The Good Life

A Statistics Canada study released Monday on how Canadians assess their satisfaction with life in general produced what appeared to be, on the surface, a middling finding for Winnipeg, whose citizens rated their life satisfaction 7.9 out of 10 on average, slightly below the national average. The highest scores were in Saguenay, Trois-Rivières and St. John’s (average rating: 8.2 out of 10), and the lowest scores were in Toronto, Windsor and Vancouver (7.8 out of 10).

Yet in the bigger picture, Winnipeg was only in the lower-middle of a very narrow spread, in which the average score given in the highest and lowest ranked cities only differed by four-tenths of a point.

In terms of the percentage of residents who rated their life satisfaction as an “8 out of 10″ or better, Winnipeg’s 67 percent was at the lower end of a similarly narrow 66-to-73 percent range that 26 of the 33 metro areas were part of.

The more interesting part of the Statistics Canada report was the discussion of what makes people more likely to feel contented with their lives. A regression analysis, focused on how closely related several personal factors were to respondents’ feelings of well-being, showed that people were most likely to be satisfied with their life if:

  • They were not unemployed: Statistics Canada’s analysts found this had a “strongly negative” effect on life satisfaction.
  • They could enjoy the company of others: Single, separated, divorced or widowed people expressed lower average life satisfaction. Those who knew their neighbours and felt a sense of connection to their community tended to be more satisfied with their lives.
  • They were healthy: Statistics Canada found that “[i]ndividuals rating their health as ‘excellent’ have life satisfaction scores a full point higher than those rating their health as ‘good’, and almost three points higher than those rating their health as ‘poor’.”
  • They were making a sufficient income: The biggest gap in life satisfaction was between households with incomes of less than $30,000 annually and those in the $30,000 to $59,999 range. While average life satisfaction tended to increase as one got into the higher income levels, the gaps between income categories were not as large.

Thus, there is something to the old saying that “the best social program is a job”, which some Winnipeggers have difficulty obtaining because of low education or literacy, difficulties with arranging child care or transportation, or because of the bureaucratic nightmare associated with getting foreign degrees, diplomas and work experience recognized in Canada.

But for those who are working yet looking for a little more happiness nevertheless, the best solution might be a gym membership — preferably at a facility with a shared social area, such as a hot tub or sauna — which offers the ability to get fit and to meet others at the same time.


Related posts on this subject:

“Social tolerance, freedom of choice and faith among keys to happiness, say researchers” (May 10, 2009)

“Six resolutions that could help make your New Year a happier one” (Dec. 27, 2010)

“How the Scandinavians (and Swiss) got to be so ‘on the ball’ — and how we can be, too” (Jan. 12, 2014)

Last flight from Da Nang illustrated madness of war

When the Paris Peace Accords were signed in early 1973, it brought a sense of relief to the United States, which had been polarized for eight years by the Vietnam War — a war over matters which never threatened U.S. domestic security, but for which many young American men were conscripted anyway. (Since evading U.S. conscription was not an extraditable offence under Canadian law, many would-be conscripts lived here in temporary exile, or became naturalized Canadian citizens.)

Yet the threat of war remained constant along the border between communist-ruled North Vietnam and the nominally democratic, but poorly governed, South Vietnam.

In late 1974, realizing that both the U.S. Congress and the American public had become demoralized about Vietnam, North Vietnam and supportive Viet Cong rebels in the South launched a military campaign to take over South Vietnam and reunify it with the North, on the North’s terms.

By mid-March 1975, the offensive had reached Da Nang, a South Vietnamese city on the central coast. Surrounded on all sides, the South Vietnamese soldiers forced into the city were cut off from the rest of their country. The North Vietnamese moved in.

On March 24, USAID, the U.S. international aid agency, contracted charter operator World Airways to fly Boeing 727s into Da Nang to evacuate women and children from the war-torn city. The Boeing 727 had the advantage of a back door, and a staircase that could be dropped from below the tail to allow refugees to scramble aboard quickly before taking off again.

More flights ferried refugees out of Da Nang in the days that followed. But the crowds at the airport became increasingly unruly as the city came closer to falling to the North Vietnamese.

Despite being warned not to attempt it, World Airways’ mercurial founder and president, Ed Daly, decided to make one last series of flights to evacuate refugees from Da Nang on Saturday, March 29. The plan was to quickly fly three Boeing 727s in at 20-minute intervals, quickly load them up with refugees, and fly each jet back to Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City).

Daly, planning to be aboard the first flight, invited CBS News Saigon correspondent Bruce Dunning to come along for the ride. Dunning brought along a cameraman and a sound man to record the event.

The airfield seemed deserted when the aircraft landed at Da Nang. This was a deception: thousands of people had been taking shelter, fearing the shelling taking place in the vicinity.

The thousands began making a run for the World Airways jet as soon as it slowed down — and the CBS crew began recording the scene from the windows of the aircraft.

Even before the aircraft had stopped moving, people were trying to get aboard.

“One guy got on. Jesus!”, an unidentified woman can be heard saying. A man, possibly Daly, replied with an astonished, “Huh?!”

But those reaching the plane weren’t the women and children that Daly intended to pick up. Instead, they were South Vietnamese soldiers who, in the chaos of war, had been abandoned by their superiors and left to fend for themselves.

The CBS News video, which has lost none of its shock value after 40 years, tells the rest of the story as 268 people — double the Boeing 727’s normal capacity — stormed the jet. Almost all of them, save for fewer than a dozen women and children, were fleeing soldiers. At one stage Daly, a former boxer, can be seen brandishing a gun and trying in vain to block the rear stairs, even punching South Vietnamese soldiers as they tried to board.

Yet the video only just begins to illustrate the madness that humans can descend to in a war zone. For example, the video did not capture the scenes described later by flight attendant Jan Wollett, who can be seen wearing a red uniform in the video:

Mr. Daly was at the very bottom of the air stair, waving a pistol in the air, trying to restore some kind of order. [Flight attendant Val Witherspoon] was helping people climb over the side of the stair onto the steps. I went to the bottom of the stair next to Mr. Daly. A family of five was running a few feet from me, reaching out for help to get on board. It was a mother and a father and two little children and a baby in the mother’s arms. I could see the fear in all of their faces as they ran and reached out for me. I reached back to grab the mother’s hand, but before I could get it, a man running behind them shot all five of them, and they fell and were trampled by the crowd. The last I saw of them, they were disappearing under people’s feet. There were just several loud shots, and they were gone—all five of them. And the man who shot them stepped on them to get closer to the air stair. He ran them down and jumped onto the air stair and ran up into the aircraft. And everything was so chaotic and insane, I remember registering in my mind at that mad moment: “I’ll deal with that later.” And I just kept pulling people onto the stair.

I felt a woman pulling on me from the side of the stair. She was trying to get over the rail, and she grabbed my arm. I wanted to help her on, but I also had to worry about getting pulled off the stair. I turned and grabbed her arms and tried to pull her over the rail, but a man behind her grabbed her and jerked her out of my arms, and as she fell away, he stepped on her back and on her head to get up and over the railing. He used her as a steppingstone. Mr. Daly saw that happen, and as the man swung his leg over the railing, Mr. Daly smashed him in the head with his pistol. I remember suddenly seeing a sheet of blood splash across everything and I saw the man fall off and people trample him, and I remember thinking, “Good.” That was just my reaction at that moment. The man disappeared under the feet of the mob.

The rest of Wollett’s story of that wild flight out of Da Nang 40 years ago, which makes an interesting-if-grim read, can be found here.

Singapore succeeded by being reliable, and well-educated, in a flaky world

Singapore, the Asian city-state of 5.5 million people crammed on to several islands of not much more land area than metropolitan Winnipeg, has a decidedly illiberal streak. Travelers entering the country at Changi Airport must turn their chewing gum, a prohibited good,  over to Customs officers, and submit any foreign newspapers, books or magazines, which are considered controlled goods, for inspection. Journalists, filmmakers and bloggers who irritate the government can easily find themselves being sued for libel, and the domestic servants who made up four percent of the Singaporean population in 2012 had to wait until 2013 to get the legal right to a one-day weekend despite their employers’ collective fury.

Yet amid this heavy-handedness, Singapore has made strides matched by few nations in the world to secure a higher quality of life for its citizens. When it obtained its independence in 1965 — unusually, by being expelled from Malaysia — it was an impoverished country with a GDP per capita of $500 U.S.

Nearly fifty years later, in 2013, Singapore’s GDP per capita was equivalent to $55,000 U.S. It is unequally distributed wealth, to be sure. But just a kilometre away, across the narrow strait that separates the two countries, Malaysia’s per capita GDP was just $10,000 U.S. that same year.

The gap between Singapore and Indonesia, just 10 kilometres away in the opposite direction, is even more extreme: at $3,475 U.S. per capita, Indonesia was as poor in 2013 as Singapore was at independence in inflation-adjusted terms.

Much of this will be credited to Lee Kuan Yew, the prime minister who ruled Singapore directly from 1959 to 1990, and then indirectly as “Senior Minister” and then “Minister Mentor” until 2011, who died at age 91 today.

What was so special about Lee’s rule that allowed a tiny island country that seemed to have everything going against it in 1965 to achieve a level of success that eluded its neighbours just a few kilometres away?

A 2013 op-ed by Prof. Calestous Juma of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University noted that Singapore’s success largely came down to focusing on the right priorities. Most important among these were the fact that Singapore offered a far more honest and reliable system of government than its neighbours, and a well-educated and largely bilingual English- and Mandarin Chinese-speaking workforce. As Juma wrote:

In fact, governance distinguished Singapore from its neighbors. As Lee Kuan Yew says: “They are not clean systems; we run clean systems. Their rule of law is wonky; we stick to it. We become reliable and credible to investors.”

His key message on the driving force behind Singapore’s success is simple: “The quality of a nation’s manpower resources is the single most important factor determining national competitiveness. It is the people’s innovativeness, entrepreneurship, team work, and their work ethic that gives them that sharp keen edge in competitiveness.”

He emphasizes the importance of knowledge in economic transformation but also rejects the classical separation between scholarship and entrepreneurship. “Those with good minds to be scholars should also be inventors, innovators, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs; they must bring new products and services to the market to enrich the lives of people everywhere.”

This lesson from the evolution of Singapore’s educational system poses great challenges for most developing countries. They run outmoded educational systems that do not reflect the entrepreneurial demands of modern times.

Juma also notes that Singapore succeeded by having transportation and communications links to the rest of the world that not only worked reliably, but would not have been possible without the rule of law:

One of the critical areas that require tough decisions include large infrastructure investments that lay the foundations for economic growth. Singapore built “world-class infrastructure…good communications by air, by sea, by cable, by satellite, and now over the Internet.”  But such long-term investments demand not only having long-term economic vision, but consistence and predictability in the rule of law.

That offering reliability — reliable administration, reliable rule of law, reliable education, reliable communication, and reliable transportation, among other things — is the key to national success should be a surprise to no one. It is by the same formula that Denmark, Switzerland, New Zealand, Finland and Norway came to make the Top Five in this blog’s World’s 10 Best-Managed Countries list in December, 2014.

And they did so without Singaporean-style illiberalism: in fact, those top-five countries are about as small-l liberal as they come.

The Singaporean lesson offers ideas for consideration here in Manitoba, a province that perceives itself to be an economic under-performer.

Manitoba already benefits from some of the same attributes that allowed Singapore to grow: reliable communications links to the rest of the world and the rule of law most of all.

But Manitoba lags most in producing healthy, well-educated people —  the “single most important factor” in building a competitive economy, as noted above.

Manitoba regularly ranks lower than almost every other province in terms of educational outcomes. While 68 percent of the Canadian labour force aged 25 years and over had a college diploma, trades certification or university degree in 2014, Manitoba’s 60 percent was not only well below the national average, it was the worst of the 10 provinces.

The 11 percent of the age-25-plus labour force who never finished high school was the second highest rate in Canada, just below Prince Edward Island’s 12 percent and somewhat higher than the Canadian average of eight percent.

To be fair, improving Manitoba’s performance in this area is something that Manitoba governments have been working away at for the past 20 years or so, recognizing not just that poor educational outcomes condemn not just the living to a lower quality of life, but that a parent’s educational outcome is one of the best predictors of their children’s eventual outcome.

This has also been helped by Manitoba’s eager intake of immigrants, whose children “were much more likely to participate in postsecondary education than students with [Canadian]-born parents”, as Statistics Canada noted in 2013. This suggests that in addition to meeting current labour market needs, immigration could also change Manitoba’s core culture from one that until the ’50s largely disregarded higher education to one that eagerly embraces it.

While it won’t necessarily produce an economic miracle of Singaporean proportions, sticking diligently to improving educational attainment rates among those born here and bringing in as many newcomers with great ambitions for their children as we can accommodate would serve Manitoba well.

The wisdom of (smaller) crowds

Conventional wisdom has it that political disengagement and low voter turnout is a threat to democracy. But is it really? This past November, Anna Lo Prete and Federico Revelli of the University of Torino in Italy published a working paper testing the theory that lower voter turnout would lead to worse governance.

To do this, they compared voter data from 82 Italian municipalities, covering the decade 2001-2010, to data assessing how well each community was seen to be doing on a ‘city score’ based on “a large number of variables including green space availability, air quality in terms of pollutant emissions and its consequences on human health, drinking water quality, public transportation systems, energy consumption and waste recycling performance.”

The results, in fact, suggested that communities with lower voter turnout tended to be better governed. As they wrote on page 18:

[I]t is apparent that turnout and city performance are negatively correlated . . . [A]n increase in turnout of ten percentage points is accompanied by 3.6  percentage points worse performance in the earlier wave, and by a 4.2  percentage points worse performance in the later wave. This negative correlation holds also in regressions that include time dummies for the years when turnout was recorded in order to account for year-specific nationwide influences on local elections.

Later in the report, they discuss a comparison between voter turnout data and the professional qualifications of the mayors elected. Again, they found that “turnout has a negative impact on the probability that high professional status mayors are elected, thus confirming that where participation is low due to high costs of voting, it is more likely to elect a competent candidate.”

Thus, they conclude that “a switch from low to high voter turnout that would be favored by a decline in voting costs might not always be beneficial in terms of candidate selection.”

Unless there is some factor to suggest that it is more incompetence that leads to higher turnout, Lo Prete and Revelli’s study leaves us with an intriguing possibility: that far from threatening democracy, lower voter turnout thanks to those who find even a walk to the polling station to be too high a cost to pay might represent the opting out of those who have never taken the issues all that seriously.

These less-serious voters’ self-exclusion, in turn, could be shrinking the electorate down to a more engaged, more discerning and less easily manipulated crowd. In short, what is being bemoaned as a threat to democracy could actually represent a slow reawakening of the true democratic spirit: of informed voters making an informed choice.

25 minutes with Jim Adelson

As 1967 ended and 1968 began, television in Winnipeg was limited to what little viewers could receive over-the-air: the two local CBC and CTV stations, Radio-Canada’s French-language station, and a weak signal from a U.S. border station in North Dakota.

But in the summer of 1968, Winnipeggers’ television choices expanded dramatically. A group of businessmen erected TV antennas near the Minnesota border, and relayed three new U.S. TV signals back to Winnipeg via an intercity microwave link to provide content for Winnipeg’s two new cable TV systems: Videon in the western half of the city, Greater Winnipeg Cablevision in the east.

As viewers became familiar with the new offerings — NBC affiliate WDAZ, ABC affiliate KTHI and CBS affiliate KXJB, all from North Dakota — they also became familiar with the local personalities on those stations, who soon became as well-known in Winnipeg as they were south of the border.

One of those personalities was Jim Adelson, KXJB’s affable sports director and program host, who was a familiar face to a generation of Winnipeggers who watched the station’s channel 4 signal from the introduction of cable TV in 1968 until it was dropped from the lineup in 1986, when more reliable satellite signals from Detroit came available.

Last year, Adelson — now in his late eighties and long since retired to Arizona — visited Fargo and KXJB to reminisce on the station’s 60th anniversary. In a 25-minute interview that might bring back memories for Winnipeggers who remember the days when KXJB had a large audience in this city, Adelson shows that he remains a good story-teller.


Click on image to open video in a new tab. (Might take a moment to begin.)


On dealing with controversy:

“I did the live studio wrestling, and that was a kick. I mean, people would come in and sit around the ring and the wrestlers would put on a show.”

“My favourite was . . . I can’t think of his name now, but he was the bad guy and he wore a swastika . . . So we got some boos and I was in the ring with him, and a couple of months later, my boss gets a letter . . . ‘How can you let Jim Adelson, a Jewish boy, stand in the ring with that terrible Nazi-looking guy.’ So the boss calls me in, and, I don’t know, I’ll call him.”

“I called the office and got Vern’s buddy, his assistant, and he started laughing. I said, ‘What’s so funny about this? The boss is madder than hell, you know!’ He said, ‘Do you know what the guy’s name is really? Jerry Goldberg — he’s one of your boys!’ I said, ‘Huh?!’ So, I went and talked to the boss, and he said, ‘Oh, forget it . . .'”.

On the risks of live programming:

“I did a half-hour talk show at 5:30 . . . you could call and visit. And we had a blizzard. It lasted for about three days, and I was stuck out there, and that was the one communication people had. As a matter of fact, I was doing a show and a kid called and said, ‘Say, I’m at the Westward Ho in Grand Forks. I’m single, and I’m looking for a girlfriend to get through this blizzard with me. Have them call room such-and-such!’ Live on television. I said, ‘I’ll try.'”


New flag was hated by some — but life went on

Top: The Canadian Red Ensign, which was the unofficial Canadian flag until the current flag was adopted on Feb. 15, 1965. Middle: The design initially favoured by Prime Minister Lester Pearson, dubbed the "Pearson Pennant". Bottom: The Canadian flag recommended by a parliamentary committee tasked with finding a new, distinctive Canadian design, and later approved by Parliament as the official flag of Canada.

Top: The Canadian Red Ensign, which was the unofficial Canadian flag until the current flag was adopted on Feb. 15, 1965.
Middle: The design initially favoured by Prime Minister Lester Pearson, dubbed the “Pearson Pennant”.
Bottom: The Canadian flag recommended by a parliamentary committee tasked with finding a new, distinctive Canadian design, and later approved by Parliament as the official flag of Canada.

Almost fifty years after it flew over Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the first time on Feb. 15, 1965, the Canadian flag is one that the vast majority of us cannot imagine being replaced by any other design.

But the months leading up to its creation, from Prime Minister Lester Pearson’s announcement in Winnipeg in May 1964 that a new Canadian flag was on its way to the final parliamentary vote on the new design that December, were some of the most politically divisive months in Canadian history.

For nearly a full century after Confederation in 1867, Canada had no official flag of its own aside from the British Union Jack. The federal government improvised, however, by treating various versions of the British Red Ensign over the years (the final version of which is shown above) as the unofficial Canadian flag.

This was a comfortable arrangement for many Canadians, who even into the ’60s continued to view Canada as a culturally British country within North America, and particularly for many of those who had fought under the Red Ensign as the de facto Canadian flag during World War II. For others, however, the Red Ensign was seen as a colonial holdover that ought to be replaced with an unambiguously Canadian flag.

Prime Minister Pearson, a World War I veteran who came to office in 1963 vowing to pursue a new flag, was one of those Canadians who felt the time was right for such a change. Speaking at the Royal Canadian Legion’s national convention in Winnipeg on May 17, 1964, Pearson announced that he intended to push ahead to legislate “a flag designed around the maple leaf [that] will symbolize, will be a true reflection of, the new Canada.”

As Rick Archbold described in A Flag for Canada: The illustrated biography of the Maple Leaf, Pearson faced a hostile reception from his audience:

Pearson tried valiantly to stay with his text and on his message. “Would such a change mean disrespect for the Union Jack?” “Yes!” the crowd roared back, drowning the prime minister’s answer. He plowed forward, vowing not to abandon the Union Jack but arguing that it should become “a symbol of our membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and of our loyalty to the crown.”

The audience had now reached a pitch of rowdiness that made it difficult for the prime minister to be heard. “You’re selling us out to the pea-soupers,” someone shouted. Came another: “God save Diefenbaker.” And another: “Keep the Red Ensign.” And yet another: “Go home!”

It was a taste of what was to come in the following months. Though it might be difficult to believe today, both Pearson’s proposed design of three red maple leafs and two blue bars at the side (see above), and the red-and-white design adopted later in 1964 by a parliamentary committee, were greeted with a torrent of hateful comments.

“The new flag looks like a fancy dish rag,” one North End resident wrote to the Winnipeg Free Press. “I suggest that [the prime minister] have the Houses of Parliament moved from Ottawa to Montreal to complete the picture of ‘surrender’ as the flag indicates,” wrote a reader from Winnipeg’s West End.

The heated comments that appeared in newspapers around the country were, at least, fit enough to print by the standards of the time. Many other letters containing more crude comments flooded the prime minister’s office, as well as those of every Member of Parliament.

In 1986, John Ross Matheson, an Ontario Liberal MP who led the 1964 parliamentary committee charged with finding a new Canadian flag design from among the many serious and not-so-serious public submissions, included in his memoirs* a selection of letters the public sent to Parliament Hill, illustrating how controversial the idea of a new flag was.

From Victoria, B.C.: “Please discard the new flag and do it quickly. When the flag is in a drooping position it (especially in the large sizes) will look like a bed sheet with menstruation stains on it, and our Canadian flag will be laughed at all over the world.”

A June, 1964 letter: “Your ‘pushing’ of that three maple leaf abortion is, I feel, just another of your efforts to play up in any way you can to that narrow-minded, ignorant, impossible bunch of crazy Quebec extremists . . . The more those ignorant, priest-ridden Quebec extremists get, the more they want and will want.”

From a Presbyterian minister in Montreal: “. . . I earnestly deplore design of projected new flag as pagan and a flat rejection of Canada’s Christian heritage. The glory of the Union Jack is the union of three Christian Crosses. How unworthy, how unfeeling to replace so inspiring a symbol with one reminiscent of a hockey team or an Indian tribe.”

From Val Caron, Ont.: “I will never salute a flag forced upon me. I am not a worm but a teacher.”

From Orillia, Ont.: “You have turned us in on ourselves like an onion growing in a paper bag, puny and smelly. You have yielded our heritage to a rabid minority. The dreadful indictment I lay on you as a mother of Canada. You are a Judas and, like Judas, the sooner you retire the better.”

From Toronto: “Your new Canadian Flag is just a disgusting, disgraceful disguise. It is a disgrace to the country. As you, Pearson, are known as a communist sympathizer — so is your new flag — it stinks from communismus — Moskow [sic] is the place for you and your flag.”

Yet despite the rancour of the time, the flag quickly grew on Canadians, rendering the passionate feelings of 1964-65 little more than a faded memory. Whether they preferred a new design in 1964-65 or wanted to retain the Red Ensign, life just calmly went on for Canadians once the decision was made — as it so often does after the conclusion of a brutal political battle, no matter how loud the cries of impending doom by partisans on both sides.

Fifty years on, it is safe to say that the flag that some vowed never to salute turned out to be a flag that has served us well — and will continue to do so for many years to come.

* – John Ross Matheson, Canada’s Flag: A Search for a Country (Belleville, Ont.: Mika Publishing, 1986)

The other “hidden city” trick that could shave $100 or more off your airfare

Many people had never heard of until news broke in January that United Airlines and the Orbitz travel web site were suing Aktarer Zaman, SkipLagged’s 22-year-old founder, for damages. Zaman’s sin in the eyes of the industry: to create a search engine that takes advantage of the fact that airlines often price connecting flights cheaper than non-stop flights. As a feature in The Economist explained:

At the time of writing, Delta’s cheapest one-way fare from Atlanta to Cincinnati on February 6th is $252. However, to get from Atlanta to Dallas-Fort Worth with a connection through Cincinnati—on that same initial flight—costs just $197. This is because Delta is the only airline to fly direct from Atlanta to Cincinnati, which are both Delta hubs, and so it can charge what it likes. Two other airlines, meanwhile, operate flights between Atlanta and Dallas. This limits Delta’s pricing power. For anyone wishing to fly to Cincinnati, therefore, the best bet is to book the connecting flight and walk out of the airport in Cincinnati (the “hidden city”), simply failing to show up for the second half of the trip.

But, there are strings attached to using SkipLagged. All of your baggage must ride in the cabin with you, as any checked baggage will be tagged to your final destination. Return trips must be booked separately, as going AWOL anywhere en route will automatically cancel the rest of your reservation.

And if anything goes wrong, such as overbooking or a cancellation forcing the airline to rebook you, they will only help you get to the city you’ve paid to be flown to, not to the hub you were planning to duck out at. So, the hypothetical passenger above planning to sneak away at Delta’s Cincinnati hub could be in trouble if Delta automatically rebooks him on a nonstop flight to Dallas instead, or on a flight via the Minneapolis/St. Paul hub.

There is, however, another version of the “hidden city” trick that could work well if you do wish to check your baggage. This involves booking a legitimate round-trip between your home airport and your intended destination, plus an onward future flight from your home airport that you have no intention of taking.

Consider the following example of a hypothetical Winnipeg-London round trip, departing on the randomly chosen date of July 11 and returning on July 24. It’s not a particularly cheap itinerary as you can see, at a price of $1,714.83.


But check out what happens if you make a multi-city booking, taking the same flights from Winnipeg to London and back again, and adding an onward July 25 flight from Winnipeg to Calgary, a market in which Air Canada competes head-to-head with British Airways. Yes indeed, the total price actually drops to $1,603.08 — a saving of $111.75. Having collected your luggage 20 hours earlier in Winnipeg, just don’t show up for the July 25 Winnipeg to Calgary flight.


This technique might also be useful for booking one-way flights in foreign lands, as well as for Americans looking to escape the extortionate fares that both U.S. and foreign airlines charge for international flights. Nonstop flights from Chicago to London, for example, currently sell for $2,471 (Cdn.) round-trip on the same July 11-24 dates noted above. Tacking on a July 25 flight from Chicago to Calgary via Denver reduces the price to $2,167 Cdn., a handsome $304 saving.

Cheaper still: making two separate bookings, one for a Chicago-Toronto July 10-25 round-trip, and the other for a Toronto-London July 11-24 round-trip, for a total of $1,877 Cdn. Even with two nights in an airport hotel factored in, the savings could easily amount to $400 per individual, or more than $900 for a couple sharing a room.

But before you do book such an itinerary, check out these cautionary words from the same Economist article quoted above:

. . . [S]ince most airlines’ conditions of carriage expressly forbid the practice, people who do it often enough to attract the company’s attention can have their frequent-flier accounts suspended, miles voided and any elite status revoked.

To search for hidden city itineraries for yourself, see Google Flights.


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