Friday, December 11, 2009

Still more Moose Air

Earlier this fall I commented on the Calm Air/Manitoba Moose arrangement for charter services. If you want to read a first hand account of the experience, including seeing a picture of the plane, check out this link:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wi-Fi at 35,000 ft

Road Work: A weekly look at business travel
Wi-Fi flies to Canada

Bert Archer
Los Angeles-Toronto — From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009 4:53PM EST

A big sticker on the plane read “Wi-Fi Air Canada,” and the flight attendants made an announcement about the plane's new Internet capabilities. But it was only when he noticed his seatmate checking scores that Brian Strauss, 44, took out his laptop and logged on at 35,000 feet.

“The first thing I checked was to check the headlines,” said the president and chief executive officer of Southern California manufacturer Henry Company, who is also a Notre Dame fan. “I think you'd expect this sort of thing to be hit and miss, but it locked right in.”

The introduction of Wi-Fi service on Canadian flights – on two Air Canada Airbus 319s flying from Toronto and Montreal to L.A., and only over American airspace – signals the end of a year-long delay for Canadian business travellers.

This convenience comes via GoGo, an American company that has been providing Wi-Fi service to U.S. airlines since last year. It will soon be working with an Ottawa-based company called SkySurf, which bid successfully for the rights to air-to-ground frequency in Canadian airspace.

SkySurf head Raed Almasri says the company is listening to feedback from the trial run – who uses Wi-Fi in the air, for what and when – and then will make deals with owners of wireless networks across the country. His goal is nationwide air-to-ground Internet by the end of 2010. For the duration of the trial run, and possibly beyond, should Air Canada choose to extend its arrangement with GoGo, the service will work only in American airspace.

On the L.A. flight, some initial problems connecting were resolved, and from that point on, the service was robust enough to handle streaming video and even online role-playing games.

“It works better than [service on] United, I can tell you that,” says Steven Conly, Strauss's seatmate.

Conly, 26, is the North American sales and marketing manager for aerospace company Dynacon. He has been using onboard Wi-Fi for about four months on United and AirTran. On this Air Canada flight, he did a little shopping, read the newspaper online, e-mailed the office and checked the scores.

“I wanted to see if the Nets won. They did,” the Mississauga-based exec said. “Then I checked on the Raptors. They were a disaster.”

But mostly, business travellers on the flight worked. Strauss had never used in-flight Internet and seized the chance to get some end-of-day work done. “Instead of getting into the hotel at 11, 11:30 at night and catching up, I can do it here and be free and clear when I land.”

He planned to use the hour he saved sleeping. During the trial run, which ends on Jan. 29, the service costs $9.95 (U.S.) for the duration of the five-hour flight. “For a business traveller, it's the cost of doing business,” Strauss said. But, he added, “I'd probably raise my eyebrows at anything over $20.”

An American investment banker sitting nearby, who has been using in-flight Wi-Fi for about a year, concurred. “It's about the only [travel] expense the firm doesn't complain about,” he said.

His family likes it too.

The first thing he did when he logged on last year for the first time was call his wife on a voice-over-Internet service. When a flight attendant asked him to put his phone away, he explained that it's just like checking e-mail. Although some U.S. airlines have asked GoGo to block voice applications, Air Canada is – at least for the moment – not joining them. Google chat, complete with voice and video, worked fine, with occasional video freeze-ups.

Of the 14 business-class travellers, about half made some use of the system, one checking e-mail, another his investment portfolio. And though everyone interviewed said the Wi-Fi should make them more productive, for the time being most were having a little fun with it.

Probably every e-mail sent that night contained at least a mention of the fact that it was coming from the troposphere.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Need a winter break?

Welcome to winter Winnipeg....-28C...good thing WestJet starts flights to Cozumel tomorrow! Check out for more info.

Or venture on over to Air Canada's websaver and check out the deals that feature up to 40% of select US destinations.

Friday, December 4, 2009

London calling!

Do your travel plans include England next summer? London will soon be available non-stop from Winnipeg!

GO Travel Flights will be offering service to London’s Gatwick airport for as low as $798 return, including taxes, beginning in June.

The service is being offered in partnership with British carrier Astraeus.

This is a good development for Winnipeg because it means we can bypass having to transit through another city to reach England.

Book your tickets now!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Whirlybird Hoopla from the WPS

I guess this falls under the category of other interesting things I want to blog about.

With the announcement this week that the Manitoba government will help find a way to make a police helicopter a reality for Winnipeg, I can't help but get annoyed by all the whirlybird hoopla.

When I picture police helicopters, I think of my favourite original reality show, COPS, on FOX. Some poor bugger does something stupid and the next thing you know the police are chasing him with the COPS camera man bracing in the passenger seat as the police car goes barreling down the road. Aformentioned poor bugger then abandons his vehicle and becomes the target of an intense foot chase through backyards as dogs bark and the camera man huffs and puffs to keep up. Soon a bright light appears in the sky, and just when you think that FOX is adding an alien element to the show, the police helicopter appears and shines the spotlight on the dude who is now likely being tasered by an officer. High fives all around, another bad guy is off the streets.

Let me get this out of the way. I think there are better ways to spend money on policing in Winnipeg. More specialized officers (Street Crime, Arson Strikeforce, etc.) on the street. More money for immobilizers. Maybe a strategy that will help kids instead of leaving them at the mercy of the system. Another shift of Tactical Team members. More general patrol officers. But a helicopter?

I'm no expert on policing; I'm just another guy with a blog who has an opinion. So if the Chief of Police thinks we need the helicopter, well I guess I should want to believe him. After all, he should know the needs of the WPS better than anyone else. But I am also a taxpayer and this whole issue seems like it could be made into something much more useful.

I keep hearing media reports that the helicopter will be a useful tool in reducing high speed pursuits of stolen vehicles. How? Are we putting police snipers on board who will shoot out the tires of the stolen vehicle from the air before the chase gets out of hand? What happens if the high speed pursuit takes place when the helicopter is on the ground being refuelled or because the pilot needs a break? What if the call is made about a pursuit starting, but the helicopter is on the ground and by time it is scrambled into the air the pursuit is over?

What else will this helicopter do? Can it airlift trauma victims? Move the Tactical Team across the city at a far faster rate than their SUVs do with the emergency lights activated? Winnipeg is spread out but it doesn't take that long to move across the city, especially if you are able to go through red lights at a higher rate of speed than the average motorist.

I think this is a serious question that needs to be debated and shared with the city because it represents a signficant investment in one resource that could be better spread across many areas.

Here is one suggestion. If a helicopter is the 'sexy' tool that everyone is talking about, why don't we look at getting helicopters that offer lifeflight capabilities and spread the whirlybird love to more people around the province, instead of just Winnipeg? You know, so we can move remote trauma victims from car crashes and other life threatening events into the city quickly and get them to the Health Sciences Centre. Build a helicopter landing pad on the roof of HSC so the helicopter can go straight there and maybe save someone's life.

Forget about putting all these resources into a toy that will make a good photo op until it doesn't make it to the scene of a big chase in time and the politicians/media/etc. go bonkers about how this thing isn't doing what it promised it would. Whatever that promise was.

Or maybe, just maybe a police helicopter will elevate Winnipeg's status into that of a 'big city' ... you know like those cities we see on COPS.

Keeping up with social media

I need to say it...keeping up with social media lately has been kicking my ass. For anybody following this blog, I do apologize for the lack of regular postings.

Found this on Twitter just a few minutes ago. Love the clever message from Air Canada!

AC_webSaver Get 100% of Canada up to 50% off! Travel till March 2010. Sale ends Dec4

And maybe this isn't so clever?

airfarewatchdog Tacky? Spirit Airlines' Eye of the Tiger Sale: #travel