TORONTO — In its lead-up to launch, Canada Jetlines found ways to connect with travel advisors, from its partnership with Softvoyage, to commercial agreements with travel retailer groups, to ticket giveaways and more.
Now that flights have taken off, Canada Jetlines is working on even more ways to reach out to travel agents and secure their business.
“We will have a robust travel agency portal, and will be available on Amadeus, Sabre and eventually Travelport,” Duncan Bureau, Canada Jetlines’ Chief Commercial Officer, tells Travelweek in a wide-ranging interview.
“Travel agents are at the core of our distribution strategy as we believe they have incredible reach and relevance in a post pandemic travel environment,” he adds.
Canada Jetlines’ agent-friendly approach was clear more than a year ago, when the new carrier signed on with Softvoyage for both B2B and B2C distribution solutions. Then in March 2022, when Canada Jetlines showcased its first aircraft to a crowd of trade and dignitaries, Bureau told agents: “We are very focused on our relationship with the travel trade. We believe you are going to help us make this a very successful airline.”
The start of Canada Jetlines’ first route, Toronto-Calgary, came at the same time as the airline signed a new partnership with Clarity Travel Technology Solutions (Clarity TTS), a B2B SaaS platform. With the new collaboration, travel agents can search, book, ticket, rebook, reissue, void, refund and book ancillaries for their clients, all through one simple platform.
Canada Jetlines’ second route, between Toronto and Vancouver, starts this December.
Travelweek recently caught up with Bureau to find out about Canada Jetlines’ growth plans, the importance it places on its relationship with travel agents, and more.
Travelweek: It’s been a long road for Canada Jetlines to get off the ground, with your inaugural flight finally taking off last month. How did it feel to finally see that first flight depart?
Bureau: “The entire team was incredibly excited to see wheels up on our first operation. It is very difficult to explain how proud we were of the team and the effort, passion and drive they demonstrated to get us to where we are today. One of those life moments you will never forget. It is easy to go and work for an established airline. It is completely another to work with a small team of like-minded and determined people who want to succeed in an industry they love.”
Travelweek: It’s not every day you see a brand new airline launch during a global pandemic. Can you talk about the timing of the launch, and how the current landscape either made it easier or harder to get off the ground?
Bureau: “As Winston Churchill said, ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’. The airline industry was in total disarray with over 90% of the worlds fleet sitting on the ground. We had an opportunity to find assets and people at a time when the industry was shedding great talent. We have been very fortunate so far and we see tremendous opportunity.
“I would say that, in general, when you are an airline with one aircraft, the world does not really pay attention to you. However in our case we were able to work closely with regulators, partners, leasing companies and very importantly we were able to recruit a world-class board of directors.
“So I would say that we were fortunate to have been presented the opportunity when we were.”
Travelweek: Would you define Canada Jetlines as an ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC)? And where would you say it falls in the hierarchy of Canadian airlines?
Bureau: “We would position ourselves in the following way. We are not a full service airline like Air Canada / WestJet mainline. We are not a low-cost carrier like Swoop / Flair / Lynx / Rouge / Sunwing. We are not offering transatlantic services like Transat. We are not a turbo prop operator from YYZ island like Porter. We believe we fall in between Air Canada / WestJet and the LCC/ULCC carriers, leaning more towards AC/WS.”
Travelweek: With Canada’s legacy carriers and lower-cost airlines coming into market in recent years, are you concerned at all about overcapacity? And how is Canada Jetlines planning on standing apart from the crowd?
Bureau: “Canada Jetlines is focused on value and offering a unique onboard experience, with a focus on service. We have partnered with Minhas Breweries and developed branded pre-mixed drinks that will create a memorable trip. We have hired a team that is focused on customer service and looking forward to welcoming our guests onboard. We made a conscious decision to not jam seats into our aircraft and are not operating high-density aircraft that are uncomfortable on longer average stage lengths.
“We have focused on creating a simple and easy to use website for consumers and we are travel agency friendly.”
Travelweek: Jetlines started with just one aircraft and one route between Calgary and Toronto. Is slow and steady going to be your approach to growth?
Bureau: “Jetlines made the decision to start with one aircraft to minimize the encumbered cash that is required to start operating an airline in Canada. We have a very experienced executive team and board of directors. We have also been very fortunate in that we have been able to attract a world-class team in operations, maintenance, airports, dispatch, flight deck, cabin crew, sales, marketing, accounting and human resources. We have launched our service between YYZ – YYC [and recently announced YYZ-YVR as well]. We have added our second aircraft with a plan to grow to 15 A320s by 2025.
“We are being very strategic with our growth and we will build a strong infrastructure before we onboard other aircraft or start additional markets. So I would say [CEO] Eddy [Doyle] has created a pace for us that will create the highest likelihood of success.”
Travelweek: What are Canada Jetlines’ plans for the Caribbean? Can we expect Sun flights any time soon?
Bureau: “We are eager to have service into sun destinations where we will leverage Jetlines Vacations, which is our wholly owned tour operator, as soon as we have built our connectivity and inventory with Softvoyage and content aggregators. And of course we will have our own direct relationships as well. We will start with sun destinations that do not depend on package vacation inventory and add the other Caribbean markets as soon as we can.”
Travelweek: You’ve said in the past that travel agents will be key to the airline’s success. Why are you focusing so much on the agent community and how do you plan on working with agents?
Bureau: “Travel agents are at the core of our distribution strategy as we believe they have incredible reach and relevance in a post pandemic travel environment. Travel agents can provide confidence to those who are new to travel and those who are still cautious in terms of their confidence with booking with airlines that had convoluted service promises and failed them during the pandemic. We have published our commission structure and we will also pay commission on ancillary services that are sold via the trade.
“We will have a robust travel agency portal, and will be available on Amadeus, Sabre and eventually Travelport. We will make it easy for agents and consumers to book with us. Jetlines will be on the shelves that travel agents use to book their customers.”