Air Canada direct to Heathrow getting off to a slow start

Barb
Barb Sweet
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

President Calin Rovinescu addresses St. John's Board of Trade

Air Canada's direct flight to London has been slow filling up with passengers, warned Air Canada president and CEO Calin Rovinescu Wednesday.

It resumed last week.

"It's been slower than we want it to be," he told The Telegram following his speech to the St. John's Board of Trade.

Air Canada president and CEO Calin Rovinescu speaks to members of the St. John's Board of Trade Wednesday at the Holiday Inn. - Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Air Canada's direct flight to London has been slow filling up with passengers, warned Air Canada president and CEO Calin Rovinescu Wednesday.

It resumed last week.

"It's been slower than we want it to be," he told The Telegram following his speech to the St. John's Board of Trade.

"Given this service right now has been announced on a seasonal basis only, we need it to ramp up quickly. So this is something I wanted to pass as a strong message. ... It's not an ultimatum or anything like that, but we need to have the route sufficiently profitable for it to make sense."

The daily direct flight to London's Heathrow was reinstated this year as a trial during the summer season - May to September.

It was announced during fanfare at the St. John's airport a week before Christmas.

St. John's had been without a direct transatlantic link since 2007, when U.K.-based Astraeus cancelled its flight to London Gatwick, and Air Canada again axed seasonal service to London Heathrow.

Air Canada had originally cancelled the route in 2006, but briefly put it back online when Astraeus came on the scene.

Go Travel South/Go Travel Flights, a company that was supposed to begin direct flights from St. John's to Gatwick Airport in London beginning in June shut down in February.

"We're certainly giving it the season. We are committed to the season," Rovinescu said after his speech.

"I feel it is a very vibrant business community that wants access to Europe through London and I would like to see that as well. But it has to make sense."

That means the flights must be full in both directions to work.

He is the first Air Canada president to make a speech to the board of trade, and he rushed off soon after Wednesday to make a flight, although he was around Tuesday night to get Screeched in.

Rovinescu said on his way in to the speech he was asked about the prospects of making the service year round. He also met with Business Minister Ross Wiseman.

He told The Telegram making the direct flight all year round is a challenge, but not impossible.

"It requires some real thinking as to whether or not it can attract the traffic from beyond just the St. John's area. You have to be able to have a broader catchment area, which is a bit more challenging when you are dealing with Atlantic Canada, given the catchment would be in the middle of the Atlantic ocean," he said, suggesting there will have to be a public-private partnership to handle details like promotion and advertising.

"So it is a challenge. I think it can be done. That's why I was passing the message as clearly as I was today."

He remarked during his speech on the strength of the economy here. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only place that didn't see Air Canada cut service due to the recession in 2009. Rather it expanded service in this province.

Rovinescu, appointed a year ago, acknowledged to reporters that people in this province often feel left out when it comes to airline service.

"The left-out feature is one of the reasons I wanted to come today to make folks understand not only is this community not left out, it's an integral part of our operation," he said.

Rovinescu told the board of trade that despite "urban legend," Air Canada is considered a leader in the airline industry when it comes to service.

It was ranked best airline in North America by research firm Skytrax, based on a survey of 17 million air travellers from 100 different countries.

Meanwhile, Air Canada vice-president of airports, Nick Careen, told reporters that St. John's will see a big improvement with air service if the airport gets an instrument landing system.

The aid - which enables landing in fog conditions - would give Air Canada a five to six per cent increase in flight completions.

"There's definitely a deep desire in the airline community and from the airport authority itself that a Category 3 instrument landing system for the main runway in St. John's is an absolute requirement," Careen said.

About 92 per cent of Air Canada's flights are currently completed to St. John's.

The instrument landing system would boost that to about 98 per cent.

Careen said the system would have alleviated the havoc fog played on flights prior to the recent Junos.

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Air Canada, St. John's Board, The Telegram London Heathrow Gatwick Airport Skytrax

Geographic location: St. John's, London, Heathrow Europe Atlantic Canada Newfoundland and Labrador North America

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • terry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Airfares are not priced so an airline starts making money when the aircraft is 80% full.Making money on a route starts with far less seats being sold..St.John's lost it's transatlantic flight as a result of collective lobbying by the Halifax airport Authority,Canada Customs,Nova Scotia polititions,and Air Canada not wanting to interupt their flight to and from Heathrow and inconvienience passengers from NS.Not enough lobbying was done by the parties involved from NL.That flight will be gone come this fall.The NS flight to London needs passengers and freight from NL to make it viable.As for weather,NS has just as much bad weather as NL and has alot of diverted flights.Maybe Westjet should start a flight from St.John's to London.

  • G
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    I WONDER WHY - I'D ONLY FLY ON THAT AIRLINE IF IT WAS NEAR FREE !!!!!!

  • THE ALL KNOWING
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    MAYBE THE OVERSEAS FLIGHTS HAVE BEEN A TAD LONG DUE TO FLYING OVER ICELAND OR LABRADOR. OR MAYBE OVERSEAS AIRSPACE IS CLOSED AND IS CAUSING HEADACHES AIR CANADA HAS FAILED TO DEAL WITH. br AIR CANADA OVERSEAS SERVICE IS CRAP AND THE STAR ALLIANCE IS A JOKE. TRY FINDING YOUR CONNECTION ON A WEEKEND WITH AIR CANADA OVERSEAS DUE TO THE TIME DIFFERENCE?? FORGET IT!! br 40+ HOURS OR LESS TO GET TO WHERE YOU WANT TO GET??!

  • Wayne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    About a month ago I booked a business trip to the UK for mid June. I looked at traveling on several different days. each flight I looked at had only a few seats left ....A MONTH AGO. br br A slow start ??? more likely just the opening comments for the announcement for removing the direct flight later on.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    I believe that Air Canada maybe getting a small lesson in customer satisfaction. No matter what size business you may operate anyone will tell you that you have to have customer satisfaction. You BUILD customer loyalty not DEMAND it. br br You cannot simply alienate your customer base by dropping the route whenever it is convenient, and put it back whenever you feel threatened by the competition.

  • Wayne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    To A.Hastings.....there used to be a charter service running from the UK to the HVR. I wonder why it stopped? br br The reason the flight originates in St. John's is that is where the majority of the business travelers come from and about 80% of the population is with 100km

  • but of COURSE
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Mr. Rovinescu, with all due respect, you HAVE to expect it to be slow at first. Air Canada has yanked away this service so many times you HAVE to understand that people are hesitant to book in advance!! Give people time to gain confidence and things will all work out they way you want them to. (Well, that and stop charging astronomical fees to bring an extra piece of luggage... that might help as well..)

  • A. Hastings
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Wouldn't it make more sense to fly out of Deer Lake or Stepheville to accomodate the residents of Humber Valley Resort? Not quite sure there is a market in St. John for overseas flights.

  • Cornergirl
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    So they sell a limited number of seats at the lower price- very few obviously & then expect the consumer to buy the higher priced seats. When those higher priced seats don't sell & the plane leaves less than half full they say it's a slow start.- yeah right. If they really wanted to keep the service they'd be selling off the seats at discounts.

  • terry
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Airfares are not priced so an airline starts making money when the aircraft is 80% full.Making money on a route starts with far less seats being sold..St.John's lost it's transatlantic flight as a result of collective lobbying by the Halifax airport Authority,Canada Customs,Nova Scotia polititions,and Air Canada not wanting to interupt their flight to and from Heathrow and inconvienience passengers from NS.Not enough lobbying was done by the parties involved from NL.That flight will be gone come this fall.The NS flight to London needs passengers and freight from NL to make it viable.As for weather,NS has just as much bad weather as NL and has alot of diverted flights.Maybe Westjet should start a flight from St.John's to London.

  • G
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    I WONDER WHY - I'D ONLY FLY ON THAT AIRLINE IF IT WAS NEAR FREE !!!!!!

  • THE ALL KNOWING
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    MAYBE THE OVERSEAS FLIGHTS HAVE BEEN A TAD LONG DUE TO FLYING OVER ICELAND OR LABRADOR. OR MAYBE OVERSEAS AIRSPACE IS CLOSED AND IS CAUSING HEADACHES AIR CANADA HAS FAILED TO DEAL WITH. br AIR CANADA OVERSEAS SERVICE IS CRAP AND THE STAR ALLIANCE IS A JOKE. TRY FINDING YOUR CONNECTION ON A WEEKEND WITH AIR CANADA OVERSEAS DUE TO THE TIME DIFFERENCE?? FORGET IT!! br 40+ HOURS OR LESS TO GET TO WHERE YOU WANT TO GET??!

  • Wayne
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    About a month ago I booked a business trip to the UK for mid June. I looked at traveling on several different days. each flight I looked at had only a few seats left ....A MONTH AGO. br br A slow start ??? more likely just the opening comments for the announcement for removing the direct flight later on.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    I believe that Air Canada maybe getting a small lesson in customer satisfaction. No matter what size business you may operate anyone will tell you that you have to have customer satisfaction. You BUILD customer loyalty not DEMAND it. br br You cannot simply alienate your customer base by dropping the route whenever it is convenient, and put it back whenever you feel threatened by the competition.

  • Wayne
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    To A.Hastings.....there used to be a charter service running from the UK to the HVR. I wonder why it stopped? br br The reason the flight originates in St. John's is that is where the majority of the business travelers come from and about 80% of the population is with 100km

  • but of COURSE
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Mr. Rovinescu, with all due respect, you HAVE to expect it to be slow at first. Air Canada has yanked away this service so many times you HAVE to understand that people are hesitant to book in advance!! Give people time to gain confidence and things will all work out they way you want them to. (Well, that and stop charging astronomical fees to bring an extra piece of luggage... that might help as well..)

  • A. Hastings
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    Wouldn't it make more sense to fly out of Deer Lake or Stepheville to accomodate the residents of Humber Valley Resort? Not quite sure there is a market in St. John for overseas flights.

  • Cornergirl
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    So they sell a limited number of seats at the lower price- very few obviously & then expect the consumer to buy the higher priced seats. When those higher priced seats don't sell & the plane leaves less than half full they say it's a slow start.- yeah right. If they really wanted to keep the service they'd be selling off the seats at discounts.