Air Canada on the up and up
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.”