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Old February 10th, 2011, 04:01 PM   #1041
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Air Canada posts Q4 profit, to raise domestic capacity

Feb 10 (Reuters) - Air Canada reported a quarterly profit and said it plans to raise its 2011 system capacity, as measured by available seat miles, as well as its domestic capacity.

Net income at Canada's No. 1 airline was C$134 million Canadian ($134.7 million), or 42 Canadian cents a share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of C$56 million, or 25 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier.

Adjusted losses came in at 6 Canadian cents a share, compared with a loss of 62 Canadian cents last year.

Fourth-quarter operating income was C$85 million, compared with an operating loss of C$83 million, a year ago. ($1=.9947 Canadian Dollar)
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Old February 11th, 2011, 08:26 AM   #1042
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New flight plan doubles WestJet profit
'Dead money' stock on the move as focus shifts from market share to earnings growth

10 February 2011
Edmonton Journal

As WestJet Airlines Ltd. begins to lay the foundation for its business strategy through 2020, chief executive Gregg Saretsky says he has put the profitability of the airline at the forefront of his agenda.

For years, the Calgary-based carrier trumpeted its goal of overtaking Air Canada as the largest player in the Canadian domestic market, much to the chagrin of analysts who questioned whether its aggressive growth plans were coming at the expense of shareholder returns.

As a result, while WestJet has been profitable in every quarter five years running, its shares have been called "dead money" by some, having stalled in recent years.

But that has shifted dramatically under its new chief executive. Bolstered by the airline industry's recovery and pricing improvements, WestJet's fourth-quarter net income grew 138 per cent to $48 million, or 33 cents a share, year-over-year, doubling the Street's consensus estimate.

Shares in the company soared 12 per cent as a result, to close on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday at $14.76 a piece.

But Saretsky said in an interview Wednesday that the fourth quarter was no "one-off," and he dramatically scaled back the company's growth plans in the coming years by delaying the delivery of six aircraft originally slated between 2012 and 2015 to 2017 and 2018.

That comes in addition to the three aircraft deferred last August that were originally slated to be delivered this year and next, and now won't arrive until 2017 as the airline tries to better match supply with demand and maintain its pricing power.

"This is no slight against the previous regime, but our focus has moved to be less about market share and more about profitability," Saretsky said.

He said he remains committed to growing the airline with a 12-percent return on invested capital. "What share we get is sort of irrelevant," he added.

Because its growth has remained somewhat constrained, WestJet was able to raise its prices between three per cent to five per cent in 2010 as the industry recovered. Saretsky said that should allow the airline to offset its fuel cost increases until oil hits $90 US a barrel.

WestJet's improved profitability should also allow it revisit both its dividend and share buyback programs, which Saretsky expects could grow over time.

WestJet's new focus does come with a price. Its domestic market share has fallen from 37 per cent at the end of 2009 to between 30 per cent and 35 per cent currently, according to its own estimates.

But David Tyerman, Canaccord Genuity analyst, said he doesn't think that's a bad thing, especially given the disciplined growth at Air Canada in the domestic market as well.

"Airlines, in general, have been a lousy investment, and have had an extremely bad reputation with the investors because they focus too much on market share," Tyerman said. "As a result, there's always too much capacity in the market."

Tyerman said he didn't expect WestJet to entirely give up its fight for market share, noting that it announced plans this week to increase its capacity in the so-called Eastern Triangle between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. But he said a more measured approach is welcomed.

"The implication is that, as long as they stay with it, which is always the challenge for an industry that seems to be trying to change itself, then it's going to show up in better multiples over time," he said. "If you think of the rail industry, it is considered one of the most disciplined industries out there, which wasn't always the case."

Saretsky said WestJet has yet to make a decision on whether to go bigger or smaller as it looks to diversify its fleet over the next decade. In the meantime, he expects its recently announced partnerships with Delta Air Lines and American Airlines to help fill its planes, tap into the $2.5-billion transborder market, and to expand into new U.S. markets.

Its partnerships with other international carriers, such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air France/ KLM, and China Airlines, will help it fill its planes as well as it continues to look for new partners in other regions, including the Middle East, South America, and Australia, he said.
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Old February 11th, 2011, 10:54 PM   #1043
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Article: http://www.aviation.ca/content/view/9542/117/

AIR CANADA ADDS NEARLY HALF-A-MILLION SEATS TO AND FROM TORONTO WITH ITS SUMMER 2011 SCHEDULE

Written by Air Canada
Friday, 11 February 2011
MONTREAL - Air Canada announced today that through its continuing international expansion strategy it will add for this summer 450,000 more seats than summer 2010 to and from its Toronto hub, including new daily service to four major international destinations. The expansion is part of a system-wide capacity increase for summer 2011 that will result in additional international, transborder and domestic flying.

"Air Canada is expanding its international, transborder and domestic services this summer, with much of that growth occurring in our Toronto hub. Following the success of new route additions last year we are enhancing our schedule and adding 450,000 more seats than last summer, primarily by making flights to Copenhagen, Madrid, Dublin and Santiago daily, doubling the number of flights to Barcelona to six a week, and adding a fourth weekly frequency to Athens," said Ben Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Canada. "This growth comes on top of 680,000 seats we added to and from Toronto in 2010. As the world's most multi-cultural city, Toronto by itself generates and attracts a great deal of international traffic. With Lester B. Pearson International Airport's ideal geographic location, easy in-transit customs and connection processes for international travelers, and the fact Air Canada's operations are consolidated in a single terminal featuring comfortable Maple Leaf Lounges, we are poised to make Toronto a leading global aviation hub."

Air Canada received top honours in Business Traveler magazine's Best in Business Travel 2010 annual reader survey, winning five awards: Best Flight Attendants in North America, Best In-flight Services in North America, Best North America Airline for Business Class Service, Best North American Airline for International Travel, and Best Airline Web Site. Readers of Global Travel magazine voted Air Canada Best Airline in North America, for the sixth consecutive year in their 2010 reader survey. Air Canada was named Best Airline North America in a worldwide survey of more than 17 million air travelers conducted by independent research firm Skytrax for its 2010 World Airline Awards. Air Canada was named Canada's Preferred Airline by frequent business travellers in the 2010 Ipsos Reid Business Traveller Survey.

Air Canada is Canada's largest domestic and international full-service airline providing scheduled and charter air transportation for passengers and cargo from 60 communities large and small across Canada to more than 175 destinations on five continents. Canada's flag carrier is the 15th largest commercial airline in the world and serves 31 million customers annually. Air Canada is a founding member of Star Alliance, the world's most comprehensive air transportation network serving 1,172 airports in 181 countries. Air Canada customers can collect Aeroplan miles for future rewards through Canada's leading loyalty program, and Top Tier members enjoy reciprocal frequent flyer benefits including lounge and priority services.
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Old February 19th, 2011, 08:14 AM   #1044
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A look at some of the fees and taxes airline passengers in Canada already pay
18 February 2011
The Canadian Press

TORONTO - A 2012 U.S. federal draft budget outlines a proposal to charge a $5.50 fee for every Canadian entering the U.S. by air or sea. Here are some air travel fees and taxes that passengers already face.

Fees included in the tax portion of an airline ticket:

- Fuel surcharges (vary by destination);

- Surcharge to cover NAV Canada services, $7.50 each way for cross-border flights, variable for domestic flights;

- Insurance Surcharge, $3 each way within Canada;

- Air Travellers Security Charge, $7.12 each way within Canada, $8 each way for cross-border travel.

Airport improvement fees vary by location, but range from $5 to $40. Most Canadian airport fees are included in the ticket price.

A peak travel premium is sometimes added when travelling to certain destinations at specific peak travel times; details vary. Federal, harmonized or provincial sales taxes apply as necessary.

For travel to and from the United States, the following taxes and fees may be added:

- U.S. International Tax;

- U.S. INS Fee;

- Passenger Facility Charge (up to US$4.50 per passenger);

- U.S. September 11 Security Fee;

- U.S. Transportation Tax, and U.S Department of Agriculture APHIS Fee (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service).

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration charges ``overflight'' fees for all flights that fly in U.S. air space but take off or land elsewhere. There are two types of overflight fees:

- Enroute: $33.72 per 100 nautical miles (nm), Great Circle Distance (GCD), from point of entry into to point of exit from U.S.-controlled airspace,

- Oceanic: $15.94 per 100 nautical miles, Great Circle Distance.

Baggage fees vary from among airlines and are influenced by type of baggage, class of travel and destination. Some common baggage fees:

- Air Canada (economy to the U.S.): 1 bag checked for free, $30 per direction for each additional bag. Within Canada, to Mexico and the Caribbean, $20 per direction for each extra bag. To Europe, $50 per direction for each extra bag.

- WestJet, most destinations: $20 for a second bag, $50 for third and fourth bag.

A single adult flying one-way from Vancouver to Los Angeles can expect to pay $694 in basic air fair before tax, according to Air Canada. Once taxes, surcharges and fees have been factored in, the price jumps another $100.10 for a total of $794.10.
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Old February 19th, 2011, 07:05 PM   #1045
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Air Canada, unions on different paths
Carrier prefers performance-based incentives, while unions want to use contract negotiations to make up for lost wages

16 February 2011
The Globe and Mail

Air Canada is forecasting that its employees will reap $2,125 each in extra compensation for 2010 after the airline met an array of financial and operating targets. But the pay-for-performance system clashes with union desires for sharp jumps in base wages.

Management is striving to instill a corporate culture that rewards workers for flights arriving on time, friendly customer service and company profitability. As contracts with its five unions near expiry, however, labour leaders say they're determined to make up for years of wage sacrifices and workplace concessions.

While a new program to issue $500 worth of Air Canada shares to each employee is being billed as a sound way to help engage the work force, union leaders said staff would rather see base wages grow.

The differing priorities highlight the challenges ahead in contract talks as Air Canada seeks to continue on the path to financial recovery, less than two years after a cash crunch nearly forced it to seek bankruptcy protection. Last week, the Montreal-based carrier announced that it posted a $107-million profit last year – its first annual profit since 2007.

“Our members have done their part to help Air Canada get back to making a profit. Are they looking for increases in wages and benefits? You bet they are,” said Dave Ritchie, general vice-president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW).

Leslie Dias, national representative for the Canadian Auto Workers union, said her members make an average of $24.58 an hour, only 4.5 per cent more than they did in 2003, so the “bonuses” for 2010 don't replace wages that have risen at less than half the inflation rate. She said employees are working harder than ever, awaiting recognition not only for having their paycheques frozen over past two years, but also for enduring wage cuts from 2003 to 2005. (In April, 2003, Air Canada entered 18 months of bankruptcy protection.)

Officials from the CAW, which represents 3,800 airport customer service agents and call-centre staff, met last Friday with management representatives to kick off negotiations. The two sides are to reconvene next Monday.

When Calin Rovinescu took over as Air Canada's chief executive officer in April, 2009, he acknowledged that it would take time to change the corporate culture at the airline. Last week, he reiterated the importance of rewarding a productive work force.

“It is my desire to build a focused, performance-driven culture. In 2010, we delivered on all of our priorities we set for the company, and we will both reward and celebrate this so we can build on our successes in the years ahead,” Mr. Rovinescu told analysts on a conference call.

On top of wages negotiated in labour contracts, the airline's employees are garnering about $55-million in other remuneration pegged to 2010's performance, or $2,125 for each full-time worker, according to Air Canada.

At WestJet Airlines Ltd., which has a non-unionized work force, more than 84 per cent of employees own shares in the Calgary-based carrier. Air Canada employees have tended to avoidstock ownership, but last week the airline announced that it will soon grant $500 worth of shares to each eligible employee worldwide, in a $14-million payout. “Half of these shares will vest immediately and the other half will vest in February, 2014,” Air Canada said in a statement.

As well, in a “special incentive,” $500 in cash will be awarded to each member of the carrier's Canadian defined-benefit pension plan. “The award is being made pursuant to the 2009 pension funding and other arrangements as a result of the company achieving certain financial targets in 2010. This award is being made at a cost of $13-million to Air Canada,” the airline said.

About $1,125 is flowing to each eligible employee in a $28-million “sharing our success” program that rewards employees for meeting certain operational and customer service targets, notably on-time performance of scheduled flights and favourable passenger satisfaction surveys. Workers are eligible to receive $75 a month for achieving on-time performance targets and another $75 a month for meeting consumer-oriented goals.

“In 2010, the company contributed $243-million to its pension plans. Moreover, based on the close of markets on Feb. 10, 2011, the 17.6 million shares granted to the unions for the pension fund in 2009 are now worth about $60-million,” Air Canada added.

The CAW's Ms. Dias said union leaders are bracing themselves for a long set of talks over the next collective agreement. “We plan to meet for an extended period of time if we're making progress,” she said.

The CAW's contract expires Feb. 28. Collective agreements expire March 31 at the IAMAW, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Air Canada Pilots Association and the Canadian Airline Dispatchers Association.
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Old February 21st, 2011, 06:29 PM   #1046
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Old February 27th, 2011, 05:20 PM   #1047
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Tax ruling in Europe hits Aeroplan
The Canadian Press
26 February 2011

MONTREAL - Costs related to an unfavourable European tax ruling contributed to an $11 million fourth-quarter loss for Groupe Aeroplan, the former Air Canada subsidiary that runs loyalty-points programs for other companies.

The loss amounted to seven cents per share and contrasted with a year-earlier profit of $20.5 million or 10 cents per share.

Despite the tax ruling, which was the culmination of a multi-year dispute, chief executive Rupert Duchesne said Friday the company performed well in 2011 and is positioned this year to grow globally.

"It truly has been a rewarding year for Groupe Aeroplan," Duchesne told analysts during a conference call to discuss the financial results.

"Each of our businesses has shown strong growth and excluding the impact of the adverse VAT (value-added tax) judgment, we've achieved our financial objectives for the year."

The Montreal-based company said the quarter's loss included a $3.8 million expense related to a court decision against Loyalty Management Group, acquired by Aeroplan in December 2007.

The litigation between the U.K. tax authorities and Loyalty Management Group since 2003 was related to the way value-added tax remittances were calculated by the acquired company.

Duchesne said that Aeroplan expects to mitigate the negative impact of the ruling by the end of 2011.

Revenue was up year over year, rising to $607.8 million from $424.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2009.
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Old March 1st, 2011, 03:50 PM   #1048
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WestJet signs deal with American linking routes
The Canadian Press
1 March 2011

CALGARY -- WestJet has inked a pact with American Airlines that will allow both companies to provide connecting service on each other's flights to select cities.

The Calgary-based airline said Monday that under the code-sharing agreement, it will be able to offer its customers connecting flights on American or American Eagle flights from Canada to Chicago and Boston. The airline said it expects to be able to add other cities under the agreement with American in the "near future."

"These initial routes should immediately enhance our reach and value proposition to business and corporate travellers, particularly in Central Canada," Hugh Dunleavy, executive vice-president of strategy and planning, said in a release.

Meanwhile, American Airlines will now have connecting services to as many as 20 Canadian cities that it does not already serve.

"Our code share with WestJet will further expand our North American network and provide our customers seamless connections to and from cities throughout Canada," said Virasb Vahidi, American's chief commercial officer.

"Canada has become an ever more important business and leisure destination for travellers from the U.S."

Financial details of the agreement, which requires regulatory approvals, were not disclosed.
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Old March 2nd, 2011, 06:42 PM   #1049
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Old March 3rd, 2011, 07:14 PM   #1050
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WestJet planes slightly fuller in February

March 3 (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines said it flew more passengers in February versus a year earlier, especially on transborder and international routes.

Canada's second-biggest airline's load factor -- the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers -- rose to 83.6 percent last month from 82.5 percent in February, 2010.

The low-cost airline said revenue passenger miles, or traffic, rose 12.2 percent to 1.36 billion, year-over-year, and capacity, measured in available seat miles, was up 10.7 percent to 1.63 billion, over the same period.

WestJet, which entered a code-share agreement with American Airlines early this week, said overall consumer demand has been strong and business bookings continue to show strength, moving forward in 2011.

Calgary-based WestJet shares had closed at C$15.45 on Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
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Old March 6th, 2011, 04:31 PM   #1051
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Air Canada flies lesser passengers in Feb

March 4 (Reuters) - Canada's biggest airline Air Canada said passenger levels for February dipped, adding last year its planes were fuller due to the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

On Thursday, WestJet Airlines Ltd , the nation's No.2 airlines, said it flew more passengers in February.

Air Canada said load factor fell 2.5 percentage points to 75.9. System traffic rose 3.1 percent on a system-wide capacity increase of 7.1 percent, the company said.

"We experienced continued traffic increases in the key transborder and Pacific markets and overall traffic growth system-wide," Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu said.

Shares of Air Canada closed at C$2.83 on Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
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Old March 10th, 2011, 07:18 PM   #1052
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Old March 15th, 2011, 03:36 PM   #1053
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Air Canada sales agent union asks for conciliator

VANCOUVER, March 14 (Reuters) - The union representing 3,800 customer service and sales agents at Air Canada said on Monday it has asked the federal government to appoint a conciliator as "little progress" has been made in month-long labor talks.

Talks between the Canadian Auto Workers union and Canada's biggest airline have, however, "not broken down" and will continue, union spokesman Darryl Bink said.

The federal labor minister will appoint a conciliation officer, who will lead a conciliation process for up to 60 days, followed by 20 days of mediation, the CAW said in a statement.

Air Canada could not immediately be reached for comment.

The agents' contract expired on Feb. 28, the first of five Air Canada labor agreements, including those of pilots, mechanics and flight attendants, that expire by April 1. The market is closely watching negotiations as any strikes could derail fragile recovery at the airline.

Industry analysts have said they expect that unions, emboldened by Air Canada's stronger financial position, will push aggressively for better wages and benefits after they accepted status quo contracts 21 months ago to keep the carrier out of bankruptcy protection.
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Old March 18th, 2011, 12:37 PM   #1054
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Air Canada cuts routes on fuel price spike

TORONTO, March 17 (Reuters) - Air Canada , the nation's largest carrier, said late on Wednesday it is suspending unprofitable routes and cutting the frequency of others as it wrestles with high fuel prices.

The company, which earlier this month reported a lower load factor for February, said that effective May 1 it would suspend its Ottawa-Thunder Bay, Ottawa-Washington Dulles, Montreal-Washington Dulles, Calgary-Chicago, Calgary-San Francisco and Calgary-London, Ontario routes.

It said the routes were no longer profitable in the current high fuel price environment.

The airline also reduced its forecast for system capacity growth from the previous target of between 5.5 percent and 6.5 percent over 2010.

"In response to higher fuel prices, Air Canada now expects 2011 system wide capacity growth of 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent versus 2010," the airline said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The company said it would continue to adjust fares and fuel surcharges in response to market conditions and make adjustments to capacity as required.

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Old March 19th, 2011, 05:41 AM   #1055
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Air Canada, pilots reach tentative agreement

CALGARY, Alberta, March 18 (Reuters) - Air Canada , agreed to a tentative labor contract with its pilots on Friday, the first such deal the country's largest airline has reached this year as it engages in contract talks with unions representing 22,000 employees altogether.

Terms of the agreement weren't released.

The deal between the airline and the Air Canada Pilots Association must be approved by the association's governing council, which will decide if it should be put to Air Canada's more than 3,000 unionized pilots for a ratification vote.

The talks with the pilots were the first in a round of five contract negotiations between Air Canada and its employees, including sales agents, mechanics, dispatchers and flight attendants. The market is closely watching negotiations as any strikes could disrupt the airline's fragile recovery.

Industry analysts have said they expect that the unions, emboldened by Air Canada's stronger financial position, will push aggressively for better wages and benefits after they accepted status quo contracts 21 months ago to keep the carrier out of bankruptcy protection.

Air Canada's class B shares rose 11 Canadian cents to C$2.71 on Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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Old March 22nd, 2011, 08:12 AM   #1056
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Canadian Airline Profits Seen Losing Altitude In 2011: Report
22 March 2011

TORONTO (Dow Jones)--Canada's airline industry is unlikely to sustain last year's record profit levels as labor, fuel and investment costs rise steeply, the Conference Board of Canada said.

When the recession ended, revenues recovered faster than costs, bolstering pretax profits to a record C$1.24 billion (US$1.26 billion) last year, it said in its Winter 2011 report, released Monday. In 2011, it expects pretax profits to fall 37% to C$785 million and remain in the C$700 million to C$800 million range for the next three years as costs rise and revenues moderate.

"Cost-control measures implemented during the recession helped airline profits take off when sales started improving in 2010," said Maxim Armstrong, an economist at the Ottawa-based Conference Board. "With costs expected to catch up with revenues, these profit levels won't be sustainable. Still, profits will remain high by historical standards."

It forecasts the industry's total costs to grow by an average of 6.5% a year between 2011 and 2014, driven primarily by material costs as airlines push ahead with investment that they delayed during the recession.

With fuel accounting for more than one-quarter of airlines' operating costs, oil prices will push material prices higher even as airlines progressively improve the fuel efficiency of their fleets, the Conference Board said.

Throughout the recession, the airlines slashed their workforces and scaled back wages. In 2010, labor costs fell by 17.5% compared to 2009.

Labor costs are expected to pick up in 2011, as the industry rehired massively in late 2010 to meet recovering demand for air travel.

According to the Conference Board, the number of passengers at Canada's airports rose to 105 million last year, slightly above the pre-recession level, mostly from international flights, which garner higher prices. The number of domestic passengers rose by just 1.6% and remains below pre-recession levels, it said.

Revenues are expected to rise 5.9% in 2011 and 6.3% a year on average through 2015, driven in part by baby boomers entering their prime travel years and a resumption in healthy income growth, which will allow more people to fly, the Conference Board forecasts.

"Increasing air travel from overseas sources, particularly Asia, will also be a key support for the industry," it said.

Though airlines cut fares by an average of 7.5% during the financial crisis and recession, by the fourth quarter of last year, airfares had risen 3% from their lows.

Prices are expected to rise about 1.8% on average through 2015, just below the expected 2.1% pace of inflation, the report said.

Canada's strong dollar has mixed effects for the air transportation industry.

The high exchange rate makes Canadian destinations relatively more expensive for visitors from the U.S., which is by far the biggest source of foreign visitors. It's "a key deterrent" to international tourism demand, the report said.

But it also makes travelling more affordable for Canadians, increasing demand for overseas travel.

The high loonie also helps mitigate U.S.-dollar costs, such as oil and aircraft.

The Canadian dollar, high oil prices, and intense competition will limit the Canadian airline industry's ability to increase prices, especially for foreign customers.

"The industry will have to wait several years before prices surpass their pre-recession peaks," it said.
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Old March 27th, 2011, 08:19 AM   #1057
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IN for a dogfight
Veteran air exec leading Air Canada's new Express airline in fight with Porter

26 March 2011
National Post

After 30 years in the Canadian aviation industry, Russell Payson, is preparing for battle once again as Air Canada's hired gun in its fight against Porter Airlines Inc.

Mr. Payson's Sky Regional Airlines Inc. surprised the industry last October by winning a high-profile contract to operate the new "Air Canada Express" service from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport starting May 1.

Most industry observers at the time expected the contract to go to Air Canada's long-time regional affiliate, Jazz Air Income Fund, now known as Chorus Aviation Inc.

But knowing the admirable reputation Mr. Payson has earned for himself over the past three decades in the Canadian aviation industry makes the win a little less surprising.

It has been more than four years since Mr. Payson sold his interest in Skyservice Airlines, and he said in an interview this week he is champing at the bit for another opportunity to build an airline from scratch, and to get Sky Regional airborne this spring.

Air Canada's new service from the Island airport was originally slated to launch in February. But a hold-up negotiating terminal space pushed it out to May. In the interim, Mr. Payson said he has been training staff and putting the finishing touches on the service he and Air Canada will offer, putting an end to Porter Airlines' five year monopoly there.

"All of our staff is really up for this because it has become a personal pride issue for us," Mr. Payson said. "Everybody is pretty hyped up on this."

Mr. Payson's history in Canadian aviation dates back to the launch of his air ambulance and executive jet business in 1986 under the Skyservice brand. In addition to maintaining a fleet of 60 business aircraft for well-heeled individuals and corporations, he now overseas a successful maintenance business for regional and business jets and turboprop aircraft.

He was also behind the launch of Skyservice Airlines in 1994,whichquicklybecameone of the largest charter airlines in the country, and garnered him reputation for running a tight ship. He managed to negotiate a graceful exit from Skyservice Airlines in 2007 when it was purchased by Vancouver-based Gibralt Capital Corp.

The charter airline then fell into bankruptcy last year well after his departure.

But, like most in the industry itself, Mr. Payson's path has not been without a few mishaps along the way, noted Rick Erickson, an aviation consultant who heads Calgary-based RP Erickson & Associates. The failed launch in 2001 of Roots Air, a luxury airline that lasted just 39 days before it folded, figures high on the list, he said.

That doesn't detract from the fact that Mr. Payson is a heavy hitter in the aviation sector with a great deal of respect from his peers. "He had some hiccups, Roots Air being at the top of the list. But there were some other players who had egg on their face over that too," Mr. Erickson said. "In the meantime, he has run a steadyas-it goes business, and, obviously, Air Canada has a great deal of confidence in him, too."

Prior to the launch of Sky Regional, Mr. Payson had been focusing his attention on running his air ambulance business and Skyservice Business Aviation, which has bases in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal, where Sky Regional will also co-locate.

He credits Skyservice maintenance facilities in Montreal, and his track record for maintaining Bombardier Q400s (which Air Canada will use on the Island) dating back to the aircraft's launch, for giving him a leg up in the competition to win the Toronto Island contract. "I would say in any airline operations, maintenance is the toughest component," he said.

Sky Regional had considered basing itself and its maintenance facilities on Toronto Island alongside Porter, but found the airport there lacking in the necessary space.

"Most of the maintenance will be done in Montreal, and the Island will basically be a turnaround station," he said.

As the most important market for the coveted Canadian business traveller, the so-called Eastern Triangle between Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, is a priority for all three of the country's largest airlines.

Porter Airlines has raised expectations by offering its customers free services like beer, wine and snacks on its flights, refreshments and wireless Internet in its complimentary lounge, and a shuttle service from the nearby Fairmont Royal York to the airport.

WestJet Airlines Ltd., which operates only from Pearson International, has also been trying to court corporate travellers in the corridor and will implement a series of business-friendly measures in May, from free beer and wine on its flights to allowing passengers to change their flights without penalty for same-day travel.

Air Canada will match all of these amenities, including sharing Porter's shuttle service and lounge access at the Island. But it will be raising the bar, so to speak.

"We're offering a full bar service [on our flights], which is over and above what our competitors are doing," said Ben Smith, Air Canada chief commercial officer.

The airline intends to leverage its more robust frequent flyer program, Aeroplan, and its strong corporate programs for the new service, Mr. Smith said. But will also be able to leverage its vast network of flights in Montreal to enable its customers to transfer to and from other destinations, both domestically and abroad.

"We will have an equivalent ground product on the Island, and a superior product in Montreal."

Mr. Smith said he would like to see Air Canada eventually increase its presence on the Island, including flying to Ottawa -and, through its codeshare partner United Airlines, New York.

The most important component in making Air Canada's new service on the Island a success will be to have an experienced operator on board.

"Russ Payson, he's a class act," Mr. Smith said. "He's a legend in the Canadian aviation industry. We've known him for well over a decade, but we just haven't been able to find the right deal to work with him on until now."

Mr. Payson said he expected flying a scheduled service between Montreal and Toronto on behalf of Air Canada would be a departure from the work he did running a charter airline. But he said he was excited by the challenge. He also said he has been impressed with the management team at Air Canada.

Admittedly, the Air Canada Express service between Billy Bishop and Montreal will be somewhat small in scale for the time being. It will consist of only 15 flights a day using five leased aircraft that were picked up during the bankruptcy proceedings of Frontier Airlines, and were operated by its subsidiary Lynx Aviation.

On average, the planes are only two years old and have been sitting outside of Skyservice's headquarters at Pearson for months painted with the Air Canada Express logo awaiting the launch of the new service.

But Mr. Payson said he would be ready to expand the fleet whenever Air Canada is, and he would even consider bidding for any of additional flying contracts at Air Canada if the opportunity arose. In the meantime, however, he says he is singularly focused on developing the best product he can at the Island.

"One of the things I have learned is, to grow a proper, quality airline, you want to grow at a reasonably sustainable speed," he said. "Our focus right now is to fulfill the requirements of this project successfully, and what we want to come out with is with an airline that is top-notch."
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Old March 30th, 2011, 12:40 PM   #1058
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American Airlines and WestJet begin selling each other's flights under code-sharing agreement
30 March 2011

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - American Airlines and Canada's WestJet Airlines have begun selling seats on each other's flights across the U.S.-Canada border.

Under the so-called code-sharing agreement that took effect Tuesday, American put its "AA" code on some connecting flights operated by WestJet, making them appear to be American flights.

The deal will eventually let AMR Corp.'s American sell seats on WestJet flights to nearly 20 Canadian cities not served by American, starting with flights from Montreal to Winnipeg and Toronto to Edmonton.

WestJet will put its "WS" code on American flights from Toronto to Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles and plans to add other U.S. cities.

Such arrangements are common in the airline industry. They let airlines offer their customers a greater selection of flights without adding planes or employees. For travelers, it's as if their entire itinerary is on one airline instead of two, making connections easier.

Members of frequent-flier programs at American and WestJet will earn miles or rewards on code-sharing flights operated by the other airline, the companies said.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 10:37 PM   #1059
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Air Canada board backs plan for shareholder rights
The Canadian Press
1 April 2011

MONTREAL -- Air Canada says its board has adopted a shareholder rights plan agreement to ensure the fair treatment of all stockholders in the case of a takeover bid.

The country's largest airline said the plan isn't in response to any proposal or intention to acquire control of the carrier, nor is it aware of any such effort.

The plan comes into effect immediately but must be ratified by shareholders at Air Canada's next annual meeting on May 5. It will expire after the annual meeting in 2014, unless terminated early.

The airline said the plan has been designed to give the board and shareholders more time to consider any takeover bid and to give the board more time to possibly pursue more lucrative alternatives.

Under the plan, one right will be issued to each Class A and Class B share. The rights would become exercisable only when a person or group acquires or announces its intention to buy 20 per cent or more of the outstanding shares in each class without approval of the board.

According to Thomson Reuters, the top 31 owners of Air Canada control 38 per cent of the airline's shares. ACE Aviation Holdings is the largest shareholder with 31 million shares or 11 per cent.
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Old April 5th, 2011, 05:56 PM   #1060
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