Air Canada’s senior vice-president of Air Canada Express and government relations spoke to business people during an event hosted by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. (NEWS BULLETIN file photo)

Nanaimo a prime market for new plane, Air Canada says

Vice-president previews Airbus A220, praises Nanaimo’s growth in passenger numbers

Canada’s largest airline thinks Nanaimo is the ideal market for brand-new type of aircraft it’s expecting to receive later this year.

Air Canada Rouge is set to launch non-stop seasonal service from Nanaimo to Toronto beginning on July 1 using a 136-seat Airbus A319 configured with premium economy and economy seating.

Beyond that, Nanaimo is the “perfect” market for the Airbus A220, said Ferio Pugliese, senior vice-president of Air Canada Express and government relations, speaking to business people during an event hosted by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

“Very likely, you’ll see this aircraft here,” Pugliese said, adding that the A220 is a good fit for Nanaimo because its speed, range and efficiency allows Air Canada to operate in smaller markets more regularly on a year-round basis.

The Airbus A220 – previously Bombardier C-Series – is a Canadian-developed single-aisle aircraft that is extremely fuel-efficient and has a range of more than 5,000 kilometres. Air Canada has ordered 45 Airbus A220-300s, formerly known as the CS300, and is expecting to take delivery of the aircraft later this year.

Whether Air Canada will make the Nanaimo-Toronto route year-round in the near future is unclear but Pugliese said the airline is impressed with the continued growth of the Nanaimo region.

“To see this market grow into the neighbourhood of 300,000 to 350,000 is remarkable because it certainly wasn’t there five to six years ago,” he said.

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Pugliese said Air Canada has noticed an increase in business and leisure travellers coming through the Harbour City in recent years. He said if the demand continues and the market exists, there is nothing stopping Air Canada from making Nanaimo-Toronto service year-round.

“Load factors have been healthy but what we do know is that once you launch a seasonal service … over time the awareness kicks in and the demand continues to grow,” he said. “There is potential for those to go all year round, but we take it incrementally.”

Although Pugliese couldn’t confirm whether Air Canada would place the Airbus A220 on a Nanaimo route or when that could happen, he said the A220 has far better economics than other aircraft.

“With the right aircraft, the economics get improved which allow you to run it through the year and still get a decent return and that is flexibility the A220 offers,” he said.







nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com 
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