Flights go up as barriers are brought down with Canada
WITH tariffs in the news and the United States taking on pretty much the world, it’s easy to think of it as the death knell of globalisation, with protectionist walls replacing trade bridges.
But transatlantic trade with the European Union is on the up, and the good news story is north of the US border in Canada.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), signed in October 2016, removed 98pc of tariffs between the bloc and Canada, giving Irish companies access to public-sector tenders across the Atlantic, and expected to save EU exporters a total of €500m a year.
With Irish trade to the G7 economy worth €2.75bn a year, it’s a lucrative market for Irish business, with the drinks industry in particular seeing it as a potential top-five export market.
And while new routes to the US dominate the headlines, connectivity for the corporate travellers has improved immeasurably.
Shannon’s direct route to Toronto Pearson kicked off on June 2, and there is potential for that to go year-round, if the traffic supports it.
“Certainly the route has been welcomed by the Shannon business community as they don’t have a huge amount of choice,” said Blaithin O’donnell, sales manager Ireland for Air Canada. “We’ll be watching that closely to see if there’s potential for year-round as they [the business community in the West] love flying out of Shannon Airport.”
It’s not the only new service out of this country, with the launch last Sunday of another seasonal route: Dublin to Montreal, which like Shannon will be running four times a week.
It’s a sign of the growing economic ties between the two countries, said O’donnell, where in the past the routes from Ireland were primarily summer-only and targeted the leisure market.
“The CETA agreement has meant a lot more corporate traffic,” said O’donnell. Up to recently, services were run by the carrier’s leisure arm, Air Canada Rouge, while now Rouge is only used on the holiday route from Dublin to Vancouver.
All other services have been mainline since last October, reflecting the need to appeal to a growing corporate sector.
The big game-changer for the airline, among others like Norwegian, is the introduction of the fourth-generation Boeing 737, which is capable of transatlantic journeys. “Both new routes are operated by the latest aircraft in the Air Canada fleet — the 737 Max 8,” said O’donnell. “The great thing about this type of aircraft is it means that you can fly to destinations profitably that you might not necessarily have flown to before. Because it’s a smaller single-aisle aircraft, there’s not as many seats you have to fill to make it profitable.”
The routes will feature a two-cabin configuration, with 16 premium economy seats in the front and 153 economy seats — including 54 preferred seats with additional legroom — in the rear cabin.
And, despite the lack of a business class, O’donnell said the premium cabin is proving “really popular” with the corporate sector.
“A lot of global companies have reduced their travel policy from business class to premium economy but a lot of airlines flying to Ireland don’t operate premium economy on their routes. A lot of passengers here look at their counterparts in the UK flying premium economy and they feel short changed.” So, along with American Airlines in the US, the Canadian carrier has tapped into this market for Ireland’s corporate sector.
She believes a “lot of airlines will follow suit”, adding: “Some people like it for the extra legroom, for others it’s the priority check-in area, priority baggage and boarding and that’s important for them. For some it’s just being able to have a curtain between them and the economy cabin and china plates and cutlery. You get the feeling you’re getting something extra.”
But those still hankering after full frills in the carrier’s signature class [rebranded business], it remains on its workhorse route, Dublin to Toronto Pearson, which will be operating in a three-class Airbus A330 until the end of October.
For the winter season that will be replaced by a Boeing 767, due to demand from Irish businesses. “Winter season will have signature class and economy class. The reason we did that is we want to increase the winter frequency on Dublin to Toronto primarily because the business community wants to have a more frequent service — so we’ll be operating five times a week minimum this winter, and it’ll up a little bit around Christmas, New Year’s and St Patrick’s Day,” she said.
She said Montreal, like other routes, will need a few years to bed in, but apart from point-topoint, it has connectivity to the Canadian eastern seaboard, complementing Toronto Pearson in offering transcontinental and easy access to Latin American markets.