Run your own airline, prof says



If northerners really want more choice when it comes to airline service, they should consider actively soliciting competitors.

That’s the advice of Phillip Cyrenne, a professor of economics at the University of Manitoba, who specializes in competition and regulatory policy.

Cyrenne says there’s nothing to stop consumers from getting together and negotiating a long-term contract to buy air services from a carrier other than First Air.

“My prediction is that it would probably be hard to get fairly large airplane service in the North, but it doesn’t strike me as being unreasonable for some smaller operators to come in,” said Cyrenne.

First Air announced its purchase of NWT Air from Air Canada last week, a move that now allows Makivik Corp. to extend its airline monopoly across the Canadian Arctic.

Passengers and business customers alike have complained that the airline’s prices are unfair.

In the South, discount carriers such as Greyhound have been a continuous source of downward pressure on prices.

“But in the North,” said Cyrenne, “if there aren’t any other carriers who are willing to go in, then that’s going to leave a greater margin for First Air to raise its prices.”

A better deal could be a simple matter of shopping around, though.

Without transportation regulators dictating who can fly where, entry into the airline business is relatively easy, Cyrenne says.

What the northern business community could do, he says, is form a “buyers group” to negotiate the lease of bulk airline services from an alternate carrier.

“Running an airline isn’t as complicated as it seems. You can call a broker, hire a pilot, and what you need is a sort of ticket-reservation service.

“As long as you can land somewhere, and take off somewhwere, it’s like a taxi on wings.

“That’s one way you can beat a monopoly.”

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