(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Ryan’s Regards: Will the air travel industry once again take flight?

With airlines grounded and staff laid off, going abroad could be more difficult beyond COVID-19

The thought of a staycation gives me the willies.

I’m not at that point in my life yet where the idea of barricading myself at home to tackle long put off projects in the backyard and watch the entirety of The Irishman excites me.

This year, however, I don’t have much of a choice.

Next year and all the years ahead… well, there’s no telling!

I like to define myself as a world traveller, but I fear the heyday of air travel is behind us thanks to COVID-19.

The optimist side of me knows that the airline business has always been in a constant state of change, but looking ahead, it seems to be nearly impossible to cheaply trot across the globe like I was able to do before the pandemic began.

Not so terribly long ago, everyone used to get suited up in their finest attire before boarding a plane – dragging along matching designer luggage with them and puffing away on their cigarettes at mid-flight.

That way of traveling has completely disappeared, as did they notion that flying was for an elite class of people with bulging bank accounts.

Air travel became more affordable through the commonality of the “Jumbo Jet” – creating an era where people could get across the globe at a reasonable price – occasionally via a lucky seat sale or two.

That is if you aren’t travelling anywhere in Canada of course. I’ve found flights from Vancouver to Europe costing less than a flight to Winnipeg.

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But for the most part, air travel was great!

Now, Air Canada recently announced 30 domestic routes have been cut at the end of June.

We’re hearing thousands upon thousands of jobs being axed in the industry and billions of dollars lost.

There’s news of hubs out east with dusty runways and closed doors.

Those prices are only going to go up while major airlines recoup losses and rebuild.

It has all happened at a time where, as I’ve heard on call-in radio chatter, an increased discussion of reducing or giving up travel for the good of the environment.

Perhaps slowing climate change is a positive, but during this rebuild, I think there are only one of two ways the miracle of flight can go.

One, airline travel will once again be reserved for business trips and exorbitantly wealthy travellers – though no mandatory suits and certainly no smoking like in the 1960s.

Two, we see the formation of smaller airlines – competition that not only challenges domestic air travel costs, but does it while not treating passengers like cattle.

My grandfather earned his pilots licence in the mid-1950s and later flew for a small airline called Time Air based out of our home city, Lethbridge, Alberta.

For thirty-some-odd years, Time Air flew to countless destinations – most of them minuscule middle-of-nowhere towns that make Langley look like New York City.

He often described the company as his “second family,” dazzling me with stories of how the head of the company would pick up passengers in his own vehicle – complete strangers in many cases – and drive them from their homes to the airport.

Though they did expand overseas, the airline couldn’t survive stiff competition past the 2000s; I think operations like them deserve a comeback, though I am fully aware the obstacles in starting something as massive as an airline are more difficult than they’ve ever been.

Whatever the case, I think we’ll be reading about this moment in aviation history in Langley’s Canadian Museum of Flight.

Not because of the innovations, but because of the difficulties the industry is facing and the opportunities that are hopefully going to be discovered that will change how we fly.

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Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@langleyadvancetimes.com

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