The airlines call it “flying your way.” More and more airlines are moving to the no-frills model where one pays for a seat but everything else is extra.
Air Canada and Westjet, Canada's two largest carriers, have now joined the trend with the introduction of what they are referring to as “basic economy” It's a step down from their “economy” class.
But don't be misled into thinking you are going to get a cheaper flight. A look at the costs of the extras shows people may well be paying more for the “basic economy” than they do for economy itself.
While there is a fee for changing flights in Economy class, that option is not available at all in the basic level. You take your flight as booked or you lose your money - No Changes! No refunds! And don't look to get any reward points either.
Pre-flight seat selection will cost you up to $40 more for basic economy passengers than it does for economy.
But the basic fare will be lower, by about $20. That's right! You will be paying more to receive fewer services in the new basic economy seats.
The airline industry has always been one where you have to carefully read the fine print before you book the flight. I can remember when airlines marketed their fares using only the base cost, with all taxes, fees, and charges added on after. That practise took legislation by the federal government to eliminate, and moving the industry to all-inclusive fares. I also remember when food, pillows and the like came included.
Whether these fees are increasing profits or recovering costs depends on whether you're the passenger or the provider. I don't think there's any doubt about the purpose of the new “basic” economy.
Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister and past president of the Springhill and Area Chamber of Commerce.