Hot Air 7: Summer Recap

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YVR’s Second Annual Spotters Picnic kicked off the summer in spectacular fashion: Sun, Spotting, and Special Liveries. (Photo: John Jamieson, May 1st, 2018, YVR)

“Despite my best efforts, I seem to be incapable of managing my time effectively”

When I look back at the summer, my photos and blog posts are a visual reminder of all the highlights and memorable moments captured from May 1st to August 31st. However, in a way, it’s the photos and stories which weren’t published that also linger in my memory. While the Blog has certainly grown over the past year, the curve seemed to flatten a little as the summer wore on. There were definitely a few stories which I hoped to cover in greater detail; ultimately, however, things failed to work out.

Invariably I managed to take a stress-free 4-day work week and overload it.

As such, I’ve chosen to do a quick recap of some of the stories which I failed to cover during the summer and provide a quick summary through a Hot Air post. As usual, some of the content covered here may feature again in future posts, however, for now, I’ll leave you with my quick take on the headlines.

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In homage to its Canadian roots, WestJet’s “Maple Leaf” logo will now feature prominently in their new design. (Photo: John Jamieson, May 13th, 2018, YVR)

Uniquely WestJet: A new Dreamliner Livery and International Business Class

Kicking things off, WestJet made headlines in May when they revealed a new corporate livery and business class product.

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Some subtle humor at WestJet’s expense

WestJet’s maple leaf logo (circa 2016), which used to feature on the fuselage in front of the WestJet banner, has been moved to the tail of the aircraft. Surrounded by a teal-green background, which also wraps around the rear of the fuselage and features on the engine cowlings, the revised logotype enhances the carriers Canadian identity.

As WestJet eye’s international expansion, the carrier hopes to be recognized as a full-service legacy carrier. Therefore, it made sense to offer a 3 class cabin product on its new flagship aircraft: Boeing’s 787-9 Dreamliner. While not necessarily required in the domestic or transborder market, their Business Class product will at minimum be in line with what their competitors are offering on trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific flights.

From an integration standpoint, a number of WestJet’s recently acquired Max-8 aircraft were delivered with the new livery in place. The remainder of WestJet’s fleet will likely be painted over the next few years in line with the companies maintenance schedule. As for the new business class product, it will debut in 2019 when WestJet begins taking delivery of their Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

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Eurotrip: Air Canada Links Vancouver with Paris and Zurich

Moving into June, Air Canada continued its international expansion out of Vancouver with two new flights to continental Europe. According to YVR’s Press Release, the Canadian flag carrier initially planned to operate these seasonal services with its 3-class configured Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Along with its low-cost subsidiary Rouge, Air Canada now serves 5 destinations in Europe, 4 seasonally during the summer months: London (LHR), Frankfurt, Paris, Zurich, and Dublin (Rouge). Without the traffic data, it would be hard for me to make too many comments on the route, however, I’m willing to speculate on a few things.

Firstly, it’s unlikely that Air Canada randomly chose these destinations purely to connect the dots in continental Europe. From what I’ve been hearing, Air France has been enjoying a reasonable amount of success on their own frequency between YVR and Charles De Gaulle (Paris). The French flag carrier recently made the route year-round (initially it was summer-seasonal) and on occasion has been forced to upgrade the aircraft to meet higher demand. Air Canada obviously wants to try and capture a portion of, what looks to be, an increasingly attractive market.

While Zurich has not necessarily demonstrated the same growth as Paris, it is possible that Air Canada is looking at Zurich with a different mindset. Swiss International Airlines, Air Canada’s Star Alliance partner, offers many connections onward from Zurich. Additionally, with Edelweiss currently appealing to the leisure segment of the market, Air Canada may be able to capture some of the business or premium economy traffic heading to Switzerland’s financial capital from Vancouver.

While these routes are only seasonal, I have a feeling that they’ll remain a part of Air Canada’s European network for a while. Air Canada has been able to monitor these routes for the past few years and will undoubtedly know the potential traffic numbers and yields which can be expected from these markets. Unless these summer flights are a disaster, I would expect to see them renewed for 2019.

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Sending a Signal: Kelowna’s Flair Airlines moves out of Hamilton into Toronto

Finally, moving into August, Kelowna’s Flair Airlines made the announcement that they are moving all their operations from Hamilton to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Even with all the news made by WestJet’s LCC Swoop this past summer, this story caught my eye in particular. Normally, low-cost carriers don’t move into high-cost airports unless they feel they can fill the flights; when the airlines start including extra taxes and fees in their ticket prices, the flying public typically switches back to the full-service carriers. Why then did Flair decide to move to Toronto?

To be honest, there are a few reasons.

Firstly, Flair’s position in Hamilton as the sole ULCC has become challenged by Swoop. WestJet’s low-cost carrier has expanded rapidly in Hamilton and looks set to begin flights to the United States later this year. While I’m still doubtful about the long-term viability of Swoop, for the moment they seem to be doing a number of things right. They have managed to keep fares down and their customer service has been no worse than that of their parent carrier (sorry WestJet, but things haven’t been great recently). Flair’s spokesperson Julie Rempel was recently quoted as saying that “(after analysis) we felt we could have a greater impact in Toronto”. This lead to speculation as to whether Hamilton is big enough for two low-cost carriers.

Personally, I’d say that it probably isn’t. These carriers require healthy cash flows to continue flying low-paying passengers. In Swoops case a portion of this is probably coming from WestJet’s deep financial pockets. For Flair, most of their cash flow is coming from passenger revenue, which is directly related to the number of seats sold. If they feel they can’t make the margins in Hamilton, Toronto, despite its higher costs, could be a stronger option. It will be interesting to see how this develops. I’ll say this much, from my point of view a one-stop connection from Vancouver to Toronto (via Edmonton) is considerably more attractive than Swoops competing Abbotsford-Hamilton service. There may be something in this after all.

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While the Sun’s set on Summer, there’s still plenty of exciting content to look forward to.

Things have been really busy recently. I certainly haven’t been able to post as much content as I would’ve liked. I’m hoping that despite balancing a full academic load and committing time to the varsity golf team I’ll be able to get a few more posts published before the end of the year.

Later this week I’ll be attending the Waypoints Aviation networking event put on by the UBC, SFU, and BCIT Flying Clubs. In addition to building aviation connections, I’m hoping to detail the event in a future #EHviationEvent post.

In addition to the Waypoints post, I have a trip report from my August vacation in Banff and Calgary waiting to be published. In the past, the trip reports have taken a little less time to write out. I’m hoping to have both of these published by the end of October at the latest. In the meantime, keep checking our Twitter account @EHviation for more updates!

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