C-GROV, the first A220-300 operated by Air Canada – Photo: John Jamieson
On January 15th, North America’s fifth-largest airline became the newest operator of the Airbus A220. At Air Canada’s headquarters in Montreal, Fin 101 (C-GROV) was unveiled to employees, honored guests, and members of the media. Over the course of the event, we were able to go onboard the aircraft and take in the A220’s unique features. We also managed to interview Mark Galardo, Air Canada’s VP Network Planning.
With the focus of the event firmly on the aircraft (as opposed to a new destination), we’ve focused our analysis on the physical benefits. That said, we’ll have a thorough examination of the aircraft’s operational benefits, and our interview, in a future post. For now, follow along as we cover Fin 101 from nose to tail and explore every inch of Canada’s newest clean-sheet aircraft.
With their new low-cost subsidiary, Swoop, connecting secondary markets, WestJet is able to focus on its joint venture with Delta – Photo: John Jamieson
Some Low-Cost Context
As far as I can remember, Canadians have complained about the cost of domestic air travel. Stuck in an increasingly permanent duopoly, Air Canada and WestJet have been without significant competition for the past 15 years. When JetsGo ceased operations in 2005, the domestic market was handed over to two carriers with little interest in changing the status quo. Moreover, with the ability to control prices and adjust capacity, Canada’s two flag carriers have been able to stifle their competition. Additionally, as a result of the duopoly, the barrier to entry for new market entrants has gone up significantly.
Part of the problem lies in Canada’s geography. With a population smaller than Tokyo spread over an area larger than the United States, it’s no wonder that airlines have struggled to succeed in Canada. While there is considerable traffic between the major urban areas (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal), there is very little flow between Canada’s smaller cities. This makes profitability a major struggle for new market entrants, especially when the major routes are dominated by Air Canada and WestJet.
Swoop offers its customers landside check-in; however, many passengers make use of their mobile app – Photo: John Jamieson
Start of the Transition
However, things may be about to change. Three carriers (Rouge, Flair, and Swoop) are currently offering low-fare travel options and a fourth, Canada Jetlines, is on the way. Each with their own identity, the three existing carriers have thus far managed to stay afloat in Canada’s notoriously turbulent market. But for how long? That remains to be seen. With low-cost travel finally taking off, it’s worth taking a closer look at how they’ve managed to attract and maintain business. We’ll be taking a look at their origins, cost structure, and the quirks which have kept them in business and, later in my story, I’ll be including my brief interview with Swoop President Steven Greenway.
An Air Canada 777-300ER being prepared for a transcontinental flight from Vancouver to Toronto
Earlier this summer, we had the opportunity to try out Air Canada’s new Signature Class cabin and lounge experiences.
Launched in June, the service is aimed squarely at the business/first class traveler, and competes quite readily with existing offerings by its North American mainline-carrier rivals.
Domestic Signature service is offered on flights between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver to Toronto; daily flights between Montreal and New York-Newark to Vancouver; between Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto; and between Toronto and Honolulu. Internationally, it’s offered on all Air Canada flights serviced using Boeing 767, 777, and 787, as well as Airbus A330 aircraft.
The routing for my flights were SEA-YVR-YYZ-SEA. The hop from Seattle to Vancouver was in standard coach class on a venerable Bombardier Q400.
The entrance to Air Canada’s Signature Suite – Photo: Air Canada
Air Canada’s Signature Suite, its newest lounge at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), officially opened on December 1. The Signature Suite creates an environment that makes it easy to forget you’re in an airport. Those eligible to access the lounge can receive complimentary beer, wine, champagne and signature cocktails. Complimentary food will also be available; passengers will be able to dine a la carte from a menu created by Vancouver-based celebrity chef David Hawksworth.
Prior to its opening, Air Canada spared no expense as it invited select media to preview its newest premium creation. Read more to learn about the experience inside the Signature Suite.