Simon Calder: Air Canada flies in face of omens with low-cost subsidiary

The man who pays his way

Fun. That's an essential component of every holiday, so it's good to see that, from this week, travellers can expect more of it. Starting with Air Canada's new venture. The carrier has set up an airline-within-an-airline, which yesterday began flying from Edinburgh to Toronto. A brand was devised that is supposed to represent "warmth, fun and excitement". And the name is ... rouge.

Air Canada has had a dismal record in starting low-cost subsidiaries with all-lower-case names: jazz, tango and – most notably – zip. This short-lived venture was set up in Hangar 101 at Calgary airport to compete directly with the highly successful WestJet, whose HQ lay just across the runway. In the course of two dismal years before it was expensively undone, zip made zip for its parent company.

The airline's accountants might have more fun with rouge. The lowest fare I can find this summer from the Scottish capital to Canada's largest city is £741 return, with the average more like £1,000. And that doesn't include a Labatt's beer or Canadian Club whisky. If your definition of "fun" on a long-haul flight is enjoying a cool drink over Iceland, you'll pay extra for the treat.

So why do airlines set up subsidiaries in the first place? Not for fun, but to try to make more money, or at least lose it more slowly. They rarely succeed, largely because of excess industrial baggage. "Legacy" airlines such as Air Canada (not to mention British Airways, Air  France and Lufthansa) are locked into union agreements that have been hard-fought over the years by pilots, cabin crew and ground staff. These deals are way out of line with the going rates at low-cost airlines, which were able to start "green field" businesses at lower rates.

The budget subsidiary concept is simply to cut costs and make viable routes that would otherwise be unprofitable. So, while Air Canada pilots will be at the controls of rouge, newly recruited cabin crew will enjoy less generous benefits than their "mainline" counterparts.

Even so, the omens for long-term, long-haul success do not look brilliant. The history of low-cost intercontinental airlines is peppered with failures – starting with Laker Airways which went bust 31 years ago. Sir Freddie Laker's airline was based at Gatwick; the Sussex airport was also the London end of three more recent failures: Phuket Air, Oasis Hong Kong Airlines and Zoom, all of which followed Sir Freddie's courageous carrier into oblivion.

For a time, British Airways sub-contracted a budget airline, Flying Colours, to run some of its long-haul Gatwick flights – but branding and service issues proved too costly. Passengers who thought they had bought BA found they got something more akin to a charter flight.

Next along the line was Air Asia X, a popular South-east Asian airline which nonetheless lost a fortune while shuttling between London and Kuala Lumpur. A shift from Stansted airport to Gatwick proved fruitless, and after six months in Sussex the route closed last year.

Summer gold rush across the Atlantic

Conventional wisdom insists that successful long-haul flying requires reasonable "feed" from short-haul flights at each end of the route. While Air Asia had excellent links into its hub at Kuala Lumpur, there was nothing comparable at the London end. In contrast, Malaysia Airlines can fill its planes from Dublin, Glasgow and Manchester using partner airlines, and connect deep into Asia and Australia via its KL base.

Perhaps, though, this summer is where conventional wisdom is overturned, thanks to the very high fares that the airlines are getting away with over the Atlantic. For example, for Canadians flying to Edinburgh for the festival next month, fun comes with a price tag that translates to as much as £1,500 return in economy class. The flight paths seem paved with gold.

Some golden rules for your Vegas visit

The world capital of fun? Probably Las Vegas. But from Wednesday, a "fun tax" will be imposed by one of the oldest and most characterful hotels, the Golden Nugget, downtown on Fremont Street: "Beginning 1 July, we will be adding a $5 Fremont Street Fee per day". The hotel currently subsidises the Fremont Street Experience, the free nightly sound-and-light show. "We have chosen to keep our rates low and implement a nominal $5 fee," says the Golden Nugget. From here, though, it looks as though the hotel has simply put up rates by $5 a night.

"This fee will allow you to continue to enjoy all of the attractions and highlights that Downtown has to offer," adds the hotel's statement. But bear in mind that you could be choosing a different hotel and get the entertainment free.

Should your idea of in-room fun involve making a cup of coffee and logging on to Wi-Fi, the Golden Nugget will levy more charges: $13 for a day's internet access and an astonishing $2.50 per cup of coffee even if you make it yourself. Don't want to wait in line at the hotel's catering facilities? Just pay $25 for a card that entitles you to jump the queue. Make sure no one sends you any mail while you are there: "The hotel charges a minimum of $6 per package, depending on weight." And all these extra charges are subject to 12 per cent tax. Fun can be expensive.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape