatherill, WestJet Executive Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer in a press release.

Tokyo service will operate on the airline’s 787 Dreamliner three times per week through October 28, and will return in Spring 2024. WestJet says that guests travelling between Calgary and Tokyo can expect an elevated experience onboard including Western and Japanese inflight meals, Japanese entertainment options and the comfort of Japanese announcements and menus.

“For decades, Japanese travellers have had a special relationship with Alberta. The Calgary-Tokyo flight represents an important opportunity to rebuild that bridge,” said David Goldstein, Chief Executive Officer, Travel Alberta.

WestJet’s non-stop flight to Tokyo is just one of many new direct services launching this spring. Travellers flying out of WestJet’s hub in Calgary can also connect to Barcelona, Edinburgh and five other European nonstop destinations as part of the airline’s international offerings.

Calm Air introduces all-inclusive holiday packages for Northern Manitoba adventures

Enjoying the aurora in Gillam, Manitoba

When you hear about a Canadian airline pitching all-inclusive holiday packages, you think that they’re going to be talking about places that are somewhere warm, but Calm Air announced this week that they’re offering new all-inclusive packages for tourists seeking a Northern Manitoba experience to places like The Pas, Flin Flon, Churchill and Thompson.

The all-inclusive packages include flights, accommodations, meals, and access to excursions to immerse visitors in nature and experiencing everything from eating moose stew after a sweat lodge to snowmobiling across Lake Apthapapuskow, or watching the aurora borealis while enjoying a six-course meal. Guests will also enjoy guided tours, dog sledding, snowshoeing in the boreal forest, and Manitoba’s one-of-a-kind Tundra Buggy within a variety of packages.

“We partnered with operators from The Pas, Flin Flon, Churchill, and Thompson, with each destination boasting unique experiences,” said  Amanda Camara, director of marketing and brand management, in a release.

“For example, The Pas is focused on Indigenous spirituality and education while Flin Flon is focused on eco-tourism and keeping active. Thompson is highlighting their status as the wolf capital of the world and Churchill is focused on the Northern Lights. Four destinations all within Manitoba, yet four extremely distinctive and authentic experiences,”

The new vacation packages are designed to cater to all types of travellers, from adventure getaways, solo travellers to families.

“We are excited that Calm Air will be offering all-inclusive packages to visitors, which will allow them to experience the best that northern Manitoba has to offer,” said the Honourable Greg Nesbitt, Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development. “As our tourist operators continue to recover economically, we believe these packages will not only attract new visitors but also encourage those who fell in love with the North once to return and experience another season or attraction.”

Kind of disappointed that Gillam isn’t on the list. Years ago, my flight was grounded there and a group of us spent the evening at the local Legion and when we left to return to our hotel, we were treated with the most spectacular Northern Lights display you could ever want to see.

Travellers can book their all-inclusive package to The Pas, Flin Flon, Thompson, or Churchill, by visiting calmair.com or call 1-800-839-2256.

Updated rules offer Canadian travellers more protection from flight cancellations and delays

New regulations took effect in Canada today that require airlines to provide passengers with either a refund or rebooking, at the passenger’s choice, when there is a flight cancellation, or a lengthy delay, due to a situation outside the airline’s control.

The new rule is an update to the the Air Passenger Protection Regulations formulated by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) in 2019. It applies to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights.

Until now, the Air Passenger Protection Regulations only required refunds to be provided for flight disruptions within the control of airlines.

The new regulatory requirements:

  • Require airlines to provide a passenger affected by a cancellation or a lengthy delay due to a situation outside the airline’s control with a confirmed reservation on the next available flight that is operated by them or a partner airline, leaving within 48 hours of the departure time indicated on the passenger’s original ticket.
  • If the airline cannot provide a confirmed reservation within this 48-hour period, it is required to provide, at the passenger’s choice, a refund or rebooking;
  • Identify what costs must be refunded (unused portion of the ticket, which includes any unused add-on services paid for);
  • Identify the method to be used for refunds (same as the original payment, e.g., a return on the person’s credit card);
  • Require airlines to provide a refund within 30 days.

“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a gap in Canada’s passenger protection framework, with flights delayed or cancelled due to situations outside an airline’s control and where carriers could not rebook passengers within a reasonable time, like a global pandemic. These new regulations will correct this gap,” said The Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, in a release.

“These new requirements provide clarity around timing, cost coverage, method of payment, and deadlines to refund travellers in such situations.”

While many people welcome the new rules, others are critical of them, saying that they still offer airlines wiggle room to avoid refunding passengers while the airlines themselves think they are being unfairly punished for things they cannot directly control.

Canada’s skies are suddenly crowded with competing airlines

Lynx Air airplane

If you didn’t think that travel is back in Canada, then look no further than the recent flurry of activity from the country’s newest airlines.

First out of the gate is Lynx Air. Its inaugural flight took off from its home base of Calgary to Vancouver Thursday. Other cities across the country that it will serve with its fleet of three Boeing 737 jets include Toronto, Victoria, Halifax, St. John’s, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

According to a Postmedia report, Lynx CEO Merren McArthur said they will start with just one flight a day, but will add more throughout the summer until they have 148 flights a week.

“We’re done with planning to be an airline, we’re ready to be an airline,” McArthur told Postmedia.
Meanwhile, leisure-carrier Canada Jetlines has announced that it will begin operations out of Toronto Pearson International Airport this summer.

The airline will operate out of Pearson with a fleet of Airbus family aircraft, starting with the A320. Canada Jetlines will fly to international destinations throughout the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and domestic cities across Canada.

“This is an exciting day for Canada Jetlines as we name Toronto Pearson as our primary travel hub, in preparation for summer service,” stated Eddy Doyle, CEO of Canada Jetlines in a statement.

Things are a little less rosy for Flair Airlines, which bills itself as Canada’s only independently-owned ultra-low-cost carrier, as the Canadian Transport Agency has begun to investigate whether it has breached strict federal laws that limit foreign ownership of Canadian-domiciled carriers.

And don’t forget the Air Canada and WestJet subsidiaries, Rouge and Swoop, that were set up to fend off would-be competitors. Air Canada seems to be still trying to figure out what to do with Rouge while Swoop is pumping out seat sales with incredible prices.

Competition is good so let’s hope that none of these new entrants go the way of Jetsgo, or any of the multitude of other Canadian airline failures before them.

British airlines are the first to begin dropping face mask mandates

masked passenger in airplane cabin

Despite some experts stating as recently as last month that face masks on passenger planes would likely be here for years to come, some airlines in the United Kingdom are beginning to drop them.

British carrier Jet2 was the first to abandon them for flights in England and Northern Ireland as the U.K. eased its COVID restrictions. Rival airlines EasyJet, TUI and British Airways have done the same and while they still recommend passengers wear masks, they are optional as long as the flight’s arrival or departure points don’t require them.

Here in Canada, there’s no indication as to when federal mandates for masks on planes and trains will end, but individual provinces are beginning to drop their requirements so it’s likely only a matter of time before they go away.

If you are considering ignoring the rules before that time comes, heed the tale of those Sunwing “New Year’s party” passengers, six more of whom were fined $5,000 this week.

Meanwhile, in the United States, where face coverings have been an especially divisive issue, the United States has extended its mask mandate on aircraft and public transit until at least April 18.

While some of the nation’s flight attendant unions wish the masks were here to stay, the union representing those of Southwest Airlines has asked that the mandate be rescinded.

It’s interesting to note that in Asia, where face mask-wearing is a normal practice during cold and flu season, the number of air rage incidents reported over masking rules has been negligible.

Some medical experts have expressed concern that jurisdictions are removing mask requirements too hastily and that the COVID-19 virus and potential mutations remain a threat as long as the majority of the world’s population remains unvaccinated. For that reason, don’t be surprised if you see fellow passengers continuing to wear masks even when they become optional.