Air Canada plans to ex­pand ca­pac­ity


MONTREAL — Air Canada plans to in­crease its num­ber of avail­able seats this year, es­pe­cially on in­ter­na­tional routes, even though it ex­pects to face a slow eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

Af­ter cut­ting ca­pac­ity by 4.4 per cent last year to sur­vive the re­ces­sion, Canada’s largest air­line plans to in­crease it by four to six per cent this year us­ing its ex­ist­ing fleet.

Do­mes­tic ca­pac­ity is fore­casted to in­crease by 1.5 to 2.5 per cent, fol­low­ing a 3.7 per cent cut last year.

In the first quar­ter, ca­pac­ity is planned to in­crease by 5.5 to 6.5 per cent.

“ We re­main fo­cused on build­ing our in­ter­na­tional net­work while main­tain­ing our com­mit­ment to the Cana­dian do­mes­tic mar­ket,” CEO Calin Rovi­nescu said Wed­nes­day dur­ing a con­fer­ence call.

Rovi­nescu said the car­rier will do what it needs to in Canada to pro­tect its mar­ket share from ri­val WestJet in or­der to serve its in­ter­na­tional and U.S. busi­ness.

The in­ter­na­tional sys­tem growth planned for the year will out­pace the over­all ca­pac­ity in­creases as Air Canada plans to in­tro­duce four new Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions this sum­mer and en­hanc­ing its Asian of­fer­ings.

Air Canada also plans to use its up­dated air­craft and con­ve­nient Cana­dian hubs to at­tract U.S. trav­ellers.

“There is a huge mar­ket of con­sumers along the east­ern U.S. seaboard that are al­ready in the habit of con­nect­ing to in­ter­na­tional flights and we in­tend to tar­get a greater share of that mar­ket,” Rovi­nescu told an­a­lysts.

The air­line beat an­a­lyst ex­pec­ta­tions by re­port­ing a loss of $56 mil­lion or 25 cents per di­luted share for the quar­ter ended Dec. 31, a dra­matic im­prove­ment from the same pe­riod in 2008 when the com­pany lost $727 mil­lion or $7.27 per share.

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