MONTREAL — Air France/KLM’s Canadian operations in 2016 were challenged after terrorism incidents in France prompted some Canadians to choose other destinations.
“Canada to France was impacted by the incidents,” says Jean-Noël Rault, the Vice-President and General Manager Air France/KLM Canada in an interview with Travelweek. Air France/KLM invited journalists from 40 countries last week to meet with airline and airport executives and take a first-hand look at the many changes that have been and will be implemented at Paris-Charles de Gaulle.
“Compared to last year the number of people going to France should improve (in 2017).” He added that last year there was huge capacity to Europe from Canada from various airlines.
Rault is optimistic about 2017 and believes there will be moderate growth outbound from Canada. “In terms of volume it should be okay and competitive,” says Rault.
There are no current plans for additional flights out of Canada this year since the past couple of years they have added flights and gateways including Edmonton as a new gateway. There are five gateways Air France and KLM operate out of Canada: Montreal and Toronto with Air France and Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver with KLM.
Air France will operate a new 787 Dreamliner aircraft beginning May 1, 2017 from Montreal. It will be Air France’s first destination in the Americas using the new Dreamliner aircraft. KLM will increase to five weekly flights from Vancouver beginning in June for the summer season.
This summer Air France will operate 33 flights and KLM 37 flights for a total of 70 weekly flights from Canada. Air France/KLM partner with WestJet which provides another 30 gateways in Canada.
Besides the new Dreamliner, Rault believes the new business class cabins will be a big hit with passengers. Rault says the newly designed “triple F” seat as he calls it is full flat, full access and full privacy. The redesigned cabin has seats providing more legroom, fully flat seat for sleeping comfort and more privacy.
One area that hasn’t given airlines more comfort is U.S. President Trump’s travel ban. Rault is sympathetic to passengers that were affected by this ban and it has caused operational headaches for the airlines as it was implemented initially without warning.
The instability is not good for anyone but Canada may receive some benefit. With Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations and Montreal’s 375th anniversary and the numerous events and publicity surrounding it he expects inbound traffic to Canada from Europe and other overseas markets to be very positive.