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 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.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200LR – Photo: Qatar Airways
After getting the opportunity to fly on the first Qatar Airways 787 and then also flying back to the US on-board a Qatar Airways 777-200LR I wanted to be able to write a story to compare and contrast the two aircraft.
Since my Qatar Dreamliner flight back in November 2012, the 787 has run into some issues, but at least the aircraft is still flying. Both of my flights were in Business Class and both were about the same length, giving me a great opportunity to compare. Let’s break this down bit by bit…
Let's get ready to rumble! Whose 787 is better? JAL's or ANA's?
What’s better than one Dreamliner? Two of course. I have been lucky enough to be on 787 Dreamliners for two different airlines: All Nippon Airlines (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL). I have had many people ask me how they were different and figured the answer was good enough for a blog write up.
Now, before I move forward, I want to put a few things out there. First, I have been on ANA’s 787s multiple times and was even able to fly on one. I have only been on JAL’s for a short time while on the ground. The biggest difficulty to compare is that ANA’s Dreamers were set up in a domestic configuration, whereas JAL’s was in an international. Because of this I do not feel it fair to compare everything (like business class seats), but I think there is enough to compare and contrast in this friendly competition.
I have broken down each 787 into different categories and awarded a winner in each:
JAL recently came out with a new livery, but there is nothing special on the livery for their first 787 like ANA had.
Delivery Livery: ANA
ANA went all out for their first two Boeing 787s with a special livery. The large “787” makes it clear that this is a Dreamliner, even to those non AvGeeks. Even though JAL’s new livery is starting to grow on me, it just can’t complete.
JAL's entry way is on the left and ANA's is on the right to its 787s.
Entrance Bar: ANA
When first walking into the 787 there is a large entry way that can be set up as a bar during flight. Although both were impressive, I think that ANA having the wine holders out in the open really made it win this one.
Even though my favorite color is blue, overall, I like the atmosphere of JAL's 787 cabin (on the left) versus ANA's.
Overall Cabin Atmosphere: JAL
I really cannot put my finger on it, but JAL’s cabin overall just felt better. This is not to say that ANA’s felt bad, but I think maybe the fact that the economy seats have a lined fabric and the soothing colors just made me feel more comfortable in the JAL 787 versus the ANA. Although, someone else who was at the JAL 787 delivery, who also had been on ANA’s aircraft commented that he liked ANA’s interior atmosphere better.
JAL's lavatories aren't bad (on the left), but you can't beat a lavatory with a window in it that ANA has.
Both airlines offer nifty features in their lavatories, but this one went to ANA for choosing to put a window in one of their lavatories. The window actually provides some pretty amazing views of the 787 wing while in-flight and has the only sunshade in the cabin.
JAL (left) went for more width on each economy seat, where ANA (right) gave more arm room for the folks stuck in the middle.
Economy Class Width: Both
This one is really about where you sit. Even though the 787 Dreamliner can be configured with nine seats across, both JAL and ANA went with eight. Where ANA put in a double arm-rest into the very middle of the cabin, JAL went with a single armrest in the middle, but spread the width to all the seats. If I were sitting in a middle seat, then ANA wins, but if I am sitting anywhere else, JAL is the winner.
What is more important? Having a larger screen on JAL's 787 (left) or the remote in the seat-back on ANA's (right)?
In Flight Entertainment Screen: JAL
This is literally for the screen and seat-back only. I was able to spend a few minutes on the ANA 787 to play with the system, but really was not enough time to make any conclusions. I was not able to play with JAL’s.
Just looking at the larger and cleaner looking screen in the JAL 787 wins this one. Although ANA’s screen is a bit smaller, I really like the fact that the remote is in the seat versus in the armrest.
Can you tell which one is which? The one of the left is JAL's and the one on the right is ANA's.
Flight Deck: Both
This almost reminds me of Highlights magazine when I was a child and had two photos and had to try to find the differences. Look hard, there are not going to be too many. The 787 cockpit is a beautiful work of engineering and both of them win.
So if I had to pick only one 787 Dreamliner to fly on right now, which one would it be? Ha! That is like asking which child is your favorite. JAL, ANA and Boeing have done a great job with the new interiors and passengers will enjoy flying on either.
Those who are loyal to either JAL or ANA are probably not going to be swayed to change airlines based on differences in their 787 configurations.