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Airline Insider: Sept/Oct 07

Industry news

October 15, 2007  By Brian Dunn

International Victory for Porter
Porter Airlines continues to expand, receiving clearance from the US Department of Transportation to begin service from Toronto City Centre Airport (TCCA) to US destinations. It’s a victory of sorts for Porter, with Air Canada and US carriers trying to block its application on the ground that Porter has an unfair monopoly at TCCA. Porter’s first US destination will be New York/Newark, with flights expected to start in early 2008. It also plans to serve other US destinations including Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington. It has a three-year ramp-up plan for these destinations.

As a result, Porter is looking to raise additional financing to allow deliveries of five more 70-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprops to begin service to the new US cities.

WestJet rolls out paperless boarding procedure
WestJet Airlines has become the first North American carrier to launch a program that allows travellers to use their mobile phones to bypass check-in counters and go straight to the airport security line and board their flight, after completing the check-in process over the Internet.

The airline began offering a paperless electronic boarding pass for customers flying from Victoria International Airport. The option will be gradually rolled out across Canada.


“This is just the beginning. In the coming weeks, our guests will see more WestJet destinations in Canada offer this convenient paperless service,” says WestJet vice-president of airports Dale Tinevez.

During the WestJet web check-in process, guests will be presented boarding pass options. They can choose to print their boarding pass immediately or select the paperless boarding pass option and have an e-mail sent to their mobile device.

If they choose the electronic version, an e-mail will be sent to the handheld communications device they specify. The e-mail contains boarding pass information on a single screen on a Blackberry or cell phone.

Passengers will then show the boarding pass displayed on their mobile device to proceed through security and to board their flight.

WestJet is also expanding its web check-in service. “Our transborder destinations will soon be included, allowing guests travelling to the US the ability to check in and select a seat up to 24 hours before departure,” said Tinevez.

Japan Airlines has been checking in and boarding passengers with mobile phones equipped with integrated circuit chips since early 2005. All Nippon Airways began using IC radio frequency technology in September 2006.

More Options for Mexico-bound Canadians
Skyservice Airlines, Sunwing Airlines and WestJet Airlines have been cleared to operate scheduled international service between Canada and Mexico. Skyservice can begin flights on the following city pairs: Victoria-Puerto Vallarta; Edmonton-San Jose del Cabo; Regina-Puerto Vallarta; Regina-Cancun; Saskatoon-Puerto Vallarta; Saskatoon-Cancun; Ottawa-Acapulco; Toronto-Cozumel and Toronto-Huatulco. Toronto-based Sunwing is cleared to introduce service from London to Cancun.

WestJet is approved to fly from Calgary to Ixtapa/ Zihuatanejo, Manzanillo and Mazatlan, as well as from Edmonton to Ixtapa/ Zihuatanejo, Manzanillo, Mazatlan and San Jose del Cabo. The carrier can also link Vancouver with Manzanillo and San Jose del Cabo. In addition, Air Transat has received permission to operate more scheduled flights between the two countries, in accordance with the existing bilateral air transport agreement.

WestJet Boosting Its Fleet
WestJet is boosting its fleet as a result of its approval for new routes to Mexico. It will receive two Boeing 737-700s and one 737-800 in 2010 and two more 737-700s and one 737-800 in 2011. “We are confident there are numerous profitable markets to deploy our growing number of aircraft, said WestJet president Sean Durfy. WestJet currently has a registered fleet of 65 aircraft. By the end of 2010, based on current committed deliveries, the airline will have a registered fleet of 88 aircraft.

Air Canada Adds Boeing Long Range to Fleet
Air Canada has taken delivery of its first Boeing 777-200LR aircraft and will add two more this fall. The long-range aircraft is similar to the 777-200ER except it has 270 seats compared to 349 for the ER. The LR is being deployed on the Toronto-Tokyo and Toronto-Hong Kong routes. It will also be deployed between Vancouver-Australia and Vancouver-Asia next year.

Canadian Demand Fuels Air Transport Growth
Profits in Canada’s airline industry will climb more than 70 percent this year to $649 million thanks to a short-term decline in fuel costs, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Michael Burt, a senior economist with the board, said airline profits spiked in the first quarter after oil prices eased from the peak they hit during 2006, a year in which industry earnings totalled $372 million.

But Burt said the recent rebound in oil prices means profits will descend again in the second half of the year.

“Airlines are absorbing some of the rising fuel costs, which are reducing their profit margins in the short term,” said Burt.

“But rising domestic travel will allow profits to improve steadily after 2008.”
Canadian demand, powered by gains in disposable income and business profits, is the primary driver of growth in the air transport industry. Meanwhile, the declining number of US visitors and the strong Canadian dollar are continuing to limit the industry’s performance, the Conference Board said.

Continental Taps Into Skier Market
Continental Airlines plans to launch seasonal daily service between New York/Newark and the Quebec ski resort of Mont Tremblant from December 14 to April 5, using 50-seat Embraer 145 aircraft.

The initiative was sparked by the success of a similar service to Steamboat Mountain Resort in Colorado, owned by Intrawest Corp. which also owns Tremblant Resort, said Serge Larivière, president of Mont Tremblant International Airport. The airport is a former military base in La Macaza with a 6,000-foot runway about 35 kilometres north of the ski resort.

“Intrawest just bought Steamboat which relies heavily on the regional airport to boost skier traffic and they decided to take advantage of Tremblant’s airport to do the same for this resort,” said Larivière.

Voted the number one ski resort in the east by Ski Magazine for the past 10 years, “we think it will have tremendous appeal,” said Continental spokeswoman Mary Clark who added it was part of the carrier’s expanding services to Canada.

Continental is the second airline that will offer scheduled service to Tremblant. Voyageur Airways, through Ultimate Ski Vacations, operates seasonal service from Toronto Pearson and Kitchener/Waterloo airports using 50-seat Dash 7-300 aircraft. The bulk of the airport’s traffic is generated by private aircraft which registered 1,000 movements last season, and Larivière expects that number to double this coming ski season.


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