Air Canada has announced that its non-stop St John's to London Heathrow flight will become the only year-round non-stop service between Newfoundland and Labrador and Europe when it extends the service through the winter schedules from October 26, 2014. The Star Alliance member will offer a three times weekly service on the route serving Heathrow Airport's new Terminal 2, also known as The Queen's Terminal, where it will take up residency from June 18, 2014.
As per the current schedule, Air Canada will operate the route using 120-seat single-aisle Airbus A319s configured in a two-cabin configuration offering an Executive Class and Economy service. The link complements the carrier's daily non-stop flights to London Heathrow from Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax, offering up to 77 flights each week from Canada to London Heathrow this year.
"Air Canada is pleased to offer the only year-round non-stop flights between St John's and London Heathrow. On-going support for the seasonal service by the local community over the past several years now enables us to extend it and offer travellers in Newfoundland and Labrador the convenience of year-round flights to London Heathrow," said Benjamin Smith, executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, Air Canada.
It is eight years since Air Canada last offered a year-round service between St John’s and London Heathrow. The carrier had previously operated an up to daily service using a Boeing 767-300ER but suspended the route in September 2006. It returned to the market in April 2007 with a seasonal summer A319 link and then returned again in May 2010 and has served the route for the subsequent four summer seasons on a daily basis. According to OAG Schedules Analyser, former UK charter and ACMI specialist Astraeus Airlines also offered flights between London Gatwick and St John’s between June and October 2007.
Analysis of passenger demand shows travelers to and from Newfoundland and Labrador have valued this direct link to and from the UK not only to meet point-to-point demand but also for transfer connectivity to and from destinations across Europe via Air Canada’s many Star Alliance partners in the Continent.
In our analysis, below, we highlight O&D demand levels between between St John’s and points across Europe in 2013. Approximately 71 per cent of the demand is connecting at London Heathrow from or to other destinations across Europe with the largest passenger flows being between St John’s and Oslo, Paris, Aberdeen, Dublin and Amsterdam.
At London Heathrow, Air Canada offers connections to points throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa with its Star Alliance partners: Aegean Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss International Airlines and Turkish Airlines, in addition to codeshare partner Aer Lingus. In St. John's, the flight is timed to offer convenient connections to and from Deer Lake, Halifax, Montreal and Toronto.
"Our customers in Newfoundland and Labrador value this direct link to the U.K., as the fastest and most efficient way of making connections to several European capitals such as Brussels, Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Vienna, Warsaw and Athens. Our year-round flight will also attract more visitors to Newfoundland and Labrador and support the local economy," added Smith
Air Canada’s decision further illustrates the strong business climate in Newfoundland and Labrador and brings improved international access. This flight will not only enhance the local tourism market, but will strengthen access and trade links across European markets, positioning Newfoundland and Labrador as a stronger option for business.
Air Canada is the dominant carrier at St John’s and handled more than 850,000 customers at the airport in 2013. In summer 2014, Air Canada and its regional division Air Canada Express will operate over 174 scheduled flights each week to seven destinations across Canada, as well as the London link with up to seven direct flights a day to Toronto, six to Halifax, four to Gander, two to Montréal, three to Deer Lake, one to Ottawa and one to Goose Bay.
Establishing a year-round service to Europe has been a primary air service goal of St John’s that it has been working on for quite a while and the Air Canada announcement comes just ahead of the launch of a new seasonal flight to Dublin by WestJet Airlines on June 15, 2014, its first ever transatlantic service. This route was initially planned to operate through to October 5, 2014 but has been extended through to October 24, 2014.
"The London Heathrow service is strategically very important for the continued growth of our region and our province, and we are delighted that Air Canada has committed to extend the service year-round. Offering this service outside of the peak travel summer season will accommodate the growing demand for international business travel from our Airport," said Keith Collins, president and chief executive officer, St John's International Airport Authority.
St John’s is investing $243 million in its infrastructure over the next 10 years to ensure the safety and integrity of the airport; to improve accessibility during low visibility conditions; and to support the anticipated growth in passengers to two million by 2023.
While the investments in the Airport’s infrastructure include a number of projects associated with the operational integrity and safety of the Airport’s facilities, such as rehabilitating taxiways, aprons, and runways, the two largest projects included in this 10-year Plan are the expansion of the terminal building and an airport accessibility and safety initiative.
In 2013, around 1.5 million passengers travelled through airport, the highest number recorded at the Airport, and growth has been unprecedented at a rate that has been double the national average over the past ten years. This has put a strain on the terminal building which was designed to accommodate 900,000 passengers annually.
The expansion plan of the building will be conducted in two phases: the east expansion will commence this summer and will be completed by the end of 2017. The west expansion will follow, with a scheduled completion date of 2020.This expansion project will result in the terminal doubling in size to 387,000 square feet, and will include a larger pre-board screening area; larger seating area in the departures lounge; six more gates and passenger loading bridges; more food, beverage and retail options and customs area.
Away from St John’s, Air Canada has announced that it will further adjust its schedule to offer more capacity to and from Charlottetown, during the peak summer travel months with a 21 per cent total overall increase in available seats over last summer. In addition to a previously announced third Montreal daily flight, the added capacity is provided by the use of the larger Bombardier CRJ-705 aircraft on three of its four daily flights to Toronto Pearson.
"In response to increased demand created by the 150th anniversary celebrations of the 1864 Charlottetown conference, Air Canada will offer over 100 more seats each way every day to and from the Island for the months of July and August," confirmed Kevin Howlett, senior vice president regional markets, Air Canada.
"With its diversified fleet, Air Canada has a unique ability to react quickly and adapt its schedule further reinforcing its commitment to the specific needs of the Island Tourism and Business Community. For over 30 years, Prince Edward Island and visitors have been able to count on Air Canada for year-round and competitive air service connecting the Island with Canada and the world and we are proud to contribute to the success of this important event," he added.
In summer 2014, Air Canada and Air Canada Express will operate up to 80 scheduled non-stop flights each week from Charlottetown to four destinations across Canada. Air Canada will offer up to four non-stop flights a day to Toronto: three with the 75-seat Bombardier CRJ-705 jet aircraft offering a choice of Executive or Economy class service, and one with the 50-seat Bombardier CRJ jet aircraft. There will also be three non-stop flights to Montreal flown by 74-seat Bombardier Q400 Next Generation turboprops, one non-stop flight to Ottawa using a 50-seat CRJ200 and four flights to Halifax using 18-seat Beech 1900Ds.
In our analysis, below, we look at the scheduled capacity of Air Canada and its partner carriers from Charlottetown over the past ten years. In the period between 2004 and 2013 its seat offering has grown 32.3 per cent in a market that has grown by 54.6 per cent during the same period. The increasing competition, mainly from WestJet Airlines, has seen Air Canada’s share of the capacity decline from 86.7 per cent in 2004 to 74.2 per cent in 2013, although it has risen from a low of 65.9 per cent in 2008.