Monday, 2 January 2012

Just a hop away.....

For those of us who have travelled through airports in Vancouver, Seattle or London, the greatest frustration is the time spent standing in line for check-in,  security, and at the boarding gate. Then, when you arrive it starts all over again at immigration, at customs control and baggage reclaim.

It's a world-wide problem - and all for our own good, we're told - but it really does put the 'pain' into plane travel.  We've flown to many destinations in Europe with 'budget' airlines that seek out smaller (and presumably less costly) regional airports and although these are often remote from the cities that they claim to serve, it's always a pleasure to discover how much more relaxed and friendly those smaller airports are. Many of them, and the communties they serve, depend heavily on tourism for their economic survival and with just a handful of flights each day, it's surprising just how much effort some airports make to woo the traveller back. My personal favourite has to be Nimes, France which handles a mere handful of flights each day to Britain and Belgium, yet boasts (for me) one of the best restaurants in town - the “Côté Sud”  open lunchtimes only, with a daily 3-course menu for just 15 euros ($20). It's worth checking in early for an afternoon flight just to experience the restaurant!

Nearer to home, Nanaimo Airport strives to achieve that same excellence in customer service - especially for long-haul Air Canada passengers who can avoid the long check-in lines at YVR with check-in and security this side of the water. 

With no more than 50 passengers to check-in for each flight, the whole process is completed in a matter of minutes, leaving you time to relax before your short flight to Vancouver. And yes, you can hop outside to talk to the bunnies while you wait!

Facilities for passengers are, in fairness, functional rather than exciting - yet the calmness and cleanliness of the surroundings go some way to making up for the lack of things to do. 

So what are the downsides of travelling through Nanaimo airport? 
Well, cost can be a factor - though not always its seems. Flying from between Nanaimo and Ottawa in February can cost just just $40 more than flying from Vancouver.  Flying transatlantic to London, the cost difference can be $75 - again, less than the cost of a one-way floatplane ride to YVR.  However, book a flight from London to Nanaimo on the same dates and the extra cost rockets to almost $300! It's time that Air Canada acknowledged the value of incoming business as well as offering inducements to local passengers.

There's also the question of getting to the airport. Nimes Airport, 22km from Nimes itself, provides a shuttle bus meeting each flight for just 5 euro (under $7) each way. That's $2 less than the cheapest advance fare from Nanaimo to the airport by Greyhound bus (connections not guaranteed) and just a quarter of the price of using the Nanaimo Airporter shuttle. 

Nanaimo Airport Commission's mission statement is “To provide a safe, efficient and financially viable airport, offering excellent services and value to all users while fostering economic development.”   It seems that their objectives of excellence and value to users have yet to be embraced by some of their partner organisations. 

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