All the airline drama; Grocery CEOs say they’re not price gouging: CBC’s Marketplace cheat sheet

Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

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Here’s everything you need to know about Flair Airlines this week

A light green sign that says 'flair' and '' on it.
A Flair Airlines sign at the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport on Feb. 1, 2023. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

It has not been a relaxing March Break for Flair Airlines.

Last weekend, the discount carrier said passengers were affected after four of its leased aircraft were seized in Toronto, Edmonton and Waterloo, Ont., in what the company is calling a commercial dispute. 

Flair’s CEO Stephen Jones said just under 1,900 passengers were affected, and that the airline has since returned to business as usual.

Jones said he believes the seizure was connected to the lessors’ conversations with “another airline” but remained tight-lipped on which airline he thought it was.

“We were a few days late on a million dollars and to have this action taken is super unusual,” he said. 

Mere days later, Flair Airlines filed a $50-million lawsuit against several plane-leasing companies, claiming the seizure was “unlawful.” 

“The seizures were orchestrated in a bad faith and malicious manner that inflicted the maximum possible harm on Flair, including by interfering with its passenger relationships and trust,” the statement of claim reads. None of the allegations have been proven in court. Read more

Speaking of airline chaos…

Two passengers waiting with their luggage at their airport.
Canada’s airlanes are facing hundreds of fines related to mass flight delays and cancellations. (CBC)

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has fined Canada’s major airlines for hundreds of violations related to mass flight delays and cancellations last summer and December. 

The violations were often tied to airlines failing to update passengers during flight disruptions, or not promptly addressing their compensation claims. 

Some passengers and industry experts argue the fines, which typically range between $2,500 and $39,000, aren’t much of a deterrent for airlines. 

“The fines are low,” said Ian Jack, a spokesperson for the Canadian Automobile Association, a non-profit travel agency. “We have yet to see the regulator really bring out a big stick on anything.”

The CTA doled out the biggest fine — $126,000 — to Sunwing for 36 violations for failing to keep passengers updated during flight delays in December.  Read more

In more airline news, WestJet was just approved to buy Sunwing with some conditions, including offering service to more Canadian cities. Read more

Grocery CEOs say price gouging allegations are ‘simply not true’ 

A man with brown hair, glasses and wearing a suit sits at a small microphone, next to another man in the background, and looks up.
Michael Medline appeared in front of the committee, as did Galen Weston, who is shown in the background of this picture. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

The heads of Canada’s biggest grocery chains pushed back at allegations they are profiteering from high inflation this week, telling lawmakers that they aren’t the cause of high food prices — and claiming their profit margins are as narrow as ever.

“We are not profiting from inflation, it doesn’t matter how many times you say it … it is simply not true,” said Michael Medline, the CEO of Empire Foods, which owns Sobeys, FreshCo, Farm Boy, Foodland and other chains.

Medline was speaking to the Standing Committee on agriculture and agri-food, which is probing the causes of food inflation, which has skyrocketed to its highest level in decades.

Prices for food purchased at grocery stores increased by 11.4 per cent in the year up to January, according to Statistics Canada. That’s almost twice the overall inflation rate of 5.9 per cent in that same period.

Medline was summoned to speak, along with his counterparts at rival Loblaws, led by Galen Weston, and Eric La Flèche, president and CEO of Metro, which owns Food Basics and other chains.

Together, those three companies make up the majority of Canada’s grocery industry, with thousands of stores across the country. Profits at all three are up sharply in the pandemic, but all three say their profit margins on food are razor-thin. Read more

What else is going on?

The CRTC is launching consultations to lower internet prices and boost competition
They’re also imposing an immediate 10 per cent reduction on wholesale rates.

BMO has signed a deal to buy AirMiles
They say the deal will have no impact on our point balances. 

There’s a new loyalty program from Canadian Tire
And it will cost you $89 a year. 

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