Air Canada’s new 777-300ERs will benefit Vancouver: Howey

VANCOUVER — Air Canada’s fleet expansion of five Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, with premium economy class seating, will benefit Vancouver, said James Howey, regional general manager in charge of passenger sales for the airline, at Wednesday’s ‘Phoenix is Calling’ event sponsored by Visit Phoenix and Air Canada.

“The intent is to roll out the class in the whole fleet,” he said, but as the planes are arriving, Vancouver flights are having the option of this class of seating. In mid-November, Air Canada will start flying into Hong Kong from Vancouver, using the new aircraft and the new seating class.

The first use of the aircraft was on the Montreal to Paris route this summer, and will be followed by Vancouver to Munich Oct. 1. The Vancouver to Hong Kong route will start Nov. 16. The aircraft will also do the Vancouver to London route in March 2014, said Howey.

There is opportunity for travel agents to up-sell from economy, he said, especially to leisure travellers looking for more comfort and service than economy class can offer.

“Leisure travel has grown globally,” said Howey. At the same time, corporate travel has fallen off, as companies are more conscientious of their spending on premium class flights. “There is some pent-up demand” for lower-cost seating, he said, as companies revamp their corporate travel policies, but at the same time corporate travellers do not want to sacrifice all their luxuries.

Howey said the new class of seating would make Air Canada’s seat offering unique and provide the full service the airline is known for.

The first two Boeing 777-300ER aircraft arrived in June and August, with the next three slated for November and December 2013 and February 2014. Howey said that it is the first net increase in seat capacity for the airline since 2007, a positive sign of growth for the airline.