Friday,  September 29, 2023  11:58 am

Customers will “come back enchanted”: Air Canada restarts Toronto-Vienna flights

Customers will “come back enchanted”: Air Canada restarts Toronto-Vienna flights
From left: Armando Mendonça, president, AMPM (representing the Vienna Tourist Board in Canada); Karim Rachi, director of network planning, international routes, Air Canada. (Supplied)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Starting Wednesday (July 21), Canadians will be able to reconnect with the iconic landmarks, museums, coffee houses, cuisine and classic architecture of Vienna as Air Canada restores flights to the heart of Europe from Toronto with great connections from across Canada. 

Vienna, located in northeastern Austria on the Danube River, is shaped by an artistic and intellectual legacy due to the many famous figures who once lived there, including Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud.  

In fact, the city, home to some 850 public parks and gardens, 200 castles and palaces and more than 100 museums, served as a backdrop for several creative masters throughout history, from Egon Schiele to Gustav Klimt and others. 

Today, the capital city of Austria is a hub of discovery thanks to its Imperial palaces, opera houses, its MuseumsQuartier district (a prestigious arts complex), cobblestone streets, café culture and its historic and modern buildings.   

Vienna, located in northeastern Austria on the Danube River, is famous for its Imperial palaces, museums & coffee houses. (Vienna Tourist Board)

In light of Vienna’s unique characteristics, Air Canada viewed Vienna as one of its “priority routes” while rebuilding its global network to meet the recent uptick in demand for international air travel, Karim Rachi, director of network planning, international routes at Air Canada, told PAX.  

Rachi is seeing two market segments rebounding as travel restrictions ease around the world.  

The first, Rachi explained, is the “VFR segment” (Visit Friends and Relatives).  

“In this regard, Vienna provides great and unique connectivity to VFR destinations in Eastern Europe and the Middle East,” Rachi said. “This is thanks to our very close relationship with Joint Venture partner Austrian Airlines.”  

The second segment is the leisure market – “and Vienna is among the best Europe has to offer,” Rachi said.  

Relaxed entry rules for Canadians  

Air Canada will restart its Toronto-Vienna service on July 21 with three weekly frequencies onboard its state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner.  

It’s a timely move as Austria, on July 8, unveiled relaxed rules for entry and pre-travel clearance for Canadians, paving the way for a tourism reboot as COVID-19 cases decline and vaccination rates go up. (Click here to learn more).  

READ MORE: Soap Opera - Vienna Tourist Board hands out timely surprise to top partners

Air Canada’s plan, Rachi said, is to progressively ramp-up service as demand recovers, with the intention of launching daily flights to Vienna by next summer.  

“Our objective is always to offer an attractive schedule to our customers,” Rachi said.  

Restarting the Vienna flights in July made sense as it coincides with the summer peak travel period, he added.  

Vienna is home to some 200 castles and palaces and more than 100 museums, (Vienna Tourist Board)

“As a first step, we are prioritizing routes with high VFR content as our customers are eager to reunite with their families and friends,” Rachi explained.  

Vienna is one of many international routes Air Canada is restoring – this summer, the airline plans to resume at least 17 international routes and 11 destinations across the world from its hubs.  

Staying engaged 

The Vienna Tourist Board did not “go quiet” by any means during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Over the past 16 months, the city’s tourism team – both in Canada and in destination – launched a number of creative initiatives to stay engaged with travel advisors, tour operators, partners and consumers.  

In October 2020, utilizing a small window of time in between Ontario’s various stages of lockdown, Armando Mendonça, president of AMPM, which represents the Vienna Tourist Board in Canada, hosted a breakfast event at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel.   

The health and safety-focused gathering – the one (if not only) Canadian travel event to take place, in person, in the latter half of 2020 – was held to launch Vienna Showcase, an online series that takes participants on tours of Vienna’s always-evolving arts and culture scene. 

The episodes, which can be viewed here, have taken viewers to some of Vienna’s most intriguing spaces, including the "Beethoven moves" exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (KHM), the Sigmund Freud Museum and the Albertina modern, Vienna’s new museum for modern and contemporary art. 

“Vienna Showcase shows how upgrades, additions and launches are still continuing in Vienna. They haven’t stopped during the pandemic,” Mendonça told PAX.  

One of Vienna’s greatest assets, Mendonça said, is its connection to some of history’s greatest thinkers and creators.  

“There’s so many iconic people who lived in Vienna, or who were born in Vienna, that created classical music and art,” he said. 

READ MORE: Touring the reopened Sigmund Freud Museum, virtually, with the Vienna Tourist Board

It’s for this reason Vienna has the infrastructure and know-how to “build a city of arts.”  

Viennese coffee house culture (which has been called an "Intangible Cultural Heritage" by UNESCO) also “ties nicely” into the museum-hopping experience, Mendonça said. 

Air Canada’s Karim Rachi has visited Vienna on many occasions and, to this day, is amazed by how much the city has to offer.  

Beethoven celebrated his 250th anniversary last year. (Vienna Tourist Board)

“Historically, Vienna was the centre of an Empire and has this grandeur feel with its majestic palaces and avenues,” he said. “It also has an extraordinary musical heritage with great composers like Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn all having lived in the city. With all this history and culture, it is also a city with great museums and culinary scene.”   

“From my perspective Vienna, is a must when visiting Europe.”  

Air Canada is the only Transatlantic Carrier operating to Vienna apart from home carrier Austrian Airlines, Rachi noted.  

VIDEO: “Like walking into a painting”: Vienna Tourist Board takes Toronto on live, virtual tour

“We can connect passengers to unique destinations in Eastern Europe that are not as well served via other European Hubs,” he said, lauding the “very efficient and customer friendly-connection process” at Vienna International Airport.  

Rachi’s advice to travel advisors? “Recommend this destination to customers.”  

“It is unique in many aspects and they will come back enchanted,” he said.  

Greetings from Vienna  

The Vienna Tourist Board, in partnership with PAX, has launched a campaign affectionally called “Greetings from Vienna,” which includes a personalized video message from the b2b Team at the Vienna Tourist Board and showcases what awaits.  

“I’m beyond thrilled to partner with Air Canada as part of this month’s campaign in PAX to mark the resumption of flights from Toronto to Vienna,” Mendonça said. “I can’t wait to go and report back – stay tuned!”  

Until then, the Vienna Tourist Board offers useful sales tool to keep travel advisors informed, such as “Vienna Experts Club International” (Click here to register) 

There’s also a dedicated trade section on the Vienna Tourist Board’s website, which is updated daily. Click here to view. 

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