Plans in the works for a restructuring of Transat's distribution network
03-01-2012  By: AndrĂ© Desiront
Allen B. Graham, president, Transat Canada
What are new Transat president Allen B. Graham’s priorities? asked him during an informal meeting and he said that chief among his priorities is the restructuring of the distribution network.

You took over responsibility for all of Transat’s operations in Canada last September. What are your projects for 2012?

One of my major priorities is to restructure the distribution network. We want a sustained presence on the ground and we want to strengthen our ties with our partners: hoteliers and travel agents. To do this we are going to go to trade shows, like FITUR in Madrid, or ITB in Berlin. Personally, I will be more involved. On Feb. 15, I accompanied Yves Lalumière, the president of Transat Distribution Canada, to meet with our members in English Canada. I will also be consulting TDC members in Quebec. I’m also meeting with managers of the agency chains that we work with. I’m meeting many of our hotel partners in sun destinations as well as the tourism ministries for multiple countries.

At the time of the launch of the Europe program last November, you announced that the cabins on your Airbus A330 would be refitted in order to improve the “flight experience” for your passengers. Could you elaborate?

It’s too early: we will deliver the details of the refitting in April. But it isn’t just the “flight experience” that we are going to improve. As Jean-Marc Eustache mentioned in the press conference in September, we intend on differentiating ourselves with all our products. So there will be changes in our hotels; there already have been - we added condos in certain destinations for four- to 10-night stays typically. We’ve been working alongside our hotel partners in multiple aspects in order to improve the “customer experience.”

You are associated with the Spanish hotel group H10. Do you have any other projects in development in the hotel sector?

We hold interests in three hotels within the H10 chain with a fourth to come soon, opening in Varadero at the end of 2012. We are considering other development avenues on that side of things, but there is nothing confirmed at this time.

You have been, up to this point, an aviation specialist, especially as the president of Air Transat. It’s surprising to find you now at the head of the biggest tour operator in Canada...

Actually, I gained most of my professional experience in the aviation sector. I started as a purser for Air Canada in 1971. I spent 28 years with Air Canada, amongst other things as president of its subsidiary Jazz.  After I left, I was the senior vice president of customer service. After that, I was president of the Royal company, and for the past 12 years I’ve been president of Air Transat, a job I maintain.

If you're asking me why I also became responsible for the wholesaler subsidiaries in Canada and the TDC distribution network, I would say it is because I gained a reputation as an efficient operator. Jean-Marc Eustache is a visionary who defines the major strategic directions for the company. I am an operations guy and I have a reputation for being able to deliver the goods. Of course, those in the tour operator domain are less familiar with me; it’s a new profession for me. But the basic principles of management are the same, whether it’s airlines or tour operators. In every work domain, the qualities that make someone a good manager are leadership and the ability to practice what you preach.

Speaking of Air Transat, besides the upcoming improvements for the “passenger experience,” are there any other changes coming for the fleet?

Currently, the fleet is made up of 23 aircraft; 11 Airbus A310s and 12 Airbus A330s. We are going to gradually replace the Airbus 310s with A330s and Boeing 787s. With regards to the medium-haul, we are going to continue to work with Canjet and their fleet of Boeing 737-800 with 189 seats. Our contract with them runs until May 2014. 

Translated by Zachary-Cy Vanasse