“WE’RE VERY confident that travel is back and it’s coming back much faster than we expected.”
These were the encouraging words from Virgilio Russi, Air Canada's Vice President International Sales, during a wide-ranging interview between Traveltalk and airline officials.
Speaking in Sydney, Mr Russi said the airline is already operating at 80 per cent of its pre-COVID capacity.
“This is being driven by international travel, especially trans-Atlantic, and Australia is booming for us. In the last two weeks we have launched or are re-launching 34 new routes in the Pacific and Atlantic.
“Our booking numbers over the next eight to 10 months are looking quite strong. Whether this is just pent-up demand, or the demand is here to stay is hard to say but it’s looking very good overall.
“We are hoping to see full recovery to pre-COVID levels by 2024 but it may be earlier. We’d rather under promise and over deliver.”
Mr Russi said both Canada and Australia were identified as countries that would recover quickest from the pandemic.
“First, they were deemed as safe countries that managed the pandemic quite well. They also have a mix of urban activities with wide-open spaces, and we believe there’s a preference for those kinds of destinations.”
Demand from Aussie travellers has seen Air Canada expand its services in the South Pacific region. The airline is currently operating Sydney to Vancouver 10 times a week while Brisbane to Vancouver flights commence on July 3 with a four times a week schedule.
“Aussies are looking to get away and get to Canada, which is good,” said Vic Naughton, Air Canada General Manager Australia. “We’ve increased capacity on the back of the demand we are seeing.”
Looking at future trends in international air travel, Mr Russi revealed that customers appeared willing to pay a little more for their travel experience.
“There has been a growth in demand for more premium services, so our premium cabins are doing really well. This is not business travel: these are leisure travellers willing to pay more for premium economy or business class.
“This may be due to the fact that they didn’t travel for two years so are now looking for an upgraded experience and this is a trend that seems to be continuing.
“The other trend is for slightly longer trips than before, but it is hard to say whether this is a pattern that will remain.”
Mr Russi also confirmed that the Australian market would remain essential to the airline and that travel agents would be likewise.
“During the last two years I don’t think we’ve ever seen more important evidence of how crucial travel agents can be in terms of helping our customers move through the difficulties of the pandemic and any future difficulties we’ll have.
“We are very grateful to all our travel agent partners all over the world for how they helped us navigate this and get our customers from point a to point b.
“Travel had been extremely complex in the past two years – and it still is – and having someone help you through that is extremely important.” aircanada.com
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