Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Non-stop flights to Mazatlan vanishing

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Flight schedules, destinations, and a dash of security concerns are what this week's readers had inquiries about.

QUESTION: Why in the world has WestJet cancelled the Direct Flights from Winnipeg to Mazatlan?

Likewise, why have other companies seemed to have dropped Mazatlan totally off their radar completely? I have never been on a Mazatlan flight where it wasn't full. Why would they drop a route that was still successful?

ANSWER: Like all tour operators, Westjet Vacations, and its parent Westjet Airlines, makes decisions on routes based on their popularity and the revenues the routes can generate.

There is no question that the negative publicity that related to gang violence and the fact a Canadian got caught in the crossfire really ramped up the emotions about the region across the country.

I too have spent time in Mazatlan and still consider it a safe and attractive sunspot destination. It offers a lot for tourists in accommodation, things to do, and of course the best shrimp the world has to offer.

But while flights were going out nearly full for most of last season, sources tell us the challenge was what the carrier had to do to fill their seats. Many of the flights were full only because of dramatic price discounting, which no tour operator will let continue for too long.

Can Mazatlan be brought back as a non-stop?

I believe it can but it will take a period of time that sees no other similar incidents in the region repeat themselves, along with economic conditions that make other routes less profitable than this one can be.

For the time being at least, we will have to be satisfied with travelling there through other gateways. I know a number of people who have condos or time-shares there and they are not at all happy with the lack of a direct flight to the destination they have already invested heavily into.

QUESTION: Why do airlines schedule such short times for connecting flights?

It creates stress for the passengers and the luggage handlers. Especially in winter when the wings need to be de-iced, a departure time can be delayed by at least 10 minutes or more.

When you only have less than an hour to get to your next flight, 10 minutes can be make-or-break for you, your luggage, and the time required to go through customs or security.

ANSWER: The time that the airlines allow for connecting flights is currently between 35 minutes and an hour. The actually official connection time depends upon the airports you will be connecting through.

For example for Winnipeg's James Armstrong Richardson International airport the connect time is 45 minutes, while Pearson Airport in Toronto is an hour. The connection time in Edmonton is a scant 35 minutes.

It's correct that if your connection is to a country like the United States where the security line-ups can be lengthy, if a flight is at all lengthy the stress can be significant. While airlines will often wait for connecting flights if there are quite a few people on a late arriving flight, this is most often not the case when it is just a couple or a small family.

Remember, you are not obliged to take the shortest connecting flight. For the most part routes are not created for specific connections at all. So long as there is sufficient frequency you will likely have other opportunity options to take later departures, on at least one of the routes.

Most people want to rush connections even more than the allowable limits, believing that somehow they can easily move from one gate to another quickly. Those who travel with carry-on bags only can be particularly insistent on cutting corners around the deadlines required.

QUESTION: My daughter is working overseas and is thinking about traveling to Beirut. Apparently it is quite an amazing city but as a mom my concern is safety.

Can you tell me what you think of a four day trip to Beirut in October?

ANSWER: While this capital of Lebanon may be a wonderful place during peaceful times, recent protests would suggest we are not in those times now.

I take much of my lead on these issues from our Canadian Government's website www.voyage.gc.ca

Here's what they were saying at the time of this writing:

OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Lebanon.

Anti-Western demonstrations are occurring, and some have turned violent. Western interests are at risk of being attacked. Canadians should exercise extreme caution, monitor local news, avoid public gatherings and demonstrations, and stay away from areas where they may take place.

Planned and spontaneous demonstrations related to the domestic and regional situation regularly occur in Lebanon. The road to the airport is subject to sporadic closure due to various factors including local sectarian clashes, civil unrest in Syria and protests against government policies.

I would never ignore an official warning issued for a country. While things may settle down in a month, it would not be on my immediate must see list, and I certainly think anyone should think hard about a visitation over the coming weeks.

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 September 29, 2012 D6

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