Insolvent Air Canada will shrink as an airline but boost its presence in Montreal, the head of city’s airport corporation said yesterday.
James Cherry, president of Aeroports de Montreal, said Canada’s biggest airline will increase its service in and out of Montreal, even as it puts into place a fleet of tinier planes and realigns to what it calls a “smaller network.”
“They’re looking forward to adding activity here because it actually serves them,” Cherry said of Air Canada.
“We’re actually benefiting. So obviously there’s somebody else losing. I can’t speculate on who that is.”
Cherry said the Montreal carrier will increase its flights in and out of Dorval airport by 17 per cent this summer compared to last year. He said the airline will also offer 10 per cent more seats.
“This is foreseen as a fundamental and permanent change,” he said.
Air Canada official Isabelle Arthur could not confirm Cherry’s information. She said the airline’s overall capacity for Montreal for the 2003 summer is the same as summer 2002.
Nevertheless, the airline’s plan is to increase the number of passengers connecting through Montreal within Canada and to the U.S., Arthur said. The airline has re-introduced direct service from Montreal to Charlottetown, St.John’s and Edmonton. It also plans to increase service to major U.S. business centres like Boston and Philadelphia.
Air Canada’s international offerings from Montreal are another story.
On March 7 and with great fanfare, Air Canada announced new service from Montreal to Rome and Beirut. The two cities overseas are “important markets to serve, particularly for the large Italian and Lebanese communities in Montreal, Bill Bredt, Vice President of Air Canada network and revenue management said at the time.
Since then, the airline dropped Rome because it says not enough people bought tickets. As for Beirut, the federal government Monday ordered Air Canada to suspend service because of what it called “national security issues.”
Cherry said Montreal has “no congestion” which allows Air Canada get planes back in the air faster than it could in Toronto and save money. He estimated Dorval’s airport fees for airlines are one third cheaper than Toronto’s Pearson airport.
Air Canada is headquartered in Montreal and has its main maintenance base here. Toronto remains its main hub.
Last year, Aeroports de Montreal carried 9 million passengers and tallied $200 million in revenue.