TORONTO — The runway has been long but Canada Jetlines is finally ready for takeoff, and poised to reap the rewards of two years’ worth of pent-up demand for travel.
The carrier’s first flights are scheduled to start in July 2022, at the peak of the summer when many Canadians will be eager to say so long to the pandemic’s travel restrictions, and hello to their first real getaway in more than 24 months.
In some ways, the timing couldn’t be better for the airline. Start-up plans came and went over the past several years, under different executive teams. The executive team in place now – including Eddy Doyle as CEO, and another industry veteran, Duncan Bureau, as Chief Commercial Officer – has shown momentum from the get-go.
EAGER TO WORK WITH TRAVEL AGENTS
Doyle, Bureau and other Canada Jetlines executives and board members were on hand at yesterday’s industry briefing at Region of Waterloo International Airport, showcasing the company’s very first A320, which arrived in Canada last month. The airline recently received its stage 1 licensing approval from the CTA.
There’s no word yet on what specific destinations Canada Jetlines will be serving with its first flights in July, but indications are Florida and/or the Caribbean.
What is certain is that Canada Jetlines is eager to work with travel 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. And we thank all travel agents for the work that they’re doing,” said Bureau at yesterday’s event.
“When you look at how we’re going to strategically align with travel agency partners, we want them to start seeing revenue right away,” he said.
“Our economic model will be very different from what’s in the marketplace today and we’re willing and excited to work with our travel agency partners.”
Bureau added that he and his commercial team at Canada Jetlines are “looking forward to dropping by your offices and getting those commercial agreements in place, and those partnerships.”
Bureau will be a familiar face and friend to many at those agency meetings. Bureau is well-known in the Canadian travel industry from his early days at Canadian Airlines and WestJet, to Malaysia Airlines, and then to Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge.
“MUCH BETTER DAYS ARE AHEAD”
Doyle spoke to the industry’s pandemic-era challenges over the past two years, and counting.
“To all our friends in the travel industry, the past two years have been extremely difficult,” said Doyle yesterday.
“But with the recent lifting of the travel restrictions by the Canadian government, and the tremendous pent-up demand for travel out there, much better days are ahead. And we are looking forward to working with all of you, to provide Canadians with a great travel product. We are quite excited about the future here, as we are about to launch.”
Also on hand at yesterday’s event, Councillor Michael Thompson, Scarborough Centre, applauded Canada Jetlines for its launch. Thompson is a deputy mayor of Toronto and also the chair of Toronto’s aviation working group, which will soon also include Doyle.
“The travel and tourism sector is desperate for good news,” said Thompson. “It’s been a tough couple of years.”
He cited a stat from the WTTC, that as travel gets back on track, it could contribute upwards of $8.6 trillion to the world economy in 2022. “That’s a significant sum of money,” he joked. He also noted that trends for trips as travel recovers focus on “sun, fun destinations” including Mexico, Caribbean and Florida.
That fits well with Canada Jetlines’ network plans, said Thompson.
He added: “Virtually every single legacy airline is encumbered by the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. By starting from scratch, as the pandemic subsides, Canada Jetlines has been able to establish lower leasing costs and more favourable terms.”
INDUSTRY KEEPING AN EYE ON OVERCAPACITY
The verdict is still out on what this summer will look like, and whether the industry will see overcapacity and price wars.
Along with Canada Jetlines’ arrival this summer, there’s Lynx Airlines, and expansions from Flair Airlines and Porter Airlines. That’s in addition to restored networks from Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, Swoop and WestJet, still set to buy Sunwing.
Bureau had this to say: “We are not in a position where our competitors are, where they have had a tough couple of years in terms of their balance sheet. We’re starting with a fresh balance sheet. And as we’re reaching out to the travel community across Canada, the U.S., the Caribbean, what we’re getting is a really amazing response.”
15 AIRCRAFT BY 2025
At last count, Canada Jetlines had three more A320s scheduled to come into service this July. The fleet will increase to seven by summer 2023, 12 by summer 2024 and 15 by summer 2025.
The aircraft will offer economy class seating, plus extra-comfort seats available at a premium. At least at its December 2021 overview, Canada Jetlines said its goal for 2023 was 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.
Over the past several months Canada Jetlines has been in talks with a number of retail travel groups, and Bureau has said the company “wants to be on as many shelves as possible.”
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. Softvoyage’s SIREV is used by more than 90% of Canada’s travel advisors.