Flights go up as barriers are brought down with Canada

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Mark Evans

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.

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