From cutting-edge products to meticulous business strategies, Winter Is Coming is a new PAX series that offers a glimpse into the war rooms of Canada’s leading travel companies as the winter vacation season takes flight. Stay tuned for exclusive interviews with industry movers, shakers and decision-makers as we dissect their upcoming plans for Canada’s travel trade.
It's been a big year for Air Canada, to say the least.
From steadily revising flight schedules, consolidating flights on larger aircraft, and optimizing the current fleet in response to Transport Canada's Boeing MAX 8 groundings back in March (Air Canada had 24 of the aircraft, and was expecting another six deliveries), to acquiring Transat A.T. Inc. in June, the airline has been working hard to close the year on a high note, by launching a series of new routes and adding more product to its vacation arm, Air Canada Vacations.
Most recently, the company announced a new direct flight between Montreal and Bogotá, Colombia beginning June 2, 2020, and operated three times weekly onboard Air Canada Rouge Boeing 767-300ER aircraft.
Air Canada's global sales team also saw a significant shake-up this year too.
In August, Lisa Pierce, who was previously senior director of USA sales and market development at Air Canada, was appointed to the new position of managing director for Canada and USA sales.
The new role has seen Lisa lead Air Canada's North American sales team, developing and implementing sales strategies to ensure North American targets are achieved.
Winter is coming, and this week, we dig a little deeper with Pierce to learn more about what the airline has in store for consumers and Canada's travel trade.
PAX: How is Air Canada preparing for the winter season?
Lisa Pierce (LP): We’re excited to resume our service to India with our non-stop flights between Toronto and Delhi and seasonal service between Toronto and Mumbai launching in time for Diwali celebrations.
On Dec. 12th, we are launching our first-ever non-stop flight between Canada and Auckland, New Zealand, further enhancing our network in the South Pacific that already features non-stop flights to Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. Finally, our new Passenger Service System launches in November, which will offer our travel agent partners full reservation, inventory, and departure control capabilities.
PAX: How has business been affected by the MAX 8 groundings? How will Air Canada ensure enough lift with 24 grounded planes, and six more on order that haven’t been delivered?
LP: Our Network Planning team has done a great job of responding with creative solutions to cover as much of the previously published schedule as possible with the objective of instilling confidence and certainty for our customers.
To that end we have removed the 737 MAX 8 from our schedule through Jan. 8 so that our customers can book their fall and holiday travel with confidence. As you may be aware, due to the B737 Max situation, Network Planning delayed some equipment upgauges that were originally scheduled for June 2019. We are pleased to announce the below upgauges from 50 seats (CRJ) to an aircraft with business class and Wi-Fi options, such as the 76 seats (E-75) and 97 seats (E-90):
- YYZ-CLT: 03Sep (E75)
- YYZ-BNA: 03SEP (E-90 2X DAILY,), Effective 01OCT (2x daily CR9)
- YYZ-IAD: 03SEP (E75)
- YYZ-RDU: 01OCT (CR9)
PAX: What kinds of sustainability practices is Air Canada focusing on?
LP: Sustainability is at the core of our operations, from our corporate offices to our hangars around the world. We have set aggressive targets to reduce waste sent to landfills by 20 per cent and to recycle 50 per cent of approved items on board. While seemingly small, removing plastic from our amenity kits is just one of a long list of tactics that is part of a massive global strategy.
Looking forward, we are excited to begin operating A220-300 aircraft that offers a 20 per cent reduction in fuel consumption per seat. The A220 will operate existing routes from Toronto and Montreal to Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Los Angeles, and allows us to offer new flights between Montreal and Seattle and Toronto and San Jose, California, both launching on May 4th of next year.
PAX: What is your message to the travel trade community as winter approaches?
LP: We highly value our partners in the travel agent community and to serve them better we have created a centre of excellence team, led by Tim Liu, which is focused on supporting our field sales teams, travel agency partners and corporate sales team.
This frees up Virgilio Russi in international markets and me in North America to spend more time listening to our partners, identifying opportunities and developing effective sales strategies. While the structure has changed, putting our agency partners and their clients at the centre of everything we do remains the same.
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