TORONTO — The executive team at Canada Jetlines isn’t daunted by the pandemic and its impact on travel and the airline industry.
In fact, the pandemic is not an obstacle, but an opportunity, says Canada Jetlines CEO Eddy Doyle.
Briefing the media yesterday in a virtual presentation with the airline’s executive team, Doyle said Canada Jetlines “can take advantage of competitors who have been financially weakened by the pandemic. We also have the benefit of starting with a clean slate … without debts and vouchers accumulated by established airlines.”
The start-up carrier is also finding many highly trained airline employees who are looking for work, he added. Crew training is set to start in early 2022.
As reported last month, the airline and its wholesale arm, Jetlines Vacations, will market and sell seats on GlobalX public charter flights, on GlobalX aircraft, between Toronto and Miami. The flights will operate for six weeks, March 4 – April 17, 2022 and tickets are expected to go on sale before the end of December 2021.
The 6-week run will help Canada Jetlines dip into the market, says Doyle. Currently the airline is awaiting the green light from the Canadian Transportation Agency for its own operations, which will then review the company’s proof of adequate funding submission.
Canada Jetlines has been trying to get off the ground in one form or other for the past several years, but with different executive teams. The executive team in place now – including Doyle as CEO, and another industry veteran, Duncan Bureau, as Chief Commercial Officer – looks to have momentum.
Whether or not the Canadian market needs yet another airline – or can absorb even more capacity – coming out of the uncertainty of a pandemic remains to be seen.
So far the company’s ramp-up plan appears to be measured, with one aircraft scheduled for delivery in March 2022, three more in July 2022, another seven in June 2023, 12 in June 2024 and 15 in June 2025. All of the aircraft will be A320s, with all economy class seating, with extra comfort seats available at a premium.
The pandemic “provided a rare opportunity to cut some incredible deals” on aircraft, says the company.
TRAVEL AGENTS ARE A PRIORITY
As outlined by Doyle yesterday, Canada Jetlines is aiming to operate its first revenue flight in Q2 2022, and wants to introduce flights from Toronto to the U.S., Mexico, Caribbean and Canadian destinations throughout 2022.
In 2023, the goal is growth out of Toronto and new direct flights to the Caribbean from Atlantic Canada. By 2024 the airline wants to enter the Western Canadian market, and continue to expand through 2025 with more U.S. and Caribbean destinations from gateways across Canada.
And it wants to do it all with the help of travel agents.
As the former president of Air Canada Rouge, and with years of airline industry experience, Canada Jetlines’ CCO Duncan Bureau knows the strength behind the travel agent distribution channel.
Maybe that’s why ‘traditional travel agencies’ were at the top of Canada Jetlines’ distribution channel list in yesterday’s presentation. Bricks-and-mortar travel agencies were followed by TMCs, the airline’s own online booking engine and call centre, OTAs, tour operators and consolidators.
“We want to be on as many shelves as possible,” says Bureau. “Whatever the preferred way is that the consumer wants to look and book, we will be there.”
He added that Canada Jetlines is currently in talks with a number of retail travel groups, with agreements pending. “We are actively working with strategic partners,” he said.
In October 2021 Canada Jetlines announced its partnership with Softvoyage. The tech provider will give Jetlines’ customers access to hotels, attractions, air packages and other ancillary travel services. It will also provide the airline with distribution via the group’s network, both on a B2B and B2C basis. As Bureau notes, Softvoyage’s SIREV is used by more than 90% of Canada’s travel advisors.
There’s no shortage of airlines in the Canadian market, and overcapacity has been a chronic problem some years, especially to winter sun destinations.
And Canada Jetlines isn’t the only carrier with growth and expansion plans.
Flair Airlines is on an expansion tear, with added service to the U.S. and Mexico. Porter Airlines is planning to add up to 80 new jet aircraft to its fleet, opening up destinations in Western Canada and the U.S. West Coast from new gateways including Toronto’s Pearson Airport, plus potentially sun spots in Mexico and the Caribbean as well. And just last month, another upstart – Lynx Air – entered the fray.
Meanwhile Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, and WestJet and Swoop, plus Sunwing and Transat, have in most cases decades in this market.
Canadian travellers – and the travel industry – have seen start-up airlines come and go. And while the pent-up demand coming out of the pandemic is undeniable, the uncertainty and the glut of capacity are two big unknowns.
Bureau says Canada Jetlines’ objective is to be the preferred Canadian leisure airline. And it wants to be a sustainable and profitable airline and tour operator.
Asked if Canada Jetlines will compete with Flair Airlines and its “crazy prices”, Bureau said: “We’re not a low-cost carrier, and we’re not an ultra low-cost carrier. We will price our product competitively in the marketplace. We all know it doesn’t cost $29 to fly an aircraft from Toronto to Vancouver. We will not be leading the race to the bottom. We’re going to walk before we run.”
He added that Canada Jetlines will be working with tour operators. “We believe the right way to launch an airline is as a charter operation.”