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ASK JOURNEYS: Baggage-handler flap raises concern

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This may be one of the shortest transitions from winter to spring we have ever experienced.

We know weather dramatically affects travel bookings. A warm fall means delayed sun-destination commitments while a cold spring puts fear in the minds of those thinking of booking last-minute journeys to places such as Europe.

But the weather doesn't seem to be affecting this weeks questions about travel.

QUESTION: I was shocked at the video of baggage handlers dropping luggage from an Air Canada plane.

While the handlers are supposed to be fired, do you think that this is an action taken just because they were caught?

Do you not think this type of thing is being done on a regular basis?

ANSWER: The union representing the baggage handlers has argued it is the lack of staff and the pressure to rush on- and off-loading of luggage that motivated those workers to drop the luggage.

This is an issue that needs to be resolved during contract negotiations. But no one should let the pressure of time replace job responsibility.

I believe most baggage handlers are responsible and wish to deliver your bags to you in the same shape they were in when you checked them in. But with the lower weight restrictions of airlines, the desire for the lightest luggage possible has meant that some of the features of older heavier luggage have been removed.

In the past, fabrics were more durable and most bags featured honeycomb construction frames.

While some of these features still remain on quality luggage, the frames are still not what they used to be, and fabrics, while still strong, are not what existed a decade ago.

Most manufactures advertise luggage series by their lightness. The buyer needs to be aware of which features have been changed to make it light. Modern technologies have been introduced that still balance quality with weight. These features may not be found in the lower price ranges.

Some of the products I have seen in the marketplace cannot withstand much impact. And even with the best of handling, they cannot withstand the rigours of airport carousels, or the natural heaving of luggage necessary to move bags from one space to another.

QUESTION: Can you tell me whether we face dramatically increased fares this year because of the falling value of the Canadian dollar and boost in fuel pricing?

ANSWER: The drop in our currency value will have some affect for sure, but beyond the normal cyclical price increases that take place every summer season throughout North America, I don't anticipating a significant jump in airfares.

It is difficult to measure pricing in today's environment where ancillary fees and hidden service fees are able to keep the so-called airfare prices low, but the final paid price much higher.

Extra optional costs don't have to be displayed. These are becoming an ever increasing adjunct to the bottom line of airlines.

It is interesting to note, that while I don't have Canadian statistics to compare, in 2013, average airfares in the United States rose only by $1.

As in Canada, increases have been sheltered by other charges. In 1990, revenue from fares was 87.6 per cent. Last year, it was 71.5 per cent.

We are, and will be paying more. Some of it we may not even notice until our credit card payment comes due.

QUESTION: There seemed to be a huge amount of publicity around the recent Coachella Music Festival in California.

Is it really as big as it seemed given all the media coverage?

ANSWER: In 1999, with the publicity of the Woodstock festival and its continuing coverage of the best and worst of what such an event could be still dominating the media, the first Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival took place three months later.

Perhaps fearful of what could happen during such events, the festival took a hiatus in 2000.

Since coming back in 2001, it has become one of the biggest music festivals in the world with performances by some of the most popular stars in the world.

It's now held over two weekends in an area not far from Palm Springs. For many, this is the perfect opportunity to plan entertainment and relaxation around one of the most popular winter destinations in North America.

The 2015 festival will be held around the two weekends of April 10 and April 17.

While it is a mega-attraction as far as festivals are concerned it appears Las Vegas, never to be outdone when the smell of money is in the air, is looking to steal some of the Coachella spotlight.

Beginning next May, the company that founded the Rock in Rio festival has joined with MGM Resorts to create a 13-hectare festival area for a four-day concert featuring worldwide headliners such as those they offer in the Brazilian event that sells over 600,000 tickets.

The goal is to attract at least 300,000 to its first Rock in Rio Las Vegas presentation.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2014 E2

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