Flight Costs – You Can Help Make a Change
Mike McNaney, VP Corporate Affairs for West Jet – photo 25News
Prince George, B.C.- For Mike McNaney, Vice President of Corporate Affairs for WestJet, there is something air travellers can do to help bring down the cost of flights.
“Contact your MP” said McNaney to a Prince George Chamber of Commerce lunch gathering.
It’s all about changing Federal policies and funding.
McNaney says with billions invested in capital, plus operational, maintenance, taxes and landing fees, WestJet’s average profit per passenger is $14 dollars. That doesn’t give an airline a lot of wriggle room if the flights aren’t full or the cost of fuel jumps.
McNaney explained that U.S. carriers are able to offer discount or lower priced flights because so much of the industry south of the border is subsidized “We are competing against the U.S. Treasury.” He says with American government funding readily available for airports, runway expansions along with favourable fuel taxes and landing fees with a policy that caps Airport improvement fees at just $4 dollars, it is no surprise that American carriers can offer low cost flights. In fact, he says Southwest Airlines has had the right to offer it’s low cost service in Canada for the past two decades, “And has made the conscious decision not to fly here. It says a lot about the state of our (Canadian) industry and the cost to do business here.”
McNaney says the Federal Government has been listening to the challenges faced by Canadian Airports and airlines ” The current government has been carrying out a wide range of consultations on transport policy in general, not just aviation. We have certainly participated in those consultations, as has the local airport, I am hopeful the messages are being heard, and I am hopeful that the economic generation and spin off that this industry brings to Canada, I am hopeful that recognition of that is occurring.” He says a lowering of costs in operating would increase opportunities for services, “If you lower operating costs overall, there is an opportunity then for more flights, more service, because more can be provided at an economically profitable perspective.”
But if the playing field is levelled in order to entice low cost American carriers to offer service in Canada, would that not put extra pressure on Canadian operators like WestJet? “If we actually get to a point in terms of public policy where those other carriers that don’t fly here actually are serving here, that means we are establishing the right to an equal playing field in Canada that is going to benefit everybody. So yes you will get more competition, that’s fine, we’re going to have an overall lower operating cost in Canada, that will benefit every operator, the carriers, the airports, but will ultimately benefit the consumer and that will lead to more flights and more service.”
McNaney explained why WestJet cancelled its direct flight between Prince George and Calgary as being a decision based on the “softness of the market” but says WestJet is keeping an eye on the kind of activity that may be forthcoming with the recent approval of the PacificNorthwest LNG project and the opportunities that may present themselves should that project move forward.