VANCOUVER — The launch of the direct Vancouver-Delhi route at an Air Canada gala was a little like the movie ‘Field of Dreams’, only in this case it was ‘if you build it better, they will come’. Air Canada’s long-awaited direct flight shaves off eight hours in connections and flying time as it links Western Canada’s large Indo-Canadian community directly into the Indian capital via Air Canada’s B787-9 Dreamliner service.
“You fill the planes and we will provide the seats,” Air Canada’s Senior VP, Regional Markets, Kevin Howlett, told the crush of travel agents packing the Vancouver Art Gallery, many of whom were drawn from the Lower Mainland’s large Indo-Canadian community.
The new Vancouver-Delhi route starts Oct. 20 in time for Diwali festivities. The seasonal, three times weekly flights complement Air Canada’s Toronto-Delhi nonstop service launched last fall. To promote the new route, Air Canada is offering introductory fares from $999 round trip, all-in.
“Our nonstop Dreamliner flights from our Vancouver hub will also offer the shortest elapsed flying time from Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles to Delhi,” said Benjamin Smith, Air Canada President of Passenger Airlines. Air Canada’s connections, both trans-provincial and U.S. border, with its Star Alliance partners and domestic network, is expected to provide a feeder service with seamless travel into Vancouver which will be a preferred gateway, he said.
Howlett told agents that Air Canada was relying on them to fill the flights as it was placing the Dreamliner, a $100 million aircraft, on the route. “This represents a huge investment of capital on the Indian market and the Delhi corridor,” he said, adding that it would be through the work of agents that the seasonal flights could turn into continued service in the future. “We are counting on everyone here,” he said, adding “we have to demonstrate a positive return on our investment.” The seasonal service is currently scheduled to run until April 8, 2017.
Response to Air Canada’s Toronto-Delhi service has been positive, said Howlett. The two flights to India will be joined by another flight in summer 2017 when Air Canada launches its Toronto-Mumbai service. The new three times weekly service between Toronto and Mumbai, India’s financial capital, will be nonstop and year-round starting July 1, 2017 on the B787-9 Dreamliner.
Howlett said the Toronto flights have been popular not only with returning families but also with businesses wanting to pursue opportunities in either Canada or India.
Agents attending the launch party applauded the new route. Ajay Gupta of Bains Travel, located in the heart of South Vancouver’s Indo-Canadian commercial area, said: “We are hoping the flight will have a positive effect. There has been a lot of demand.”
He said that while Air Canada’s fares Air Canada are not the lowest, “you are paying a little bit more but you are saving in time.” That will appeal to many travellers. Plus, Air Canada’s service is known to be efficient when handling passengers and luggage, while alternate routes bring travellers through connections in either Europe or China. Gupta said he expects the convenience and shorter duration of the flights will appeal to many elderly travellers. The three-cabin configuration provides a range of price points plus elderly travellers do not have to de-plane for alternate connections or walk long distances to make another connection, he added.
Suraj Kumar, Product Manager, World Spree Travel said the new direct flight opens the doorway out of Vancouver to many who want to visit India. His company offers group tour packages to mainly non-Indo travellers. The ability to now offer a flight that substantially reduces travel times will make his product more attractive, he said. “There is a lot of curiosity about India,” he added, noting that many non-Indo travellers want to travel the country. “You hear a lot of good and bad about India, but you never hear the average. I think there is curiosity by people who want to go and see for themselves.”
The event drew in dignitaries from both provincial and federal governments and the Indo-Canadian community. Craig Richmond, president and CEO at Vancouver International Airport also attended. He said the route had been requested for many years. “It is a pleasure to celebrate its arrival during Diwali.”
Air Canada has been aggressively expanding its global network with new destinations and flights. This summer, Air Canada launched new international services from Vancouver-Brisbane, Vancouver-Dublin, Toronto-Prague, Toronto-Budapest, Toronto-Warsaw, Toronto-Glasgow, Toronto-London Gatwick, Toronto-Seoul, Montreal-Casablanca, and Montreal-Lyon.