Will one airline serve us well?

The recent buzz about the possible merger of Air Canada and Canadian has the business world all excited, but it may not be such a great deal for the travel consumer. Supporters of the deal point to the fact that Canada is one of the few smaller countries with more than one international airline. For example, Britain and France each have a single international carrier, with the U.S. the exception, rather than the rule. Countries with much larger populations than ours get by with only one international airline, which explains why poor old Canadian Airlines can never seem to turn a profit.

They may be right, and one international airline, along with some competition from foreign based carriers, could possibly give Canadians the stable, efficient and cost effective air travel they want and deserve. The fact that both Canadian and Air Canada have announced fall sales this week puts a different spin on the story, however.

Air Canada has announced the by now usual “fall seat sale”, which offers some great bargains to Canadian and international destinations. The airline has reduced fares up to 35 percent on selected routes, for travel beginning as early as September 9, 1999. Sampleares include Vancouver to Toronto for $359 and Calgary to Halifax for $449. Most destinations are on sale, with several real bargains for international travel.

As is the usual practice, Canadian Airlines immediately announced that it would be matching Air Canada’s sale with its own, offering similar savings and virtually the same travel conditions. The question is obvious: will a merged Air Canada/Canadian offer us similar deals next fall? It’s not likely, unless other forms of competition are allowed to flourish, such as charter airlines and international carriers operating in Canada. In the meantime, brace yourself for a wild ride as the airlines shake things out.