Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Having an elephant in the room can be a bit distracting, but for Transat it was all “business as usual” at yesterday’s Sun 2019-20 launch in Toronto.
Addressing recent headlines about a possible buyout of Transat, Joe Adamo, Chief Distribution Office & President of Transat Distribution Canada, remained mostly tight-lipped.
“I know what you know, well, maybe a little more but not by much,” he joked. “What I can tell you is that these are uncertain times but for the most part very exciting times. The expression ‘It’s business as usual’ gets a little tired but never have there been truer words said.”
“It’s kind of nice to feel wanted – the more, the merrier!” he said. “We’ll see where all this goes. I’m confident a strong and prosperous future awaits our clients and our partners.”
When asked whether airfare hikes could result from a possible buyout, Gilles Ringwald, Vice President Commercial of Air Transat, told Travelweek that it was “useless” to speculate on such matters at this time.
“As you know, there’s a deadline of end of June, so we’re waiting for the end of talks with Air Canada to see what we’ll be doing next,” he said. “First let’s see what will happen, let’s wait until the end of June and then we’ll comment.”
All acquisition talks aside, Transat is focusing its efforts on the upcoming Winter 2019-2020 season, which Ringwald said will be spurred by the recent introduction of the new A321neoLRs. The company has ordered 15 to be delivered by 2021; its first one debuted in May, with the second aircraft being delivered by end of June.
“This new aircraft is a game changer for us because it allows us to fly long distances but with a limited capacity of 200 seats,” he said. “Our European program starts in May and ends in October, peaking from mid-June to mid-September, with May and October being weaker months. Today, we fly with the Airbus A330, which are big birds and are good for the peak season. But during the shoulder season, it’s very difficult to fill them and make money off of them.”
With the new A321neoLRs, Ringwald added, Transat will be able to fly point to point, “from London to Toronto and then Toronto to Cancun, or Toronto to Cartagena,” with the same aircraft and, possibly, with the same crew.
“It’s very cost-efficient for us, plus it’s a new engine. In terms of fuel consumption, it uses 35% less fuel than other aircraft,” said Ringwald.
The new aircraft will also help Transat expand its reach, both down South and to Europe, said Nicole Bursey, Commercial Director. She told Travelweek that the planes will give the company the opportunity “to do some new things,” like a direct flight from Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale, for example.
“This would have been very difficult with our current fleet,” she said, “and is a real example of what our new fleet will allow us to do.”
Other routes that will benefit from the new aircraft include Toronto to Italy (Rome), a destination that will be offered for the first time in the winter, as well as increased capacity to the Caribbean during shoulder season.
“We’ve traditionally looked at winter as for the Caribbean and summer as for the South,” added Bursey. “What we’re finding is that Canadian travel patterns are changing a little bit, so it’s not such a drastic change from season to season.”
This, of course, translates into more year-round bookings for the company, and according to Bursey, Transat is having a “really good summer” and is already on track for a successful winter 2020.” With bookings up, the company wanted to thank those on the frontlines – travel agents – for their continued support.
“Today is just a celebration to thank the agents for everything they’ve done for us this season, plus for upcoming bookings,” said Bursey. “Transat has been around for 30 years now, and we’ve always been a huge supporter of the retail community, and vice versa. We’re very lucky.”
Here are some key takeaways from the launch:
• Notable routes for winter 2019-202 include: Montreal-New Orleans (a new destination for Transat); Barcelona and Rome until mid-January from Toronto; and Madrid and Malaga year round from Montreal
• Transat’s Sun program includes 32 destinations in Mexico, South America, Central America, USA and the Caribbean, plus 700 hotels featured in its brochure and online, mostly all-inclusive and 25 of which are new
• A wide range of other vacation options include à la carte hotels, guided tours, Duo packages that combine two regions in one trip, and condominium, house and apartment rentals in Europe and the South that can compete with Airbnb
• This winter there will be 73 all-in-one cruise packages in the Caribbean, South and Central America, including New Orleans from Montreal (new) and Fort Lauderdale from Vancouver
• Transat’s Early Booking Promotion applies to any South, Duo or Europe package booked by June 30, plus new for this year, clients get a chance to win their vacation for a value of up to $5,000
• Cruise clients who book 120 days prior to departure can save $300 per couple
• Transat has just completed its Ontario Training Academies, which saw over 1,000 travel agents in attendance; they then moved to Halifax before heading to Quebec next week and out West the week after
• NEW PROMOTION: Transat is offering a free open bar aboard the Norwegian Epic sailing in the Western Mediterranean Sea from Barcelona, for departures on June 9, 16 and 23, 2019
To read more about Transat’s winter 2019-2020 program, read our previous coverage here: http://www.travelweek.ca/news/here-is-everywhere-air-transat-will-fly-to-in-winter-2019-2020/