Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: July 2016

Bombardier’s new aircraft model makes first commercial flight

Chances are if you’ve flown within Canada & the U.S. on a flight under 2 hours in the past 2 decades it’s been on a Bombardier regional jet as the company has dominated that segment of the aviation market but after a few false starts decided eight years ago to design & build larger,  longer range aircraft, a decision that’s pushed the Canadian firm to the very edge of bankruptcy due to cost overruns, production delays and few firm advance orders.

Known as the C series, the new aircraft model was aimed at the segment of the aviation market between the 50-seat regional jets and the much larger Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 which can transport up to 200 passengers each depending upon the configuration. The design of the aircraft and its lighter weight carbon fibre construction enables the C series to be more technologically advanced while costing less to fly, a key selling feature as fuel costs are often an airline’s largest operating expense. Beyond its technical capabilities the new model is also more user-friendly from a passenger perspective as it offers larger overhead bins, larger windows, more headspace and an overall quieter ride.

Despite being a so-called ‘game changer’ for both airlines and passengers Bombardier is two-and-a-half years late delivering the first aircraft to its airline launch partner Swiss International Airlines, a delay that’s given Boeing and Airbus time to sow doubt among airlines and scoop up sales on deeply discounted larger aircraft they manufacture. More than $5 billion dollars has been spent on research & development and aircraft construction which added to the $6.5 billion Bombardier has lost over the past two years pushed it to the bring of bankruptcy and reportedly only a $3.3 billion dollar aid package from the province of Quebec and another $1 billion coming from the federal government have been able to keep the firm afloat. That injection of funds by the current government in Ottawa means that every Canadian taxpayer has become invested in the C series whether they like it or even realise it or not but the political and economic fall-out of letting Bombardier fail was likely something neither level of government was willing to contemplate.

There are however a few things that will work in Bombardier’s favor as both Boeing and Airbus suffered lengthy delays in bringing new models to market but once in service confidence was buoyed and orders climbed. Air Canada has finalized an order for at least 45 C series jets and it was reported in the Financial Post  in recent days that Bombardier is confident more orders will be announced later this year which should help to revive the company’s stock price which fell below $1 per share earlier this year before rebounding upward since. Profits aren’t expected until 2020 and paying off the$9 billion dollar mountain of debt will take Bombardier some time even with a highly successful C series reception but the dark clouds that have hung over the program may finally be lifting as the aircraft takes to the skies.

There is an early review of the plane’s creature comforts in this Financial Post article or open the video link below for a closer look at the inaugural Swiss flight of Bombardier’s C series jet.

 

 

Goodbye Cloverdale footbridge

While neither architecturally or historically important the Cloverdale footbridge over the North Saskatchewan River in central Edmonton below the Shaw Conference Centre developed many supporters among its frequent visitors – myself included – so was saddened to see its closure in recent days ahead of impending demolition as a new Light Rail Transit or LRT bridge is to be built on the site.

That the start of construction on this latest LRT branch line to the city’s south, dubbed the Valley Line,  comes so soon after the troubled Metro Line finally went into service two years later than originally planned and still not fully operational with a price tag taxpayers may never know because of ongoing claims against one supplier according to this article should serve as a wake-up call to city council that the Valley Line should be delayed and rethought not only for its impact on the five city parks it crosses but unresolved institutional shortcomings within the city’s planning department that caused major delays in a number of big budget infrastructure projects.

Despite the last LRT boondoggle however council seems intent on plowing ahead both figuratively and literally with the $1.8 billion dollar Valley Line for “the greater good” as the heavy equipment sat ready to demolish the footbridge that was opened after a two-year construction phase on July 9, 1978, weeks before the Edmonton Commonwealth Games were declared open by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  As a small segment of  the Trans Canada Trail, the world’s longest recreational trail network, the footbridge will be replaced with an LRT bridge with pedestrian access on a lower level according to the 2013 design elements as released by the city and reported in an Edmonton Sun article.

cloverdale

The design is similar to the LRT bridge that spans the river in the shadow of the High Level Bridge connecting the north side city centre with the south side University of Alberta Campus.

Days before the closure I crossed the footbridge one last time on an early morning bike ride and so had it all to myself for a few minutes and couldn’t resist snapping a took a few photos for posterity.

20160713_065608 photo by author

20160713_065354 photo by author
20160713_065306 photo by author
I will miss the footbridge which for me allowed a convenient cross-over between the two sides of the river valley trails and have already begun cursing the myriad of trail detours and closures this project and others have inflicted upon trail users.

At least until its next update the Cloverdale footbridge will live on in Google Maps.

A day (or two) in Reykjavik

Working in travel means exposure to enticing air deals to far away places for low prices that periodically come along and while the innate desire to travel pushes me to confirm them all the practical realities of time and money mean having to resist the travel temptation and simply say ‘no’ to almost all. Once in a while however an offer comes along that proves impossible to resist as I decided was the case in yielding to a recent Icelandair offer to visit the two Nordic capitals of Copenhagen and Reykjavik.

Building in a two-day stopover in Reykjavik on the way home from Copenhagen for $500 with taxes roundtrip was very tempting and luckily the sale stretched over five days as it took me three to overcome my initial resistance and confirm a Europe trip for myself at what is roughly equivalent to the price of a ticket to Toronto. That value will help offset the higher cost of living in these northern cities, both of which I’m visiting for the first time.

In looking forward to the trip I couldn’t help sharing a short video starring the city of Reykjavik by filmmaker Martina Arcucci who takes us through the art, design, restaurant, and cocktail scene that make Iceland’s capital one of the most popular destinations in the world.

So why is Canada the only major market on earth without an ultra low cost airline?

Canadians love to gripe about the high cost of air travel in this country, and no wonder: Canada is the only major air market in the world without an ultra-low-cost airline. As the founders of Jetsgo, Roots Air, Greyhound Air and many other failed carriers can attest, Canada is a notoriously difficult place to start an… Continue reading

Plan now to avoid losing banked Air Miles on New Year’s Day

Air Miles – easily Canada’s largest coalition loyalty program with over 10 million active collectors – underwent major structural changes in 2011 and one effect of those changes will be felt at the end of 2016 so warrants attention now to ensure banked miles don’t disappear.

In 2011 Air Miles unveiled a new feature called Air Miles Cash which enabled collectors to redeem miles instantly at select merchants but also informed its collectors that every mile they earned would come with a five-year expiry date, meaning that all the miles earned until then would need to be used by 31st December, 2016 or would expire while new miles would expire on a rolling five-year calendar. Think of it as a time stamp for each mile that adds a ‘best before’ date forcing members to use them or lose them as unspent miles represent a liability on the books for Air Miles owner Loyalty One. Note that this five-year mile expiry is different than the two-year expiry for accounts with no activity.

While the looming expiry deadline is unlikely to effect the majority of collectors who stands to lose the most is the minority carrying large ‘Dream Miles’ balances and have not redeemed for any awards since 2011 who may be saving up for that big trip as it’s these miles that are at risk.

To check whether your miles are at risk of expiring, sign on with your collector number and PIN to Air Miles website and on your main account page there’s a tab ‘Request Expiry Statement’ which I’ve highlighted in yellow in the screenshot below which once clicked will send an email within 24 hours highlighting mile expiry dates.

Am

In my case thanks to a few major redemptions in recent years that took my balance almost down to zero my expiry statement showed no miles at risk.

am's

A few things to remember about Air Miles

  • Dream Miles may not be transferred into Cash Miles
  • Dream Miles may be transferred into another Dream Miles account and Cash Miles into another Cash Miles account of a spouse, family member or friend for a fee of $0.15 per mile plus a $10 service fee per transaction to avoid expiry as transfers extend the validity for another five years from transfer date
  • Redemptions use the oldest Air Miles first
  • Once miles have expired from either a Dream Miles or Cash Miles account they cannot be reinstated

While the ability to transfer miles to a family member or friend as a gift might appear attractive to a collector with a large balance the gifting of miles comes with a fairly unattractive fee so the better avenue would be, for example, to redeem for air tickets in that person’s name from your account.

The choices for Dream Miles redemptions is diverse from merchandise to premium ‘experience’ reward packages called Stage Pass with tickets and VIP perks to major concert events and big ticket cruises, car rentals, hotels, air tickets so if a collector has hoarded their Air Miles for more than five years there are plenty of ways to  reward themselves with merchandise or travel they might not otherwise consider paying for out-of-pocket.

As with anything of value investing some time to ensure your miles won’t expire on New Year’s Day is time well spent but note that because of increased demand you may have to spend more time trying to get through to Air Miles as reports have surfaced about lengthy hold times including in this CBC article. An Air Miles email recently acknowledged member frustration at long hold times.

am email

The email goes on to admit that while “everything you need to know about the AIR MILES Reward Program is on airmiles.ca” that “there have been intermittent website availability issues due to high activity” and that website stability is a top priority. As demand for redemptions is only likely to increase ensuring your account is squared away well ahead of the New Year’s Day deadline should be a member top priority.

A trek among the towers; New York’s High Line Park

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2016 – F. Scott Fitzgerald said New York is a city “in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” A little of that wild promise and beauty winds 1.5 miles through the city’s towers of steel and glass, suspended 30-feet above its hurried streets by steel beams… Continue reading

Nathan’s Famous, a Coney Island hot dog landmark, marking 100th anniversary

Nathan’s Famous, host of the annual July 4 hot-dog eating contest, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and as a hungry visitor who has made the pilgrimage to this Coney Island institution it’s a milestone worth marking.

New York June 2014 089 photo by author

Nathan Handwerker was a Jewish Eastern European immigrant  who arrived at Ellis Island in 1912 along with  some 600,000 others seeking a better life, soon finding work at Feltman’s German Gardens in Coney Island. Four years of hard work later Handwerker risked his family’s life savings of $300 on his own business which was a hit from the start thanks to his nickel hot dog which undercut his former employer’s hot dog price of a dime. The rest as they say is history and for those Summer visitors to New York who haven’t ventured out to Coney Island and sampled a Nathan’s dog it’s well worth the subway ride.

WSJ’s Jeff Bush takes a trip to the original Coney Island location to explore the humble history of the popular sausage on a bun.

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