On July 4, the Bordeaux-Montreal direct line was inaugurated by Air Canada. Beyond Air Canada’s ambitions in Bordeaux, which are certainly relevant to be questioned, the positioning is more complex as it encompasses different players: the Canada Tourist Board “Destination Canada”, an Air Canada airline and Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport. In the context of the free trade agreement with Canada, airlines are considering the business opportunities of this economic partnership. Bordeaux Business met at Intercontinental Bordeaux, Cyrielle Bon, Head of Partnerships at Destination Canada, Timothy Liu, Senior Director of Commercial Strategy and Margaret Skinner, Director Sales at Air Canada.
Canada, a popular destination for Bordeaux
Announced at the end of June 2019, Air Canada’s acquisition of Air Transat is a testament to the Canadian airline’s good economic health. Indeed, Air Transat’s business model operates on a point-to-point strategy, as is the case with Air Canada Rouge, an economic brand developed by Air Canada. In Bordeaux, the aim is to increase the seat supply for the summer season by 32%, which represents about 50,000 seats. Air Canada’s development strategy is based on the Montreal hub and B2B destinations such as Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary. The choice of the Montreal hub was made by considering it as a privileged point of access to the United States, without the need to pass in front of Canadian customs but directly to that of the United States. Indeed, the goal is to switch Bordeaux customers and tourists not only to Montreal and Quebec, which are popular destinations for the French, but also to the other provinces of Canada and North America. The Montreal hub counts about twenty matches. The attraction is already there since in 2018, 200,000 passengers have traveled between the New Aquitaine region and the United States. For Canada, 2018 was a new year of record with a 5% increase in French tourists compared to 2017. This makes France the third largest international market for Canada. The ultimate goal of opening up to Bordeaux is to sustain the offer to Canada but also to develop the offer on intermediate seasons to break the image of arid climates that Canada suffers from.
Bordeaux: a future hub popular with Canadians?
Since Air Canada bases its operating model on a hub and network logic, the New Aquitaine region can benefit from this local development essentially and unfortunately centralized in Paris, France. Indeed, Air Canada’s adaptability to the safety scandal of the aircraft manufacturer Boeing testifies to this attraction of Bordeaux. As a result of the problems experienced by Boeing and its stationary 737 aircraft, Air Canada had to redevelop its offer. Thus, the inauguration of new lines was simply postponed and not deleted. Among them, the line on Bordeaux has thus been maintained: the same is true for the seat offer. Only the frequency has been changed: instead of four times a week, the frequency has increased to three.
In the context of the free trade agreement with Canada dedicated to trade and the economy, CETA is a lever for business opportunities between the two countries. The primary objective is to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers, but also to provide a stable investment framework that is favourable to European and Canadian companies. At a local level, the New Aquitaine region aims to strengthen cooperation between Canada and the EU in terms of standardization and regulation. In this way, the Mérignac Airport has been home to Air Transat since 2006, which also offers a direct line to Montreal. As indicated by Margaret Skinner, the opening of a direct line between Montreal and Bordeaux favoured the arrival of Canadians in Bordeaux. Indeed, they know France more by the following crossing points: Paris, Lyon, Nice… Bordeaux therefore lacks visibility. It would thereby be interesting to insist on cultural and tourist points not delocalisable specific to Bordeaux. For example, with Western Canadian wines represented in the City of Wine, the Okanagan Valley can be an interesting destination to connect with Bordeaux. In addition to their respective rivers, Quebec City and Bordeaux have maintained strong ties since 1962, their year of twinning.
Labeled “Best Airline in North America”, for the eighth time in ten years, Air Canada is banking on Bordeaux to continue its development on the national territory. With 6 million euros of regional economic impact, Bordeaux Mérignac Airport is expanding with 39 additional routes on offer. This dynamism on both sides of the ocean finds a point of convergence with the inauguration of the Bordeaux-Montreal, O Canada direct line!
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