Not to be deterred by the COVID-19 border restrictions that essentially shut down Air Canada’s international network for more than a year, the flag-carrier is planning to fully rebuild international flying and retake its place among the world’s elite global airlines.
“Our international network is not shut down. We’re operating 30% of normal activity,” Air Canada senior VP-network planning Mark Galardo told Routes in an interview. “International is where our bets are going to be.”
He noted that Canada is a multicultural country with three major international hub airports: Montreal (YUL), Toronto Pearson (YYZ) and Vancouver (YVR). “It’s no secret that our path to rebuilding is restoring the international network and building up those three hubs on the international stage,” Galardo said.
“Getting the network restarted is a function of the virus and how it evolves,” he added. “There are signals that the transatlantic recovery will be pretty robust … We’re hopeful that sometime in 2022 or 2023 we’ll see a meaningful recovery in Asia and Australia.”
Areas of the world with low COVID-19 vaccination rates make restarting services to these destinations problematic in the near term, Galardo acknowledged.
Nevertheless, all 37 of Air Canada’s Boeing 787 aircraft are back in service, he comfirmed. The 787 will “be more vital than before the pandemic,” he added. “The 787 has the same capability as a 777 with a much more efficient platform.” He said that low seat mile costs would be critical going forward.
Prior to the pandemic, Air Canada was using 787s to greatly expand its international network and was actively targeting international passengers from the US, trying to draw US travelers to connect via a Canadian hub to their eventual destination.
Galardo said Air Canada is also getting good use out of the A220, which he called a “great pandemic airplane and a great post-pandemic airplane.” With demand still sluggish because of the COVID-19 virus, the A220 “can connect any two points in North America at unit costs of a larger narrowbody without the risks of putting a large narrowbody on a route,” he said.
The bottom line, Galardo said, is that the recovery is “going to be bumpy, but after 16 months of difficulty we’re finally on the path to recovery.”
Air Canada is likely to get a big boost on Sept. 7, when the Canadian government will reopen the border to vaccinated passengers.
Photo credit: Joe Pries