Every captain needs a first mate. And at Virgin Voyages, the adults-only cruise line set to debut in 2020, its second-in-command will be none other than travel agents.
VANCOUVER — Air Canada has come out of the gate with three winning routes out of YVR and agents here are lauding the sales potential of new December flights to Yellowknife, Melbourne and Orlando.
The three routes are the latest additions for Air Canada out of YVR, which has rapid-fire tacked on new destinations for the past few years, building a network out of Vancouver International Airport. “In the past five years,” said Bonnie Walker, director of sales for Western Canada, at a recent Air Canada industry launch event, “we have increased destinations (out of Vancouver) by 60%.”
Still more routes are planned for June 2018, she said, as Air Canada adds four flights a week to Paris, three flights a week to Zurich, and three flights a week to Melbourne (year round).
The routes will operate using the B787-900 Dreamliners. Walker said that Air Canada is also reinstating the Delhi route in October 2018 with five flights a week. Air Canada launched the seasonal route last year with good success out of Vancouver. “It is a 15 hour and 10 minute flight,” she said. The flight takes the polar route and cuts hours off the travel time using the traditional gateways out of Toronto and Montreal. “I would love to see this year round,” she said, adding that the more aircrafts Air Canada deploys, the more opportunities for new markets exist.
The Yellowknife route, starting Dec. 15, is timed to allow passengers to travel to the Northwest Territories capital to see the popular Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, a curtain of colour created by solar particles colliding with atmospheric gases from November to March.
“In the past, you had to connect out of Edmonton or Calgary,” said Walker. The new YVR flight will be via Air Canada Express and leave at 4 p.m. and arrive in the NWT capital at 7:30 p.m.
Air Canada agents at the launch predicted the route will sell well. Royal Scenic’s Jerry Lo said the chance to see the Northern Lights is an attraction for Asian visitors visiting Canada. He said it is also considered a better viewpoint in Yellowknife than going to Iceland.
Nick Panos, Owner of Omega Travel, said he is confident that Air Canada will do well on all the new routes starting in December. “Their research and marketing is very good,” he said. There is a lot of interest in the Northern Lights, he added: “That is going to be easy to sell.”
Walker said there are also a number of Yellowknife tour operators that can make available other packages to travel agents.
Melbourne is Air Canada’s third destination into Australia, although initially the three times a week flights will operate seasonally, taking advantage of a mixed market of business travel, snowbirds, and back-packers. Flights begin Dec. 1.
Walker said she is excited that next June the flights will become year-round rather than seasonal. The flights are expected to draw B.C. clients but also will serve as a departure point for U.S. travellers.
Walker said the third Air Canada gateway in Australia will also allow more flexibility in trip planning as passengers can open-jaw a ticket with more departure gateways to choose from. “We are also working with Tourism Australia,” she said.
At the same time Air Canada is anticipating that it will pick up traffic from Australia as skiers arrive in B.C.
Walker said Air Canada’s third flight into Australia is an indication of a growth market favoured by Canadian and U.S. travellers. “We speak the same language there. People feel at home. You are never looking at a sign and wondering what it says,” said Walker.
Nonstop Orlando flights are poised to capture the holiday and spring break vacationers, especially families travelling with children to Walt Disney World from Dec. 20 to April. “We are excited about this major destination,” said Walker, adding that Rouge will be the carrier on the route. A B767-300 ER will be used on the twice weekly flights.