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Airline Insider – Nov.Dec.08

Air Canada’s enRoute goes online, Live Internet for Air Canada, Porter Airlines sees Chicago on horizon


October 28, 2008
By Brian Dunn

Topics

Air Canada’s enRoute goes online

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Under an agreement with Aircell, Air Canada plans to begin offering live internet service on select flights.

Air Canada and Spafax Canada, which publishes the airline’s in-flight magazine enRoute, have launched enroute.aircanada.com to give online readers access to the magazine’s editorials, provide previews of upcoming issues and offer a summary of in-flight entertainment on Air Canada flights. It will also contain travel information to help travellers plan their trips and list the top 25 new places to eat, drink and shop in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Air Canada retail partners for the site include HBC and Lonely Planet.

Live Internet for Air Canada
Air Canada plans to begin offering live internet service to customers starting next spring under an agreement announced with Aircell. The carrier intends to begin operating Gogo, Aircell’s online access, aboard Airbus A319 aircraft on selected flights to the U.S. west coast and will be accessible to customers with a standard, wi-fi equipped laptop or personal electronic devices. Initially, the Gogo system will be powered by Aircell’s existing network and only available in the U.S. in order to make Air Canada’s rollout fast, economical and simple. Upon successful completion of the initial phase, Air Canada plans to extend the system throughout its North American and International markets as Aircell’s coverage network expands.

Porter Airlines sees Chicago on horizon
Porter Airlines is preparing for arrival at Chicago Midway International Airport from its Toronto City Centre Airport (TCCA) base, with the first flights departing Nov. 12.  Porter is the only carrier offering service between these two convenient airports.  The full schedule includes six roundtrip flights every weekday, plus two Saturday and three Sunday.

Porter has converted its summer schedule between Quebec City and Toronto into year-round service. The ongoing round-trip flights will operate every weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with daily summer service resuming next year. Special holiday schedules, including daily flights from December 17 to January 7, are also part of the program. 

Porter is also exercising existing options for two more Bombardier Q400 aircraft, representing aircraft 15 and 16 in the fleet, which are scheduled for delivery next year. The existing fleet will double to 12 aircraft by next summer.

“Operating an all-Q400 fleet is an important part of Porter’s efficiency and profitability,” said Robert Deluce, president and CEO of Porter Airlines. “The ability to save 30 to 40 per cent in fuel costs versus comparable jet aircraft is crucial given today’s oil prices.”

Sunwing Stronger than Ever

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 Sunwing has grown to become the second-biggest tour operator in Canada.

Sunwing Travel plans to operate 15 Boeing 737-800 aircraft for its packaged vacation service this winter, up from nine aircraft last winter. It will increase flights between Canada and the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and the U.S. Sunwing has grown to become the second-biggest tour operator in Canada after Air Transat, noted financial analyst David Newman of National bank Financial. Others in the market include Sunquest Vacations, Signature Vacations and Air Canada Vacations.

Sunwing averted a crisis by securing alternative aircraft for the winter season following the bankruptcy of Excel Leisure Group of Britain. “It was a pain in the neck. Our airline guys were working overnight and making sure everything was coming together,” Sunwing vice-president Lawrence Elliott said.

In September, XL Leisure went into liquidation, leaving 50,000 passengers stranded. Its collapse came two weeks after Ottawa-based budget carrier Zoom Airlines suddenly ceased operations.
XL Leisure had been slated to provide six of the projected 15 aircraft to be flown by Sunwing this winter. It has turned to three other companies for additional planes, including two that it already uses
Eurocypria and Transavia. A third unnamed German company has been added. The new planes are the same Boeing 737-800s that Sunwing already has in its fleet.

Toronto-based Sunwing, which has 800 employees, is on a hiring spree as it prepares to deliver 700,000 seats this winter for Canadian snowbirds.

It serves 33 destinations from 29 Canadian gateways, including communities such as Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Val d’Or, Que., that are typically ignored.

Sunwing insists that it’s in strong financial health despite the challenges of operating in a high-fuel-cost environment. Its fleet of B737-800s is young and relatively fuel-efficient.

WestJet Seeking Oneworld Partnership
WestJet Airlines is still looking for some sort of partnership with members of the Oneworld Alliance of inter-national carriers to boost traffic. “There’s a lot of opportunity with Oneworld partners,” WestJet CEO Sean Durfy said during a London transportation seminar in September. “There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity left there to flow traffic onto our system in Canada.” WestJet has previously held talks with Oneworld members Cathay Pacific and British Airways.

In a separate development, WestJet has signed an agreement with GuestLogix that clears the way for WestJet customers to pay by credit card for in-flight products such as food and drinks.


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