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Airline Insider: January/February 2008

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January 30, 2008
By Brian Dunn

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insiderairtrans
Air Transat plans to replace its fleet of four Airbus A330s and 12 A310s with more fuel-efficient aircraft.

Air Transat shops around
Air Transat celebrated its 20th anniversary on November 14 and plans to replace its fleet of four Airbus A330s and 12 A310s with the more fuel-efficient A350 extra widebody or Boeing 787 Dreamliner as the leading candidates. Other aircraft in the running are the Boeing 767 and reconfigured A330. A choice is expected to be made in late 2008 or early 2009.
“We’re shopping around and considering all options,” said Transat spokesperson Jean-Michel Laberge, including whether to expand the airline’s existing fleet of 16 aircraft, he added. But no fleet replacement will take place before 2010 or 2011.
Laberge said winter bookings started off slowly, but began to pick up in mid-November and should equal or surpass last year’s totals. He said a difference this year from last is that more customers were booking their February and March holidays before Christmas.
Since its inception in 1987, Air Transat has carried over 35 million passengers to some 30 sun destinations and 30 European cities. Parent company Transat A.T. has 6,000 employees in eight countries and expects to generate revenue of more than $3 billion this year.

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WestJet is hoping to form an interlining agreement with Air France.

Pairing Agreement for WestJet
Looking to expand its opportunities beyond North America, WestJet is hoping to form an interlining agreement with Air France that would make it easier for WestJet passengers flying between Canada and Europe with seamless passenger and baggage check-in. It could also mark the beginning of similar agreements with other major airlines.
“It’s a good tactic for WestJet which has a strong presence in Canada, but given its Boeing 737 model, it limits its range,” said management professor Karl Moore of McGill University. “The pairing with Air France also negates some of the competitive advantage of Air Canada’s Star Alliance network. WestJet can now chip away at some of those advantages.”
Moore found it “interesting” that WestJet still hasn’t joined any airline alliance which gives it flexibility by straddling different camps.
As for Air France, it can now better compete with Air Canada in its own backyard, said Moore. 
“Air France gets greater access to one of the G8 countries which is less competitive than the US.”     

New Airline in Development
WestJet  co-founder Tim Morgan and other former WestJet executives are developing a new airline called NewAir & Tours that is said to be modelled after Las Vegas-based operator Allegiant Air which operates a fleet of 32 Boeing MD-80s. Joining Morgan in the start-up venture is former WestJet VP of marketing and sales William Lamberton, who now runs Classic Canadian Tours, a company that offers vacation experiences to remote regions, as well as two other former WestJet executives.
Calgary-based NewAir & Tours plans to initially focus on providing charters in Western Canada, and avoid direct competition with WestJet and Air Canada by targeting smaller underserved markets. Hotel rooms and tour packages would be part of the mix.
Morgan resigned as WestJet’s executive VP of operations in October 2005. A former pilot for Canadian Regional Airlines, Morgan was responsible for WestJet’s leadership among low-cost carriers in embracing new technology in a number of fields.
He developed and oversaw such key projects as the installation of new navigation systems, LiveTV in-flight entertainment and blended winglets on WestJet’s Boeing 737 New Generation fleet. He was also in charge of flight operations and maintenance.

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As part of a long-term proposition, JetBlue has applied to launch charter and scheduled service between Canada and the US.

Canadian Proposition for JetBlue
US low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways has applied to launch charter and scheduled service between Canada and the US using its Airbus A320 and Embraer 190 aircraft. The JFK-based carrier has been operating private charters for businesses and sports teams in the US for over a year and was approached by both groups about extending the service to Toronto and Vancouver. As a result, JetBlue decided to apply for both charter and scheduled rights together to save time and bureaucratic
 red tape.
“We get a fair amount of requests to fly to Canada,” said airline spokesperson Sebastian White. “But as a low-cost carrier, scheduled service to Canada at this point is a long-term proposition due to the high airport and landing fees.”
However, some Canadians are already enjoying JetBlue’s service, accounting for about a third of bookings on new flights between Burlington, VT, and Orlando and between Buffalo, NY, and Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, said White.

“Montreal’s US Airport” Attracting Quebec Traffic
Billing itself as “Montreal’s US Airport,” complete with bilingual signs, Plattsburgh International Airport is hoping to attract Quebec traffic to its newly renovated facility converted from a former air force base.
Passenger service began last June 18 and local politicians are currently looking
to add additional airlines to the airport. Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air has added Orlando to its destinations from Plattsburgh  and has doubled the number of flights from Plattsburgh to Fort Lauderdale. The airline cited Plattsburgh as an ideal location due to its proximity to Montreal, about an hour’s drive away. Allegiant operates a similar service to Bellingham International Airport in Bellingham, Wash., which targets Vancouver travellers.

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AirTran is considering future expansion
into Canada. (Photo courtesy of Terri Hanson)

AirTran eyeing Canada
Atlanta-based AirTran Airways also has its eyes on Canada, according to airline spokesperson David Hirschman.
“We’re studying it, but we don’t have any immediate plans to enter the market. There are several Canadian cities that are well within the range of our 737 and 717 aircraft.  And our market data suggests Canada is a very desirable market.”
AirTran operates 87 Boeing 717s and 50 B737s and serves 56 destinations all within the continental US and Puerto Rico. It has recently begun to expand service into the northeastern and midwestern parts of the US.

Air Canada grows its global network
Air Canada will expand service between Canada and Germany with Star Alliance partner Lufthansa starting next summer. New city pairs include Ottawa-Frankfurt, Toronto-Dusseldorf, as well as a second daily nonstop flight between Calgary and Frankfurt that will begin April 14. Lufthansa will operate 221-seat Airbus A330-300 aircraft on the route.
Lufthansa will begin seasonal, nonstop Toronto-Dusseldorf service on May 1 using A340-300 aircraft. Air Canada will offer the service on a codeshare basis.
The Canadian carrier will also link Toronto and Dusseldorf. Starting in March, it will use 349-seat Boeing 777-300ER, in addition to its second daily refurbished Boeing 767-300ER service. These flights will be offered on a codeshare basis with Lufthansa.
Air Canada will begin year-round Ottawa-Frankfurt service on June 1 using 211-seat Boeing 767-300 aircraft. Lufthansa will offer the Ottawa and Frankfurt service on a codeshare basis.
Air Canada said it “plans to expand these codeshare services to include Belgrade, Zagreb, Amman and Kuwait” pending government approvals.
Starting in April, Air Canada will also expand service from Toronto to Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. The carrier currently offers one-stop service to Caracas via Port of Spain.
In April, Air Canada will designate separate, nonstop flights to each destination. Four weekly services to Caracas will begin April 6, while thrice-weekly service to Port of Spain will start two days later.  The airline will operate Airbus A319 aircraft on the two routes.
Pending government approval, Air Canada also plans to launch year-round service from Toronto to Madrid next summer.

Porter gets in the ski game
Porter Airlines began offering seasonal service between Toronto City Centre Airport and Mont Tremblant International Airport on December 22 which will continue until March 31. During the peak Dec. 22 – Jan. 6 Christmas period, Porter offered Monday, Wednesday and weekend service which was reduced to weekend service on January 7, with return trips leaving Saturday mornings and returning Sunday evenings. Initial one-way fares start at $129 plus taxes and fees. The one-hour flight from Toronto allows skiers to be on the slopes of Tremblant by10 am Saturday and because the return flight is at 8 pm Sunday, they can get in two full days of skiing.
Porter is the second airline to offer seasonal scheduled service to the Laurentian resort. As reported earlier, Continental Airlines began offering daily service on December 14 from New York/Newark until April 5, using 50-seat Embraer 145 aircraft.
Porter has been profitable since last March, says president/CEO Robert Deluce, and is growing at the rate of 20% a month. His fleet of Bombardier Q400 aircraft will grow from four to 10 aircraft over the next 12 months as Porter looks to add US destinations beginning with service between Toronto City Centre airport and Newark, followed by Boston, Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia. Quebec City is also on Porter’s radar screen.

Veteran Tour Operator Resurfaces
After lying low for the past few years, veteran tour operator Steve Nasra has resurfaced with an ambitious plan to get back into business using 10 Airbus A380s to link Montreal and Toronto with major European cities.
If the name rings a bell, Nasra owned Multivoyages-Haiti Air Charter which used now defunct Nationair and Canada 3000 to transport passengers between Montreal and Port-au-Prince in Haiti before he closed his business suddenly in July, 2002. That decision left thousands of passengers stranded and Nasra was fined $111,000 by a Quebec court as a result. At about the same time, he announced plans for a new carrier called Canada Air Charter, but nothing came
of it.
While no start-up date has been mentioned for his new Canada World Airlines venture, some ads have begun to appear in various Canadian dailies depicting an A380 in CWA livery and an Internet Web site. The Web site describes Nasra’s ambitious vision for his new airline which will feature, among other amenities, a doctor, a hairstylist and manicurist, smoking rooms, showers and bidets, onboard security guards and just to be safe, each aircraft will be equipped with an anti-missile system. Round-trip fares will range between $1,400 and $4,800.
No word as of yet on who is financing this bold dream or whether Nasra has received certification.


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