Sunday, May 20, 2007

In the air (part 2 of 2): Forecasting flight fees? Cool facts and current problems is new. The idea: by understanding the pricing formula airlines use (you may of heard of 'yield management techniques'), can tell you if fares will fall, rise, or not change, in price. And, accordingly to reports, they are really good at it! A 75% success rate is something to be proud of.

How does it work? Airlines' change prices based on how fast the flight is filling-up. For example, if the flight is only 50% full a week before departure, one can expect the price to fall because airlines' will try to persuade travelers to fly with them with lower fees. On the other hand, if a flight is 50% full a month before departure, the price might rise because there is strong demand to travel on that day.

An Example - Toronto to New York (JFK Airport)
Just say that that want to go to NY this summer, and you are flexible with departure times and the duration of the trip. Can farecast help us? Let's see. Once you arrive at the farecast website, scroll down to the part that says "Flexible Travel Graph Search: See low airline tickets over the next 30 days". Select your departure city - ok, well it says "Ontario, CA" which means Toronto in farecast talk - and your U.S. destination.

COOL FEATURE 1: The first screen shows the price of a flight over the next thirty days between TO and NY: it shows the lowest fare on each day; they depart at all different times and for different durations. The lowest price over the next 30 days: 9 June, returning 12 June. When I select that flight, it tells you the airline (US Airlines in this case) and the departure dates.

COOL FEATURE 2: For the above-mentioned flight, tells me to wait: the price is expected to drop by $31 in the next 7 days, and with a confidence level of 58%.

COOl FEATURE 3: If you want to go to NY in June, and you are willing to wait for a cheaper price, you may consider taking the "Fare Gard" - for $9.95 they will guarantee a price for 7 days.

PROBLEMS: (i) Most importantly, I was unable to find the prices cited on the airlines website. (ii) Because only gives you the lowest price for one flight at a time, and not the combined departure and return fare, it is not a perfect system - you still need to do a lot of searching. In fact, does a better job at pricing the return trip between TO and NY for the same dates (June 9-12, $460).

Use both expedia and farecast! Both offer useful services: farecast for the trend in prices and expedia for the total trip pricing. If I was the CEO of, I would get the forecasting technology used by to enhance my services.

Special Note: For some reason Zoom Airline flights do not appear on either or

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In the air (part 1 of 2): Paris anyone?

WARNING: A sudden longing for French wine, crêpe, 300 different types of cheese may overtake you!

If you left Halifax on September 5th, and returned September 26th, you could go to Paris for just over $600 (in comparison, a trip to Toronto costs just under $500 in September). This is new (and very dangerous to our budget): Zoom Airlines just added a direct flight to Paris. Prices start as low as $199 each way plus surcharges and taxes. This is the first time since I arrived in Halifax that the price of domestic and international fights have been so close.

Two trends have led to this convergence: (i) in the domestic market, Canjet's and Jetsgo's closure have lead to higher prices: fewer suppliers have increased the market power of Air Canada and Westjet; (ii) Zoom, a welcome addition, has been adding flights from Canada to Europe (Tasya and I flew with them in 2005 via Montreal, and it was great!): they want more global market share and lower prices will give them my business.

Most Canadians love Europe (or at least some mystical idea of Europe); cheap and high quality wines, cheeses, museums and architecture. A place that many of us have only encountered through our grade 10 history text or maybe Google Earth. Now: it is cheaper than ever to be snubbed by a French waiter ("I sat there in this little cafe, I tried to speak but nothing came out, then he said: 'What do you want?' - it was cold") The combination of the high Canadian dollar and cheaper flights to Europe mean it's possible to go to Paris for short holiday. Back home, Canadian tourism destinations will have to work harder to keep domestic travelers coming to their coastal B&Bs or to see a Jays' game. Europe is calling.

Iceland Air resumed service to Halifax as of May 17th.
Zoom Airlines also offers flights to Belfast, London and Glasgow out of Halifax for the same rock bottom prices.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Northend of Halifax: Uniacke Squre and the New Halifax

The north-end of Halifax: How is new development changing the city and what does it mean? Like many major Canadian cities, the landscape of Halifax is changing - rising land values and the trend towards condo-living is changing the Halifax landscape. A lack of opportunity in international real estates markets have landed international investors to Halifax. The best example of this is the newly painted Brunswick Towers - now call Ocean Towers .

Over the last couple of months The Coast has written two articles about Halifax's northend. I found both of these articles interesting and educational. First, before talking about the new Halifax, I wanted to share with you this article about the old - or at least the not to so new.

The first is an article by King's College's own Stephen Kimber: "Inside the square" . This article give a short history of the Uniacke Square housing project and aims to present the views of residences. I must admit, I think about the issues surrounding housing development more often then most economists; perhaps because I walk by Uniacke Square each day on my way to work and again on the way home. For anyone that is, or wants to be, a policymaker - or who is a past, present or even future Haligonian - this article provides a difference perspective. A community lives in Uniacke Square.

Take two: New Construction and Middle Class Push ... Lis van Berkel points to 'gentrification' in "Where goes the neighbourhood?" . As referred to in the above article, the new building in the north-end of Halifax is generating a push: tear it down and build a new one: each construction replaces an older one and, over time, will remove affordable housing from the city's core - unless policy steps-in! Although so-called 'gentrification' does price people out a given market, it is not all bad: rising housing prices generate wealth for home owners; new construction changes the stock of housing to meet the needs of todays consumers; construction creates jobs; higher prices generate higher property tax for the city to provide services. I think the answer is in mixed development - the problem is that when we build low-income housing some people win (those who live downtown at a below market price) and some people will loose (via lower land values or otherwise). Mixed development needed; politicians with a backbone wanted.

Give me your thought.