American 777-200ER departing from LAX with the iconic Theme Building and control tower, as seen from the Imperial Hill viewpoint - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

American 777-200ER departing from LAX with the iconic Theme Building and control tower, as seen from the Imperial Hill viewpoint – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Airlines are AWESOME! They enable travel at a rate faster and cheaper than at any point in human history, and at an uncompromising level of safety. They enable business and connect us with the world in ways which, just a few generations ago, would have been considered impossible. For some of us, airlines sustain our relationships. AirlineReporter exists because of our collective passion for airlines, travel, and aviation. But being a fan of any particular industry comes with some risk.

Sometimes good companies and organizations do bad things. And when that occurs, it’s important to first understand what’s happened, and then take action. In a civilized society, we do our best to look past minor disagreements and remain focused on the big picture. But what about egregiously misleading marketing? How does someone who loves the airline industry declare mutiny on one of their trade groups? For months we’ve pondered this question and have struggled in an identity crisis as a result. So we will do what we do best… we’ll cover this conundrum from a unique perspective.

#StopAirTaxNow! Have you seen these ads around social media? In today’s crazy political environment, it’s just another call-to-action marketing campaign. You know the routine: Trigger folks at the mention of taxes, urge them to phone their elected officials, pick up their pitchforks, and maybe start a revolution. Overreaction? Possibly. But these things are a slippery slope. What sets this campaign apart is that it is funded by airlines we all know and rely on (and sometimes love).

Let’s dig in…

What a view! - Photo: Owen Zupp

What a view! – Photo: Owen Zupp

This is a guest post written by Owen Zupp, who has previously written a few great stories on AirlineReporter. Today, he is sharing some parts of his new book, Boeing 747. Queen of the Skies: Reflections from the Flight Deck (we get no kick-back from the book, just want to share some cool AvGeekness — yes, that is now a thing). Zupp’s background ranges from charter work and flight instruction to ferry flights, flight testing, and the airlines. He has also served as both a Chief Pilot and Chief Flying Instructor. With 20 years in airline operations, Owen has flown both domestically and across the globe from his Australian base. He holds a Masters Degree in Aviation Management and his writings on aviation have been published around the world and received various accolades and awards. He is also just a cool guy! -Editor

To many, the Boeing 747 is more than merely a means of air travel. Affectionately called the “Queen of the Skies”, its arrival transformed the globe and over more than half a century it has carved its own niche in the history of aviation.

Its significance was recently impressed upon me by the number of queries I have received, both in person and via my website, that relate to the Boeing 747. Even though my career has seen me operate a hundred different types – the “Queen” continues to consume the lion’s share of interest.

I have been fortunate in that as an airline pilot and aviation writer, I have been privy to some very interesting 747 operations. From flying over the Antarctica to ferrying a fifth engine beneath the wing, I have been able to research and share a range of experiences.

As a consequence, I thought it was time to put these stories together in one place and the title, “Boeing 747 – Queen of the Skies. Reflections from the Flight Deck” was born.

What follows is an excerpt from the title. It relates to the chapter, “Magnificent Desolation”, which saw a Boeing 747-400ER venture southward to the frozen continent of Antarctica.

That's me. In a plane. All by myself. Photo by Chuyi Chuang

That’s me. In a plane. All by myself. – Photo: Chuyi Chuang

This is a continuation of my multi-part series on learning to fly. You can read the whole Fly With Francis series here.

I did it! I flew an airplane totally by myself over the Labor Day weekend. It was, in absolutely equal parts, terrifying and exhilarating.

Doing this was the culmination of a lifelong dream. Unlike a lot of airplane nerds, I don’t have any close family with ties to aviation. Instead, all of this started for me as a boy – my grandmother would take my brother and me to our little local general aviation (GA) airport in western Massachusetts, where we’d lie on the hood of her ’69 Beetle and watch skydivers while eating ice cream. My interest in planes waxed and waned over the years, but never really went away. There was a time when *gasp* I was afraid of flying – my first-ever flight experience was a very turbulent series of flights down the Atlantic Coast in the height of summer that put me off flying for a long time.

Fast forward to about a decade ago, when my wife got us a helicopter tour of Seattle for my birthday. The desire to fly returned with a vengeance. And the fear had long faded.

That's me, working through preflight checklists on the Galvin ramp. Photo by Chuyi Chuang

That’s me, working through preflight checklists on the Galvin ramp – Photo: Chuyi Chuang

Anyway, at a flight school like Galvin, periodic stage checks ensure students are properly prepared to advance to the next segment of training by having them work with different instructors, who both confirm the students’ competency and verify that the primary instructor has done their work properly. Some find the process cumbersome; for me the rigor is comforting.

A Swoop 737 taxiing at YXX

With their new low-cost subsidiary, Swoop, connecting secondary markets, WestJet is able to focus on its joint venture with Delta – Photo: John Jamieson

Some Low-Cost Context

As far as I can remember, Canadians have complained about the cost of domestic air travel. Stuck in an increasingly permanent duopoly, Air Canada and WestJet have been without significant competition for the past 15 years. When JetsGo ceased operations in 2005, the domestic market was handed over to two carriers with little interest in changing the status quo. Moreover, with the ability to control prices and adjust capacity, Canada’s two flag carriers have been able to stifle their competition. Additionally, as a result of the duopoly, the barrier to entry for new market entrants has gone up significantly.

Part of the problem lies in Canada’s geography. With a population smaller than Tokyo spread over an area larger than the United States, it’s no wonder that airlines have struggled to succeed in Canada. While there is considerable traffic between the major urban areas (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal), there is very little flow between Canada’s smaller cities. This makes profitability a major struggle for new market entrants, especially when the major routes are dominated by Air Canada and WestJet.

Swoop's Check-In Desks

Swoop offers its customers landside check-in; however, many passengers make use of their mobile app – Photo: John Jamieson

Start of the Transition

However, things may be about to change. Three carriers (Rouge, Flair, and Swoop) are currently offering low-fare travel options and a fourth, Canada Jetlines, is on the way. Each with their own identity, the three existing carriers have thus far managed to stay afloat in Canada’s notoriously turbulent market. But for how long? That remains to be seen. With low-cost travel finally taking off, it’s worth taking a closer look at how they’ve managed to attract and maintain business. We’ll be taking a look at their origins, cost structure, and the quirks which have kept them in business and, later in my story, I’ll be including my brief interview with Swoop President Steven Greenway.