Air Canada on the up and up

Travel Bulletin - - ISUES & TRENDS -

There’s no stalling Air Canada’s growth in Asia Pa­cific & be­yond. Guy Dun­das chats with PK Lee about the car­rier’s next phase of growth.

It’s a mat­ter of when, not if, non-stop flights be­tween Van­cou­ver and Mel­bourne will be launched by Air Canada. The route has been touted for years, but was ef­fec­tively shut down 15 months ago in favour of the in­tro­duc­tion of Bris­bane flights, due to air­craft avail­abil­ity. But the Vic­to­rian cap­i­tal cer­tainly re­mains on the radar, Di­rec­tor Asia & Pa­cific, Lee Poh Kait (PK) ex­plained to trav­el­bul­letin in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view. The sec­ond half of 2016 has been hec­tic for Air Canada. New routes have been launched from its Cana­dian gate­ways to des­ti­na­tions in­clud­ing War­saw, Glas­gow, Dublin, Casablanca and of course, Bris­bane in June. Mul­ti­ple other new routes will come on­line later this and next year. “Asia Pa­cific is one re­gion Air Canada would like to grow more and the air­craft are com­ing in at the right time. Most of the coun­tries in Asia are emerg­ing mar­kets, both eco­nom­i­cally and the de­sire to travel,” the Hong Kong-based Air Canada ex­ec­u­tive said while in Syd­ney re­cently. Flights from Montreal to Shang­hai will fire up in mid-fe­bru­ary and Air Canada will add com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Taipei and Van­cou­ver, al­ready served by EVA Air and China Air­lines, when it re­launches the route in June. In the same month, the air­line’s leisure off­shoot, Air Canada rouge, will in­tro­duce sea­sonal flights from Van­cou­ver to Nagoya in Ja­pan. “All these are con­firmed an­nounce­ments,” PK said. “In the pipe­line, there are more cities we in­tend to fly into. This is growth by de­sign.” China, Asia and the South Pa­cific are piv­otal ar­eas for Air Canada as it plots the fu­ture di­rec­tion of its in­ter­na­tional net­work. Sec­ondary cities in China, where the pop­u­la­tion ranges from 7 mil­lion to 10 mil­lion peo­ple, also rep­re­sent a “huge op­por­tu­nity for us”, PK said. Hard­ware - namely Air Canada’s fleet of Boe­ing 787 Dream­lin­ers - has been the cat­a­lyst for growth. The 787 is of­ten deemed a “game changer” by its op­er­a­tors, and the Cana­dian car­rier falls into that pool. With a mix of -800 and -900 Dream­liner air­craft al­ready in its fleet, and a dozen or so more to come, AC has the abil­ity to shuf­fle the fuel-ef­fi­cient car­bon-fi­bre com­pos­ite jet as de­mand war­rants. “For the last five years we’ve had a global ex­pan­sion plan and to­day we are reap­ing the ben­e­fit,” PK con­cluded. In our back­yard, Mel­bourne is the next log­i­cal choice. “There’s al­ways this dis­cus­sion about

There’s al­ways this dis­cus­sion about where else we can op­er­ate in the South Pa­cific. It’s con­stantly be­ing dis­cussed, and when we have the right air­craft type, it is some­thing we will con­sider’ def­i­nitely

Lee Poh Kait (PK) Di­rec­tor Asia & Pa­cific, Air Canada where else we can op­er­ate in the South Pa­cific. It’s con­stantly be­ing dis­cussed, and when we have the right air­craft type, it is some­thing we will def­i­nitely con­sider.” Like Air Canada’s long run­ning Van­cou­verSyd­ney route, the Boe­ing 777 would be the “right air­craft” for Mel­bourne, Lee said. “Once we un­dergo a re­view of our net­work and can find some time with the 777, then it will def­i­nitely be that op­tion. It’s al­ways go­ing to be Mel­bourne first, then prob­a­bly some other cities in Aus­tralia. It’s just a mat­ter of time.” Lee said Air Canada’s “am­bi­tious” Bris­bane strat­egy – mov­ing from thrice weekly to daily within two weeks of launch­ing – had “de­fied all logic”. “To­day we are happy with it. It is prof­itable. Mar­gins are good and I think with the air­craft, it’s a game-changer and cost ef­fi­cient. The Dream­liner is the right tool to en­able us to be sus­tain­able.”

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