Catherine Guillemart-Dias took over as Vice-President and General Manager Canada for Air France-KLM on Aug. 1. Needless to say, with the timing of her new posting amid a pandemic, “the transition has been quite unique!” says Guillemart-Dias in this edition of Take 5. Communicating and providing reassurance are key during these unprecedented times, she adds. Air France and KLM both continue to serve Montreal and Toronto while KLM also flies out of Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
1. Despite these challenging times, flights continue from Canada to key cities, including Paris. Can you outline for us Air France’s (and KLM’s) schedule and frequencies out of Canada, now and for the months ahead?
“Air France and KLM both continue to serve Montreal and Toronto while KLM also flies out of Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Air France will operate 10 outbound flights a week from Canada in November, and up to 17 in December, aboard Boeing B787s and Airbus A350s. KLM will offer a total of 17 flights/week, to which will be added two rotations of all-cargo flights to Toronto.”
2. Who is travelling right now between Canada and Europe on these flights?
“This past summer, with the reopening of borders to Europe, it was essentially VFR traffic to Europe, Africa and the Middle East as well as some leisure and business travellers. Our flights were also prized by businesses needing timely transportation of cargo, including medical material.
“With the recent European Union changes, and France and the Netherlands no longer permitting entry, travellers now consist mostly of Canadians exempted from these measures, nationals of European countries with a valid passport and UK residents.
“It is however important to be aware that Canadians may still transit via Charles de Gaulle or Schiphol towards another country as long as they meet the entry regulations of their final destination. For instance, many destinations in Africa welcome Canadians.
“The best tool to keep up with the changes and possibilities is Traveldoc.”
3. Air France is celebrating its 70th anniversary in the Canadian market. Why is Canada such an important and long-term market for Air France?
“Ever since the 1950’s, France has been the favourite destinations of Quebecers. It is also now the second favourite for English-speaking Canadians.
“Other than all that France has to offer in terms of gastronomy and ‘art de vivre’, the first reason is of course the common history, the language and values. Of course, there is also the attraction of Canada for the French who are now 100,000 working or studying mainly in Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and Vancouver.
“Apart from history and leisure, nowadays the strong economic ties between the French and Canadians through the bilateral trade accounts for many exchanges made possible with our routes to Toronto (1976) and Vancouver (2015).
“Then, our powerful hub in Charles de Gaulle opens up more opportunities to travel beyond France for the Canadian market.”
4. You took over the helm of Air France KLM Canada on Aug. 1. How has the transition been and what are the goals for the Canadian market for 2021?
“The transition has been quite unique! As we were and still are navigating the crisis. We constantly adjust to new regulations. Communicating and providing reassurance are key. We also adapt our services to these times. For instance, signing agreements with laboratories and clinics to help our clients get timely PCR testing for destinations that require proof of negative results, such as France.
“As for our main priorities 2021:
- Maintain a strong link with our travel agencies and corporate accounts
- Reassure our customers: intensification of communication around Health Measures and AF Protect and pursue hub visits for our corporate and travel agency clients, webinars, advisory boards, etc.
- Stimulate and seize opportunities with focus on business sectors that are more resilient (like VFR) and anticipate leisure recovery linked to borders reopening and gradual increase of our capacity in 2021.
5. What message would Air France like to get out to its travel agent partners as the industry gets through this difficult time?
“Our Group has introduced exceptional measures to assist and reassure travellers and thus, hopefully, facilitating industry partners’ work, namely by offering more flexibility during these uncertain times and adapting our sales policy to change bookings or obtain a refund or credit voucher.
“Nevertheless, it has been such a challenge! On behalf of Air France, KLM and our Delta Sales Force, I would like to thank all of them for their support in looking after our joint customers since the very beginning of the crisis.”