Modern-day air travel versus 1974: Packed in like cattle, but the mileage is better

If you want to find quick sympathy in Canada in January, you can complain about one of two things: the weather, or the airlines.

“Long-time air traveller Guilford Boyce says he misses the golden age of travel, when airlines went out of their way to make passengers feel special,” a Jan. 2 CTV News report noted, in a web article titled “Passengers lament ‘nickel-and-dime’ fees as airlines face thin profit margins”.

“Boyce says things have changed in the last few decades, to the point where he feels more like livestock every time he gets on a flight.”

Indeed, the days when airlines promoted themselves on the basis of their service — at least in Economy Class — are gone. To the extent that they still do compete on service, it’s usually in their expensive premium cabins.

But if we, the traveling public, are getting less pampered in our close-together Economy seats, at least we can claim that we are getting better mileage out of our dollars.

A web site called Departed Flights has posted a collection of image scans from old airline timetables. One of the more interesting scans is the Winnipeg page from a Northwest Orient timetable published in December, 1974. The Twin Cities-based airline, which dropped the “Orient” part of its name in the ‘80s and was absorbed into Delta Air Lines some seven years ago, published its each-way fares in its timetables.

This was possible at the time given that air fares were government-regulated, and set at fixed prices proportional to distance, even if these prices were at odds with supply and demand.

And those fares were usually eye-wateringly expensive by today’s standards.

Keen to get away from Winnipeg’s winter cold to someplace warmer, like California? A 1974 round-trip to Los Angeles or San Francisco would have set you back $290 Cdn. — or $1,366 in 2016 dollars. A round-trip to Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., meanwhile, would have cost the equivalent of $1,281 in 2016 dollars.

Currently, July 2017 round-trips between Winnipeg and both Florida and California are priced in the $700 to $800 range.

The only fare that is more expensive today than it was in 1974, after adjustment for inflation: the relatively short trips to Minneapolis/St. Paul and to Chicago; and presumably to Grand Forks.

 

Winnipeg to… 1974 one-way fare (CAD) 1974 round-trip fare 1974 fare in 2016 dollars Typical mid-week July 2017 fares as of Jan. 8, 2017 (CAD) 1974 fare would now pay for a round-trip to…
Boston $125 $250 $1,178 $340 London
Chicago $70.35 $140.70 $663 $699 Seattle
Grand Forks, N.D. $22.05 $44.10 $208 Not bookable, despite Delta serving both cities via MSP. Google Flights lists “travel agent” fares from $900 and up.
Los Angeles $145 $290 $1,366 $706 Honolulu
Miami $148 $296 $1,394 $751 Madrid
Minneapolis/St. Paul $46.20 $92.40 $435 $597 Montreal
New York City $111 $222 $1,046 $396 Shanghai
San Francisco $145 $290 $1,366 $760 Hong Kong
Tampa/St. Petersburg $136 $272 $1,281 $748 Lima

It’s also instructive to observe how much further one can go for the same amount of money in 2017 compared to 1974. The same amount that one would have needed to fly to New York City and back in 1974 — $222, equivalent to $1,046 in 2016 — would pay for a round-trip to Shanghai thanks to the current trans-Pacific fare wars.

As for that 1974 $296 round-trip fare to Miami — equivalent to $1,366 in 2016 dollars: Today, the same amount would pay for a round-trip journey to Madrid. And the $250 you would have spent in 1974 to go to Boston — $1,178 in 2016 dollars? That would get you to London and back today.

So, while passengers might be packed in closer together than ever, less fed and less pampered, today is still arguably the golden age of international travel. Never have so many been able to travel so many miles at such a low cost.

Winnipeg/Grand Forks airport battle less important than it looks

Steep American Airlines take-off, 1986

Luggage in the bins will sure as hell have shifted during this steep 1986 departure from Washington, D.C. (© Robert M. Campbell/Airliners.net)

There’s been much ado recently about the growing numbers of Winnipeg travelers who are making the 240-kilometre trip to Grand Forks International Airport to catch their flights because of the lower fares available from south of the border.

Who can blame them? Some of the deals from Grand Forks are quite attractive. Avoid the sneaky Airport Shuttle add-on, and you can fly from Grand Forks to Las Vegas for the Victoria Day long weekend on Allegiant Air — if you’re able to make a Thursday departure and Sunday return — for a base fare of $401.

If you’re looking for a Friday night departure/Monday return, you can pay a bit more to take United from Fargo ($429) or Delta from Grand Forks ($486),  Bemidji ($509) or Thief River Falls ($616) and still pay less than the best currently available fare from Winnipeg for those dates and times ($727 on Delta).

Is this competition from south of the border hurting Winnipeg Airport?

Yes, says the Winnipeg Airports Authority. Winnipeggers boarding their flights in Grand Forks instead of Winnipeg make it more difficult for Winnipeg Airport to attract new carriers and maintain direct flight options, they told the Free Press recently.

Yet, research from Europe suggests that such competition from low-cost carriers and secondary airports “[generates] additional travel, rather than merely substituting for flights with legacy carriers”, while research of the U.S. market by a Japanese researcher concludes that “the gain in social welfare due to [low-cost carriers entering markets] is substantial” as a result of the benefits to consumers and the profits generated by these airlines.

Research from Monash University in Australia also concluded that “competition [between airports] can lead to better allocation of traffic to airports, and to pressure on inefficient airports to perform better”, though cautioning that “inefficiencies in allocation of traffic can come about when prices do not reflect costs, when major airports set prices above marginal costs to recover costs, or when prices at secondary airports are kept low by subsidies.”

And, as The Cranky Flier, one of the web’s top aviation-related blogs, pointed out in February, more distant airports are only competitive on certain longer routes:

“Those who are traveling on shorter flights are less willing to drive to airports that are further away. So people that live in the heavily-populated area around Long Beach will drive to LAX if they’re going to New York, but they’re less likely to do it if it’s just a jaunt to Vegas or San Francisco… Low fares are good, but it’s the convenience of the airport that makes it work best.”

Thus, Winnipeg’s airport is unlikely to suffer much harm from a little healthy competition from Grand Forks. For the business travelers who keep the traditional airlines in business, it will always be more convenient to use an airport a mere 20 minutes from downtown Winnipeg than one located three hours away.

The benefits to consumers and the effect of low-cost carriers in opening up travel to those who otherwise wouldn’t bother traveling at all are also important to keep in mind.

A bit of cross-border competition — Winnipeg vs. Grand Forks, Vancouver vs. Bellingham, Montreal vs. Plattsburgh and Toronto vs. Buffalo — could also open the door to a reconsideration of how the infrastructure that supports air travel is paid for in both Canada and the United States, though there are no easy solutions there: Do we stick with the status quo of requiring the airlines to collect a variety of surcharges over which they have no control, but take the flak for? Do we abandon the user-pay principle and revert to direct government ownership and taxpayer subsidy of airports, as is the case in much of the U.S.? Do we adopt the model recently abandoned by New Zealand, where international passengers had to line up to pay a separate “admission fee” before going through passport control and security?

So, shop around. And if you can get a better deal out of Grand Forks, go for it.

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

Copyright © Macchupicchu-Inca.com

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!

Will airline passengers have to drop their trousers in 2010?

Two-thousand and nine has been an unkind year for the airline industry. On Christmas Eve, the industry could look back on 2009 as the year that forced carriers to slash fares to ridiculously low Boxing Day-style prices to stimulate demand, helping to drive some 30 more carriers into bankruptcy and others closer to it. Air Canada narrowly avoided another bankruptcy filing and fired its CEO as its share price dropped below $1; WestJet struggled with a new reservation system that caused headaches for customers and employees alike.

That was Christmas Eve. As WestJet and Air Canada executives sat down to dinner that night, they could at least console themselves that an improving economy would bring better times in 2010.

Then, the worst news of all came on Christmas Day.

An Airbus A330 operated by Northwest Airlines — now little more than a subsidiary of Delta Airlines — was about to land in Detroit when a Nigerian passenger, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, tried to ignite explosives fastened to his leg. Other passengers courageously tackled the would-be bomber, and the aircraft landed safely.

This attempted bombing wasn’t supposed to happen. After 9/11, the attempted “shoe bomb” attack, and the foiling of a plot to bomb trans-Atlantic flights leaving from the U.K., airlines and airport escalated security to ensure no one got on a commercial jetliner with the means by which to carry out a terrorist attack.

In October 2008, I flew the same airline and type of aircraft as the bomber — it might have been the same Airbus A330 for all I know — out of the same airport, Amsterdam Schiphol. Entering the gate, I was questioned by a grim-looking woman who examined my passport and tickets, wanting to know more about my travel plans, what I did for a living and where I had been in the preceding days.

After passing through another security check — shoes off, belt off, no liquids or gels — I joined the 200-something other passengers in a ridiculously crowded “sterile” boarding lounge that had all the charm and the popluation density of a refugee camp.

The would-be Detroit bomber presumably went through the same screening process on Christmas Day. Being a male traveling alone, he might even have been subjected to a little more scrutiny than usual. He still managed to get aboard the aircraft with dangerous goods in his possession.

So much for the extra security.

In the hours after the attempted bombing, passengers began to hear of new security measures coming into effect:

  • All laptops and other electronic devices to be turned off not just for take-off and landing, but for the final hour of the flight as well
  • All passengers to remain seated for the final hour of the flight
  • All passengers departing Canada for the U.S. to be body-searched
  • One carry-on item per passenger
  • No access to your carry-on items and nothing to cover your lap during the final hour of the flight

This raises a few questions:

  • How long will it be before the “final hour before arrival” rule is extended to cover the entire flight? If anything, a  flight is least vulnerable during the last hour in the air: an onboard explosion is less likely to be disastrous at lower altitudes and airspeeds, there are more airports nearby to divert to for an emergency landing, and the crew doesn’t have to concern itself with the added risks of trying to land the aircraft above its maximum landing weight in an emergency. A mid-flight incident, perhaps as much as three hours’ flying time from the nearest suitable airport, would be much more dangerous.
  •  

  • Will this convince the airlines to scrap their checked-baggage fees? This policy seemed to be based on their naive hope that: a.) their customers wouldn’t notice that a $100 rollaboard suitcase could pay for itself after just four round-trips; b.) that their customers wouldn’t cram the bins to the max with every possession they could possibly bring aboard, adding to the time it takes to turn around an aircraft between flights; and, c.) that their demoralized employees wouldn’t notice that the path of least resistance is to stop enforcing size and weight restrictions. The one-carry-on rule will only make matters worse.
  •  

  • Will this destroy the airlines’ buy-on-board programs? It’s not as if many passengers are shelling out much money for the junk food the airlines are selling now. If the lineups for that one last trip to the restroom are going to entend half-way through the cabin starting from two hours before arrival, and there won’t be any access whatsoever during that final hour, it would be smart to eat and drink as little as possible before and during the flight. (You won’t be allowed to cover your lap either, gentlemen, so forget about bringing a blanket and an empty bottle on board in case you urgently need to go.)
  •  

  • Could this be the start of a renaissance decade for train travel, and of a boom in regional travel, as the hassles of air travel get to be too much?
  •  

  • Will airport security become more like Customs, with even domestic travelers being questioned about their travel intentions and sniffer dogs checking passengers and their carry-ons for explosives? (Would it be too facetious to suggest that there might even be male and female screening areas, with everyone being told to forget their inhibitions and strip to their underwear?)

There’s an old joke that goes like this: “When you have to tighten your belt, you’re in a recession. When you no longer have a belt to tighten, you’re in a depression. When you lose your pants entirely, you’re in the airline industry.” In the new decade, that last sentence might turn out to be bitterly ironic.

Boeing’s “Dreamliner” could mean fewer connections for Winnipeg travelers

Aviation enthusiasts were abuzz Tuesday as the Boeing 787 lifted off on its first test flight. The new widebody jetliner — which must still undergo extensive testing before it enters into service — is designed to make travel a little less stressful for long-haul travelers by allowing them to bypass much-hated hubs like Los Angeles and London Heathrow, and by offering more non-stop overseas flights from secondary markets.

For example, let’s say you want to take a trip to Australia, arriving in Sydney and leaving from Melbourne. Getting a flight into Sydney is easy enough: Air Canada, United and Delta can all get you there from Winnipeg without having to switch airlines en route.

Getting back from Melbourne or any other Aussie city, however, is a little more tricky: only United can get you back to Winnipeg on a single reservation, and even that requires a stop in Sydney and connections in L.A. and Denver along the way.

Worse yet, United usually uses older Boeing 747s out of Melbourne, which are some of their most unpopular planes with frequent fliers.

The answer would be for an airline like Qantas, Air Canada or upstart V Australia to fly non-stop from Melbourne to Vancouver, and then allow you to carry on to Winnipeg.

Right now, that’s not viable. Larger jets like the Boeing 747 and 777 have too many seats to fill to make a Vancouver-Melbourne flight profitable, and smaller widebodies like the Boeing 767 and the Airbus A330 lack the fuel capacity to fly the entire trip non-stop.

That will change when the Boeing 787 — nicknamed “The Dreamliner” — enters service. The newest Boeing will allow airlines to offer their passengers more direct routings that bypass the big international hubs.

When the Boeing 787 enters service, there’s a good chance that Melbourne will be one of the cities that you’ll be able to fly to from Winnipeg with only one change of planes en route — a move that will not only take some of the stress out of air travel, but save vacationers, expatriates and business travelers a few hours of travel time as well.

Other possibilities include Singapore, Jakarta (a potential future Asian business capital), Cape Town and Bangalore (one of India’s largest cities outside of Mumbai and New Delhi).

How the 787 might change how Winnipeggers travel

How the 787 might change how Winnipeggers travel (* - Source: Expedia; ** - Estimate based on 500 mph ground speed westbound or 550 mph eastbound, plus 30 mins. taxi time and a 2-hour connection in Toronto/Vancouver)

 

Possible YVR 787 Routes

Routes that might be added to/from Vancouver when the 787 enters service. (Image © Great Circle Mapper -- gc.kls2.com)

 

Possible YYZ 787 Routes

Routes that might be added to/from Toronto when the Boeing 787 enters service (Image © Great Circle Mapper -- gc.kls2.com)

Air Canada has ordered 37 Boeing 787s with options for 23 more, so the aircraft will eventually be used on flights to and from Canada. Other airlines, such as Australia’s Qantas, Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines could conceivably also start flights to/from Canada using the aircraft. (WestJet has not placed any orders for the 787, and probably has no plans to do so.)

Don’t hold your breath waiting to see Boeing 787 service to or from Winnipeg though, as the local market is a little too small to support the regularly scheduled long-haul services for which the 787 was designed.

Why Air Canada’s “Pay Extra for Better Seats” plan has merit

This blog hasn’t always been uncritical of Air Canada, having noted last April that the nation’s largest airline seemed to be gearing up for a battle within its own ranks.

In July, I also suggested that Air Canada needed to make better use of its fleet in order to get back to profitability after narrowly avoiding a second bankruptcy earlier this year.

However, I’ve also noted some positive developments.

In May, I suggested that those who feel hard done by by Canada’s airlines look at passenger horror stories from around the world to get a sense of how air travel in Canada is still a relatively civilized affair.

Three days later, it was also noted that international air travel has never been more affordable.

It’s time once again to note a positive development that is taking shape in the industry.

Air Canada has announced a new option that will allow passengers to pay extra to pre-book some of the best seats on the airplane, starting from $14 per segment.

Not surprisingly, there has been criticism that this represents another attempt to nickel-and-dime the poor passenger.

I’m going to go out on a limb, however, and praise the move.

Since the advent of the frequent flyer program in the early ’80s, traditional airlines generally haven’t made the best seats in the house equally available to all. The more desirable seats at the front of the cabin were quietly set aside for members of each airline’s frequent flyer program, particularly those with “elite” standing, and for full-fare passengers.

Only once the rest of the seats at the back were spoken for would they consider opening these more desirable seats to the low-fare, non-card-holding riff-raff.

It was a perk that helped keep business travelers coming back to an airline, even if they never really had much love for that carrier.

Over the years, the traditional airlines’ treatment of passengers came to resemble a hierarchy. If you were lucky enough to be counted among the aristocrats by the airline’s computers, you were given privileges such as better seats, access to invitation-only airline lounges and an invitation to board the flight first. (Some airlines even made a point of saying out loud that these perks were for “elite passengers only”.)

If you were in the airline’s middle class — a frequent flyer point collector without elite status or a customer who had bought a ticket between seat sales — you might be lucky enough to get a mid-cabin seat and perhaps to have your slightly-too-heavy suitcase or bit-too-large carry-on overlooked.

If you fit into none of these categories, you would be flagged by the airline’s computers as a mere peasant who probably deserved your fate of sitting in a middle seat way back in row 24. Even the willingness to pay a little more money wouldn’t help you move up in the airline passenger hierarchy.

By creating this hierarchy, the airlines not only failed to create profits: they ignored the fact that human beings hate hierarchy.

Human beings want to be made to feel important. They want control of their destiny. They yearn for equality. They seethe with anger anytime anyone even implies that some other group is superior to them, or that they should “know their place”.

This hatred of hierarchy is the reason why egalitarian societies like Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, Australia and New Zealand remain attractive places to live and eventually recover from their problems, while hierarchical societies like France, Belgium, Russia, India and Japan continue to either lose their best and their brightest to emigration or seem to be permanently unable to get the best out of their people.

Hatred of hierarchy is also the reason why even the bureaucrats abhor the bureaucracy, whether these be government bureaucracies or corporate bureaucracies.

Thus, by creating a hierarchy of passengers, the traditional airlines came to be hated by their passengers, even by frequent flyers who came to feel that they were prisoners of their point balances.

When new airlines came along with more egalitarian ideas, like the U.S.A.’s Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, Canada’s WestJet and Britain’s EasyJet, travelers flocked to them in large numbers.*

With lower costs than traditional airlines, happier employees and an even more loyal customer base, these egalitarian airlines achieved a level of profitability that eluded traditional airlines. In an industry where it’s taken for granted that not every year will be profitable, Southwest for example has remarkably posted a year-end profit every single year since 1973.

By allowing passengers to pay for perks like better seats and lounge access, Air Canada is starting to break down some of the “class barriers” between passengers and to adopt a more egalitarian culture.

There’s still a long way to go. Seniority is still all-important among many Air Canada employees — a form of hierarchy itself that allows senior crew members to be at home with their families on Christmas Eve while the juniors are stuck in a hotel room 800 miles from home.

Air Canada’s membership in the Star Alliance also requires it to honour some of the hierarchical practices of its partner airlines, even industry bums like United Airlines, such as by giving preferential treatment to other airlines’ “elite” passengers.

It’s a positive step forward, however, by an airline that has made more effort than most other traditional carriers to rehabilitate its reputation. For that, Air Canada deserved credit.

* – Admittedly, the industry’s failures outnumber its success stories. But it’s still no accident that the world’s most profitable airlines typically fall into one of two categories: a.) Long-haul carriers like Singapore Airlines that can both command a premium from business travelers and keep each aircraft in the air for an average of 12-16 hours per day; b.) Low-cost, egalitarian short- and medium-haul carriers like Southwest and WestJet that also keep each aircraft in the air an average of about 12 hours per day.

Flying Allegiant Air from Grand Forks: Things to Know Before You Go

Have you flown or worked for Allegiant Air? What do you have to say about the airline? Share your thoughts in the comments section, or e-mail theviewfromseven@gmail.com

Looking for a cheap getaway to the sunny southwestern U.S. this winter? You might want to consider flying Allegiant Air out of Grand Forks — if you’re prepared to be flexible.

This new option for Winnipeg travelers received some attention in the Winnipeg Free Press recently, which noted that Allegiant’s Grand Forks operation was taking traffic away from Winnipeg’s James Richardson International Airport.

Not that anyone need cry for Air Canada, WestJet, United or Northwest/Delta. Allegiant only competes with them for price-sensitive infrequent travelers — the major airlines’ least valuable customers, a group of customers that the airlines have been looking to reduce their dependency upon by getting rid of seat capacity.

Choosing Grand Forks as a destination wasn’t much of a surprise. Part of Allegiant’s business plan has been to fly into airports located relatively close to Canadian cities in order to attract Canadian vacationers. In addition to Grand Forks, these border airfields include Bellingham, Wash. (80 kilometres south of Vancouver) and Plattsburgh, N.Y. (120 kilometres south of Montreal).

Is it worth the trip to Grand Forks to catch an Allegiant Air flight this winter? Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros

  • Allegiant charges reasonable fares. A November Grand Forks-Las Vegas round trip costs $295 to $425 U.S. ($322 to $464 Cdn.), taxes and fees included.
  • Friendly employees. Many posters on a popular airline passenger review web site have commented favourably on Allegiant’s friendly, motivated crews — qualities that are in short supply on troubled rival United Airlines.
  • Non-stop flights. Unlike most U.S. airlines, Allegiant doesn’t pass its passengers through a hub. Once you’re on the aircraft, you’ll go straight to your destination, sparing yourself the time and inconvenience of a connection in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago or Denver. (Their destinations from Grand Forks are limited, however, to just Phoenix and Las Vegas.)

Cons

  • Low-cost airlines don’t necessarily offer the lowest fares. A Nov. 15-22 Grand Forks-Las Vegas round trip on Allegiant costs $464 Cdn. taxes and fees included, plus additional charges for checked baggage and beverages — not to mention the cost of getting to Grand Forks. On the same dates, WestJet is offering Winnipeg-Vegas and Vegas-Winnipeg non-stops for $455 Cdn. — taxes, fees, checked baggage and beverages included, and a much shorter trip to the airport. Charters might even offer better fares from Winnipeg.
  • Few options for rebooking if you miss your (non-refundable) flight. Allegiant only operates a handful of flights per week out of small markets like Grand Forks.  Miss a Sunday flight to Las Vegas, and your choices will be (perhaps) to go on standby for Thursday’s flight, make an expensive last-minute booking on a network airline, or cancel your trip entirely. Plan your schedule keeping in mind that snowstorms can cause highways to be closed between Winnipeg and Grand Forks, and that border crossings can sometimes take longer than expected.
  • All the extras cost extra. Bring extra U.S. cash with you for beverages ($2-$5 per serving) and, if you haven’t already purchased it online, baggage check-in ($15-$35  for the first checked bag, $25-$35 for a second bag), plus any other unexpected expenses that might come up. The same caution can be made for many other airlines, so always choose carefully.
  • Limited legroom and no seat recline. Allegiant’s aircraft have charter-style seating, with only 30 inches (2.5 feet or 76 cm) between the back of your seat and the seat in front of  you. If you’re taller than 5′ 8″ (1.73 m), then you might be better off on WestJet, whose aircraft offer two to four inches more legroom.