"Together, we have demonstrated how resilient our industry is, and together, we can overcome anything,” said Lisa Pierce, vice-president, Canada and USA sales at Air Canada, addressing guests at an Air Canada-hosted Calgary Stampede party at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel on Friday (July 15).
The event, hosted alongside Tourism Calgary, drew more than 150 guests – comprised of both retail agency and corporate partners – and Pierce’s message to the audience was clear: valued partnerships from all sectors are essential in air travel’s recovery.
"The purpose of the event is to give everyone the opportunity to reconnect in person after a difficult two years and to celebrate the restart to travel. The opportunity for people to talk, engage and come up with the next brilliant idea is sometimes where they can only happen in settings like this,” Pierce told the crowd.
Poised to meet the demand
Amid a set of widely-publicized operational challenges, Air Canada says it is poised to meet the surge in customer demand for travel coming out of the pandemic.
The airline has invested in its network, products and fleet, while transitioning to new passenger services system and departure control systems.
The introduction of A320 narrow-body aircraft and the new A321 XLR aircraft in a few years will help Air Canada meet its goal to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The airline has also rebuilt and reopened Maple Leaf Lounges all over the world, optimized its Aeroplan loyalty program, restored most onboard services and has launched a summer schedule with new and existing routes.
Air Canada & Calgary
"Tourism Calgary has enjoyed a long-standing and valuable relationship with Air Canada for over two decades," said Jeff Hessel, vice-president for marketing, Tourism Calgary.
With a more than $1 billion-dollar investment in the BMO Centre opening in 2024, Calgary will be home to the largest convention centre in Western Canada.
"We rely on the airlift that Air Canada brings to our city and look forward to future routes increasing our international portfolio, supporting our tourism and bringing travellers to experience our city,” Hessel said.
In speaking with other key partners from the evening, Sam Patel, director of Airnets International, a Calgary-based consolidator, mirrored the same sentiment.
"It's nice to see the top personnel from Air Canada come to Calgary to experience the Calgary Stampede and support our local events. The level of service out of Western Canada continues to grow, and we appreciate seeing more direct flights from Air Canada as we get back to the normality of the air business,” said Patel.
Strong demand for leisure
And the demand for leisure travel is strong, outpacing the corporate sector, noted Air Canada Vacations (ACV), which expressed its commitment to supporting its retail partners with new tools and resources.
"After the last two years, we have learned so much, to be better and to do business better. We listen and remain adaptable for our partners to supply them with the necessary tools,” said Ana Paula DeSouza, director of sales at ACV.
Marigold Frontuna, general manager sales, Western Canada, added: "The challenges of yesterday are not the same as the realities of today and what we will face tomorrow. However, we know that the partnerships we have are what will help us get through the volatility of the industry."
Not a smooth ride
Pierce acknowledged that the return to travel has not been smooth and the aviation ecosystem is strained.
"We made the difficult decision to take the pressure off the system and reduced the schedule a bit to ease the congestion, and we are noticing a significant difference in customer traveller experiences,” she said, referring to Air Canada’s announcement last month to cut thousands of flights this July and August.
As aviation continues to face challenges, Pierce reminded the audience to consider why they are in this industry.
"We move people from place to place to do great things. We stay innovative, focus on customer service and have great human compassion above all. No one organization or company can singularly make it successful. We have to work together, and together, we are stronger,” Pierce said.