An exclusive Air Canada event last night was a chance for airline executives to connect with travel trade partners and tell the Air Canada story, according to Duncan Bureau, recently appointed vice-president, global sales.
Hosted at Toronto's One King West Hotel, representatives from travel agencies, consolidators, wholesalers and tour operators were on hand for the reception, which highlighted the airline's growth and new international marketing strategy.
"Certainly with the travel trade, there's a strategic relationship that will allow us to grow business profitably and that's really what we want to talk about," Bureau told PAX.
Over the past few months, Air Canada has undergone some restructuring, the latest of which saw the appointment of Benjamin Smith, previously executive VP and chief commercial officer, to the new role of president, passenger airlines. In addition to his current responsibilities, Smith will now have cost as well as revenue oversight for passenger airline activities, with a view to optimizing the operating profitability of Air Canada, consistent with organizational structures at other large U.S. and European airlines.
"Calin (Rovinescu, president & CEO) is focused on making sure we have the right people in the right roles," Bureau said. "Ben's announcement just reinforces the view that we want to have a very focused organization, driving efficiencies not only on the revenue side but also on the cost side."
The VP shared his enthusiasm for the Air Canada product with guests, spotlighting the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner which recently joined its fleet. The company will have six by the end of the year, and from there, is adding about six more annually until the order of 37 is fulfilled.
"We're very excited about what that asset does for us in terms of our ability to assert new markets as well as deliver a tremendous experience for all of your customers when they're flying on Air Canada," he told the crowd.
The Dreamliner was originally supposed to be delivered in 2010 though delays pushed that back to 2014. It was a blessing in disguise, according to Craig Landry, VP marketing, referring to the impact of the economic downturn.
"The 787 showed up for us at exactly the right time because now is a huge time of growth for Air Canada," he said.
In addition to new planes, the airline is introducing new routes and destinations in an effort to truly position itself as an international carrier - not only for Canadians, but for travellers from around the world to get from point A to B.
"As we started thinking about that transformation, we started to think, 'How are we going to achieve that growth? Can Canadians fill all those planes?' And the answer was no; we have more aircraft coming in over the next three to five to eight years than we're going to be able to fill with just Canadians flying," Landry explained. "Air Canada is going to need to become a global player - a global carrier of choice, an airline like a KLM or Air France or British Airways that attracts not just local markets but global travellers."
In order to effectively achieve this global status, Landry said, they invested in research to understand consumer and industry mentalities.
As a result of this and a period of reflection, notable transformations include the aesthetic of aircraft interiors; for example a new colour pallet that moves away from the blue and reds that were previously dominant and instead, having charcoal gray as the primary colour, which Landry said is more premium and works in favour of a global position.
In addition, a new tagline - Air Canada: Your World Awaits - has been introduced to appeal to that emotional and lasting impact of travel, while also capturing the airline's global reach.
All this combined has set it up to move more marketing dollars into international markets, with a major campaign set to launch in the U.S., U.K. and France in the coming weeks.
Photo: Virgilio Russi, senior director, Canada sales; Duncan Bureau, VP, global sales; Lucie Guillemette, VP, revenue management; Derek Vanstone, VP, corporate strategy, industry & government affairs; Yves Dufresne, VP, alliances & regulatory affairs; and Craig Landry, VP, marketing