Air Canada Express to connect Vancouver with Dallas-Fort Worth

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An Air Canada CRJ-705 operated by Jazz Aviation prepares for its next flight out of Calgary. AC has chosen the regional aircraft to operate its new route between Dallas and Vancouver. (Photo: John Jamieson, April 27th, 2012, YYC)

In February of 2017, Air Canada will begin daily service between Vancouver and Dallas-Fort Worth. The planned route, which will complement Air Canada’s existing Toronto-DFW service, (NB-Airways Magazine) should offer benefits for residents in both cities.

Once Air Canada begins flights, the YVR-DFW market will be served by a Star Alliance carrier. This will allow passengers from Dallas to connect onto flights operated by Air Canada’s partners including Air China, Eva Airlines, and Shenzhen Airlines. The number of onward connections from both cities should increase considerably as a result of this new connection. 

The key details for the new route, including scheduling, sector information, and equipment details can be found in the article published by Nicholas Bernier on airwaysmag.com (Click for more info).

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Previously Air Canada has operated the CRJ-705 from Vancouver on low volume domestic routes, such as YVR-Whitehorse. (John Jamieson, 06/11/2016, YVR)

Despite the potential benefits which can be exploited, Air Canada may still be entering a risky market. Unlike many of the US destinations Air Canada has expanded to in the past, Dallas is home to a major competitor from a different airline partnership. American Airlines has been a stalwart on the route to Dallas, operating a variety of aircraft including the MD-80 and the Boeing 757. Dallas is American’s main hub and, along with its partner American Eagle, the airline offers connections to almost 200 destinations. While Air Canada has a strong hub in Vancouver, the carrier has limited onward connections from Dallas through its partner airlines. The One World alliance, of which American is a founding partner, is strongly represented at DFW and Air Canada, a member of Star Alliance, has a limited number of interline connections available. While it’s unlikely that Air Canada will become the dominant carrier on the route, AC should be able to capture some of the Vancouver bound traffic.

Considering what we know about the route, Air Canada’s decision to operate the 4 1/2 hour route using a configured CRJ-705 makes sense. The aircraft has considerable operational benefits over short-medium haul sectors. That being said, the design of the CRJ brings with it a smaller cabin space and a possible reduction in comfort. Despite having a business class product available, the aircraft may feel cramped compared to American’s mainline jets. I felt I needed to research the history of the route and examine the operational advantages of the CRJ to gain a better understanding of Air Canada’s decision.

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 It was tough to find any solid material. In the mid-1990’s Canadian Airlines grew its international network in Vancouver with frequent connections to Asia. Through its partnership with American Airlines, the carrier offered onward connections for AA passengers traveling from Dallas. Because Canadian and American were both One World alliance partners, it made sense to route Asian bound passengers through YVR.  With a partnership in place, Canadian and American increased capacity on the route. However, following Air Canada’s takeover of Canadian in 2000, the lingering interline connections associated with American were terminated. While American continues to operate the route, many of its Asian bound passengers now travel through alternative markets. 

Having learned about the history of the route, I began looking into Air Canada’s decision to begin flights using the CRJ-705 instead of the more comfortable Embraer 175. As it turns out the CRJ has superior performance over the E-175 when it comes to range, cruising altitude (higher altitude usually improves cruising speed and ride comfort), and fuel consumption. While cabin comfort in the Embraer (175 and 190) is superior, Air Canada would likely need to see significant load factors to upgrade the flight to an Embraer 190. My personal opinion is that AC will upgrade the flight to the Embraer (or in the future the Bombardier C Series) if demand warrants an upgrade.

With significantly lower fuel cost, compared to the early 2000’s, this is the ideal time for airlines to experiment with previously untouched markets. Hopefully, Air Canada is able to establish some market presence in the route, as a degree of competition usually results in lower fares for the consumer.

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