“It’s about being there for travel agents”: Transat kicks off Training Academy in Toronto
Transat's senior team at yesterday's Training Academy in Toronto. From l-r: Sherri Bourne; Chad Burnett; Steve Brown; Susan Kooiman; Nicole Bursey; Lindsay Merrill

“It’s about being there for travel agents”: Transat kicks off Training Academy in Toronto

MISSISSAUGA — If you ask Nicole Bursey, Commercial Director at Transat, what kind of year she’s hoping for in 2023, she’d say a “boring” one.

It’s an unexpected answer, certainly. But after the many twists and turns of the past two pandemic-ridden years, Bursey is most looking forward to having operations play out on a more linear path, one with few surprises.

“We’re hoping for stability,” she told Travelweek with a laugh at yesterday’s Training Academy event at Hilton Toronto Airport. “Seriously, we just want things to be boring!”

Boring, however, doesn’t mean inactive. In Transat’s case, boring means a return to normalcy, which includes once again hosting high-energy, in-person events like its popular Training Academies, returning this year for the first time since 2019. About 350 travel advisors and 36 suppliers attended yesterday’s event in Toronto, with many more expected to take part in the three events set for Quebec and one in Nova Scotia next week. And it’s obvious, based on how quickly spots filled up for each event, that agents, too, have been craving ‘normalcy.’

“It’s about being there for travel agents”: Transat kicks off Training Academy in Toronto

Trade show floor

“When we sent out a save the date, we instantly received notes from agents asking when registration will open,” said Bursey. “You could tell that people wanted this to happen. Agents are ready for it.”

During last night’s event, which included a trade show, a sit-down dinner and presentation, travel agents learned about Transat’s 2023 program, including a brand new ‘R&R Collection’ featuring popular South destinations that’s now available for booking. Bursey is also anticipating a busy year for groups, as there’s been “a lot of reunions and family gatherings that have been postponed and now is the time that people want to get together.”

Agents also learned about Air Transat’s new promotions, launched in celebration of its 35th anniversary this year. Until Sept. 27, agents will earn $15 or 3X BONBON per eligible reservation, and have a chance to win a rebate of $175 or 35X BONBON, drawn daily. Plus, a draw for five South packages for two will be held among travel agents at the end of the promotion.

For travellers, the promotion also includes savings of up to 35% on South packages for departures between Sept. 7, 2022 and May 31, 2023. In addition, the company will give away 35 South packages for two at one of the Paradisus properties in Cuba, the Dominican Republic or Mexico. To enter, travellers can fill out the entry form available on its website; to increase their chances of winning, they can add a valid booking number and subscribe to the newsletter.

“It’s about being there for travel agents”: Transat kicks off Training Academy in Toronto

Agents from The Travel Agent Next Door


According to Bursey, Transat has spent a lot of time developing new resources for its agent partners “because we need to get people off the phones as much as we can since call centre times are still troubling.”

As previously reported by Travelweek, Transat has been dealing with extremely long call centre hold times, largely due to staffing shortages. Although the company has been on a major hiring blitz since November 2021, the problem, says Bursey, unfortunately persists.

“It’s ultimately because we need more staff and recruitment is a challenge. I know internally, we’ve done a bunch of things like raising salaries and increasing benefits packages but it’s just really hard right now,” she says. “We’re quite disappointed because we had hoped that this wouldn’t be a problem for as long as it has been. So to the agencies, believe us when we say we are aware of the problem and we’re working really hard to fix it. Please be a little bit more patient with us.”

In the meantime, Bursey says Transat is working on doing a better job of educating travel agents on the tools that Transat currently has in place.

“There are certainly times when an agent has to call us for whatever reason. But the problem is, if the lines are jammed by agents who can complete the task on their own, it’s really making the problem worse,” says Bursey.

“Sometimes the answer is simply filling out a form and sending it to the appropriate department,” she adds. “A refresher on all our existing tools and resources is probably the biggest thing that our sales team has been working on over the last year, and we anticipate that this will continue for months.”


Travellers will have more options when flying with Transat next year as seat capacity will actually exceed 2019 numbers. This, says Bursey, is in line with Transat’s growth trajectory.

“Prior to Covid, we were seeing major growth, which unfortunately got paused due to the pandemic. So it’s good to see us growing again, which is really encouraging for our staff and for agents,” she adds.

Transat, which secured an additional $100 million in liquidity from the Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corporation (CEEFC) in July, is on track for a winter season that promises to match pre-pandemic levels. The summer season, says Bursey, has been “quite good” following a bit of a slow start. With product primarily centering on Europe, the company had a “good July” and a “really good August,” and with the focus now shifting towards south destinations for fall and winter, “our fiscal 2023 sales are really promising,” Bursey adds.

Transat, which today released its third quarter results for 2022, is seeing a pace in sales that’s very comparable to 2019, says Annick Guérard, President and Chief Executive Officer.

“Although the quarterly results are still affected by the costs of resuming operations, July was our first profitable month in more than two years, setting the stage for improved results. The strong pricing this quarter also partially absorbed the increase in fuel costs, the adverse effect of which is likely to persist for some time. Our current cash position, combined with new financing obtained during the quarter, gives us the required flexibility for the future,” says Guérard.

During the quarter, Transat also took delivery of two A321LRs and is expecting five more aircraft of this type in 2023 and 2024. Recently, the company finalized its first order since 2018 for four A321XLRs, including three firm orders for delivery in 2025-2026 and an option for 2027. Featuring an even longer range than the A321LR, these aircraft “will bring us all the advantages of the LR, including cost and environmental benefits, with an even longer range,” adds Guérard.


Compared with 2021, a quarter with virtually no operations due to the pandemic, Transat’s revenues increased by $495.8 million for the quarter ended July 31, 2022. Compared with 2019, quarterly revenues were down $190.6 million, or 27%. Capacity offered was 82% of that deployed in 2019 across all programs and 68% for Europe, the main program during the period. Operations resulted in an operating loss of $93.2 million, an improvement of $5.2 million compared with the $98.4 million loss in 2021.

Looking ahead to Q4 2022, Transat is seeing encouraging signs in terms of bookings as the last-minute booking trend persists. After the low reached during the Omicron wave earlier this year, load factors have largely improved in recent months, and selling prices of bookings for the summer season have been steadily increasing since spring across all its programs. For winter 2023, Transat’s capacity in its sun destinations program – its main program for the period – is the same as that deployed in 2019 and 75% higher compared to 2022. To date, and overall, the load factors are comparable to 2019 levels while prices are higher.

Said the company in its Q3 report: “It remains difficult at this time to forecast the evolution of the health and economic situations on their impact on bookings and future financial results with sufficient precision for the Corporation to present a more comprehensive outlook for the fourth quarter of 2022.”


Now celebrating its 35th anniversary year, Transat has undoubtedly been through a lot over the years, from global recessions to 9/11 to COVID-19. When asked what has been its secret to success, Bursey, who has spent a collective 20 years at the company, was quick to reply: the people.

“Whether it’s upper management and my team, the agents we work with and even our flight attendants, many of whom have been here since day one, our team is fantastic and are so passionate about what we do. There really is a passion and love for this company, which is the biggest thing that keeps Transat going. And for me personally, who started at Transat when I was 25 years old, I take a lot of pride in working for a Canadian company that’s been so successful for so long,” says Bursey.

And as for travel agents, whose loyalty to the company was on full display at yesterday’s event, Bursey is quick to remind them that Transat started as a travel agency.

“We are a company that, at our heart, is about being there for travel agents. They are our partners,” she says. “This doesn’t mean we can always do everything perfectly, but it does mean that they’re always considered in our decisions. And although we’ve stayed in touch throughout the pandemic through Facebook and other social channels, it’s nice to have our reps back on the road and to see so many agents at our Training Academy events face to face.”

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