Joe Adamo
Joe Adamo, Chief Distribution Officer, Transat and President, TDC

Despite “very onerous conditions”, people are travelling, says Transat’s Adamo

TORONTO — After five months of Canada’s blanket COVID-19 travel restrictions, Joe Adamo, Chief Distribution Officer, Transat and President, TDC, says he wants that “light switch moment” – when outbound travel fully reopens, unleashing months of pent-up demand – just as much as everyone else in the travel industry.

But that magic moment may not happen, at least not the way the industry would like. Adamo says it’s becoming clear that learning to travel with the risk of COVID-19, with all the health and safety protocols that entails, may be the only way out of this crisis.

“I would not wait for that big day to come,” Adamo told Travelweek in an exclusive interview. “We all just have to keep at it.”

Adamo says that despite “very onerous conditions”, with Canada’s extensive travel restrictions, people are travelling. “I don’t think any country on earth’s as restrictive on inbound and outbound travel as Canada,” says Adamo. “And yet despite that, we have people travelling every day. Clearly it’s not as many as would be travelling if the restrictions had been loosened. But there is some demand.”

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the world must learn to live with the virus, and get on with business, and not be continuously in lockdown, as Adamo notes.

“Our industry has to some extent become the scapegoat,” he added. “The fact is, there is community transmission of COVID-19 here and elsewhere. What we’re advocating for is a more selective approach to travel advisories. The blanket approach … seems to us to be a disproportionate set of restrictions in the face of this situation.”

Adamo spoke to Travelweek about Transat’s just launched winter 2020-2021 winter sun program, the company’s decision to cancel its program out of Western Canada and what needs to happen with Canada’s travel restrictions – specifically, the 14-day quarantine – to get people thinking about travel again.


On Aug. 4 Transat announced its new winter 2020-2021 program with more than 40 destinations, traditional Mexico and Caribbean sun favourites with some Europe routes as well. Meanwhile Transat flights have been operating since July 23.

Just yesterday Transat released the electronic version of its brand new 2020-2021 South brochure, with a print version coming soon.

And new today, Transat says it is offering exclusive industry rates on flights and packages to Cancun, Riviera Maya and Punta Cana, so agents can experience all the flight and resort safety protocols for themselves. 

Agent fares are for travel Aug. 15 – Oct. 31 from Toronto and Montreal and start at $399 for flight only and $449 for a seven-night all-inclusive package at one of nine resorts. Packages are available in single occupancy or double occupancy, and agents can bring a companion. For more information or to submit an application, agents are invited to consult Transat Agent Direct.


August is normally the month for winter product launches in the travel industry. Of course this year is anything but typical.

“On balance we are taking the risk of launching a [winter sun] program,” said Adamo. Transat expected that the VFR market would be the first to book flights “and that has largely proven to be true,” he adds.

He says Transat made the right move to open up the routes it did. “The question is, how little, how much do you open up. Time will tell.”

There’s a risk in re-starting flights. There’s a risk in launching a winter program. “But equally there’s a risk to not operating, and staying on the sidelines,” he says.

“If we wait for the border to open, for the 14-day quarantine to be lifted, I think it will get away from us,” he added. “We’re trying to strike the right balance.”


There was shock and sadness especially for travel agents and travellers in Western Canada when Transat last month announced the cancellation of its Western Canada South & USA program. With so much uncertainty in travel right now, agents may be wondering if they should brace for more possible cancellations from the tour operator.

Make no mistake, says Adamo, “this is all about managing risk.” And that’s true for the entire program, and for anyone selling travel in these unprecedented times. But Adamo says Transat has every intention of operating its 2020-2021 Sun program as released, although there could be tweaks along the way.

The decision to cancel Transat’s Western Canada program was “very painful,” says Adamo. “We had a good long run in Western Canada, with great relationships with travel agents and good customer loyalty. But at this point we can’t efficiently operate planes out of Western Canadian gateways. It’s a difficult choice we’re making. We will operate more efficiently out of Ontario and Quebec gateways.”

Streamlining the focus to Ontario and Quebec is part of Transat’s strategy for the time being, he adds. “These [Ontario and Quebec] routes are not in jeopardy,” he says. “While we would love to scale back up to positioning aircraft west of Ontario, it’s just not feasible at this time.”

Domestic flights from Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal will continue to operate, plus there will be some available Europe flights using these connectors.

While Transat isn’t ruling out a full return to Western Canada, it won’t be within the next year, says Adamo.


Check out the next edition of Travelweek Daily on Mon. Aug. 17 for more insights from Transat’s Adamo including what needs to happen with Canada’s travel restrictions – specifically, the 14-day quarantine – to get people thinking about travel again, the availability of COVID-19 coverage from insurers, and his message for travel agents.

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