Three sites that could make your summertime air travel less of a pain

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It was all smiles at Winnipeg’s James Richardson International Airport as Iceland Express’s first flight to Winnipeg landed in early June. For a non-North American carrier to start scheduled service to a medium-sized midwestern market like Winnipeg is almost unheard of, and many Winnipeggers were captivated by promotional fares offering the promise of a trip to Europe for less than $1,000 round-trip.

In less than a month, however, the “old-fashioned” way of getting from Winnipeg to Europe — paying a network carrier $1,000 and up and making connections in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago or the Twin Cities — would start to look good again.

This change came as passengers learned the hard way that the cheapest flight is sometimes the worst bargain of all.

On June 25, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that Iceland Express’s twice-weekly Winnipeg flights had been plagued by cancellations due to “weak ticket sales”. Five days later, CBC Manitoba reported that passengers’ holiday plans were being reorganized as Iceland Express reduced Winnipeg service to just one flight per week with plans to suspend service entirely in September before re-launching the Winnipeg-Iceland link again next year.

Could passengers have avoided the headaches? The answer is yes.

Even before Iceland Express’s arrival in Winnipeg last month — even before the Iceland volcano caused travel havoc in Europe — there were warning signs that Iceland Express was an airline with severe reliability problems, flying as it were on a wing and a prayer.

Skytrax, a popular beefs-and-bouquets site for air travelers, has documented a series of trip reports that show that the problems experienced by Winnipeg travelers — canceled flights and no one being available to help make alternate arrangements — are nothing new.

Skytrax is the first site that could help passengers avoid air travel headaches. Along with raves about in-flight entertainment systems and rants about delays, the site is also filled with anecdotal information about airline reliability, baggage charges, whether or not you’ll get a large enough meal to keep hunger at bay on an overseas flight, and even on which airports you should aim for and which ones you should avoid when making a connection.

In addition to Iceland Express, Skytrax also has reviews on Air Canada, CanJet, Delta, Sunwing, United and WestJet as well as their codeshare partners.

The second site worth checking out is a unique search engine called Inside Trip. While most search engines focus on price, departure time and trip duration — the three things people tend to look at first when making a reservation — Inside Trip adds what it calls “flight quality” to the mix. Thus, a flight with roomier seats and a good on-time departure record will be ranked higher than a flight with more cramped seating and a spotty on-time record.  You can customize this search engine to include those amenities that mean a lot to you and exclude those that count for nothing.

The third useful site is Flight Stats. If it’s vital that you arrive at your destination on time or make a connection, Flight Stats allows you to compare the on-time record of multiple flights on a given route, as this examination of the Winnipeg-Toronto route shows. This site could also have tipped off travelers to Iceland Express’s reliability problems, as shown in this overview of the airline’s historical operating statistics. (Even if you make allowances for the disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano, it still suggests that passengers should leave time in their schedules for long delays.)

Now that you have these three tools at your disposal, your outlook for a (relatively) problem-free flight this summer has just improved considerably. Happy traveling!


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

2 Responses to Three sites that could make your summertime air travel less of a pain

  1. mrchristian says:

    Thanks, some great tips. Too bad Iceland Express handled things the way they did in a new market like this. I think people would have understood that this would be a horrible year to try to fly to and from there and cut them some slack if they scaled things back properly.

    I really want to go to Iceland for a getaway just for something completely different – I have friends who have gone in the past and say it’s a really neat place to visit. Given the way they are handling things I’d have a sneaking suspicion that I could end up getting stuck there.

  2. theviewfromseven says:

    Thanks, Christian!

    Icelandair (not related to Iceland Express) is also worth checking out. They operate out of Toronto and Minneapolis.

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