It’s one thing to know that travel agent associations are lobbying the government on agents’ behalf. It’s another to actually hear it and see it in action.
TORONTO — When times are tough, sometimes a few well-chosen words can work wonders.
During her keynote address at last week’s ACTA 2020 Travel Industry Summit, Air Canada’s Chief Commercial Officer, Lucie Guillemette wasn’t about to minimize the impact that COVID-19 has had on Air Canada, or the entire travel industry. “But as our CEO Calin Rovinescu says, hard things are hard. And without calculated risk, there is no reward.”
Air Canada has been at the forefront in response to COVID-19 “and we intend on continuing to do so,” she said. In the early weeks of the pandemic Air Canada was the first carrier in the Americas to screen for passenger temperatures. It introduced Air Canada CleanCare+ in May and it helped launch a voluntary COVID-19 testing program at Pearson Airport in September.
Guillemette said she’s also proud that Air Canada launched its new and transformed Aeroplan program. The program is near and dear to Guillemette’s heart. She joined Air Canada in 1987 as a customer service and sales agent and knows the original Aeroplan well. “It feels like the program is coming home, new and improved,” she said.
In 2018 Air Canada took back control of the valuable Aeroplan loyalty business that it created in 1984, buying it back for $450 million. The deal closed in 2019 and the relaunched Aeroplan program went live last week.
Air Canada’s challenging journey through the pandemic has included the suspension of 30 domestic routes and the closure of eight stations. More suspensions – up to 95 domestic, transborder and international routes – and more station closures are possible but Guillemette re-confirmed that Air Canada will hold off on any more cuts until the airline’s executives hear more about the federal government’s financial assistance program, announced Nov. 8.
While the industry is waiting for the day that travel restarts again, Guillemette cautioned that the restart will be long and complex. “Getting operations restarted, it will be just as complicated if not more so” than the shutdown in March, she said. “But we are ready. We all know Canadians want to travel. We are very excited about what the future holds.”
Guillemette said she was impressed by how the travel industry has pulled together to get through the crisis. She had praise for Air Canada’s travel agent partners as well. “We always appreciate and value our partnership with all of you,” she told attendees. “We always realize you have choices, and we thank you for your support.”
She had a few more words to share in her ACTA Summit address. “There’s an old proverb that says ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, and if you want to go far, go together.”
She added: “Hope is not a strategy, but it certainly is a feeling we have every day at Air Canada.”