Air Canada growth hampered by Boeing delays
June 18, 2010, Montreal - Delays by Boeing in delivering its new 787 aircraft have limited Air Canada's ability to expand its international flight map, Canada's largest airline said Thursday.
June 18, 2010 By The Canadian Press
Air Canada said it has been busy adding new destinations in the United States, Europe and Asia. However, it could have done more to add routes to India and elsewhere in Asia if it had the smaller, long-range Boeing 787.
"It opens up all these route opportunities that normally wouldn't be viable for us,'' Ben Smith, Air Canada's chief commercial officer, said in an interview.
Mumbai in India and Changzhou in China, for example, don't generate enough traffic for the airline to be profitably serviced using the giant Boeing 777, while the smaller 767 doesn't have sufficient range.
"A 787 and all of a sudden it becomes interesting,'' Smith said.
Air Canada has 37 Boeing 787s on order. They were originally supposed to be delivered in 2008, but manufacturing delays have pushed that back to 2013.
The airline believes increasing travel to international destinations, along with a push for higher fares in business class, are key drivers to sustainable profits.
"We only have 37 per cent of the market share for Canada international (travel), and we think we can do a lot better than that, so you'll see from us a lot more focus and effort in that area,'' Smith said.
Air Canada operates 10 daily flights from Montreal to Europe and services 11 European destinations in Europe out of Toronto with an average of 13 flights per day.
The airline and its Star Alliance partners have increased flights from Toronto to Europe by seven per cent in 2010 compared with 2009.
Smith said Air Canada's modern fleet, its business and economy offerings, efficient airport hubs in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and Canada's central location provide great growth opportunities.
It hopes to increasingly attract business travellers from the U.S. northeast to fly its growing non-stop service to Asia. It now offers four flights daily from Toronto to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Air Canada said it has no immediate plans to add service to Tunisia and Ethiopia, even though the Canadian Transportation Agency granted permission to add these routes.
The agency also ordered the airline to amend its policies to better accommodate attendants who accompany disabled passengers. The airline must soon begin allowing disabled passengers to change the name of persons accompanying them on international travel on either Air Canada or code-share flights if they do so no later than 24 hours before departure.
Air Canada's current policy requires 48 hours notice although it makes an effort to accommodate the change at no charge with between 24 and 48 hours of notice.