"India has been a destination we’ve been interested for a long time in flying non-stop to from Vancouver due to the longstanding clear cultural ties between western Canada and India, and it was a matter of having the right aircraft to operate this route efficiently and profitably."
Kevin Howlett is Air Canada’s Senior Vice President – Regional Markets & Government Relations. Howlett has overall responsibility for the strategic direction of Air Canada’s regional operations and the relationship with current and future regional carriers operating on Air Canada’s behalf. Additionally, he has oversight for all relationships between the airline and federal, provincial and municipal governments, and he also works to strengthen the airline’s North American regional business and community relationships. Based in Vancouver, BC, Howlett is Air Canada’s senior executive in western Canada.
How do you define your journey with Air Canada?
It’s an absolutely phenomenal and exciting business to be in. The best part of this journey is liaising with people and seeing and hearing how Air Canada connects people and business across this country and around the world. We’re also entering an extremely exciting chapter in our business at this time, as we’re strategically expanding to new markets internationally and launching new routes that haven’t been flown previously to six continents. The world is becoming increasingly globalized, and we’ve built our business to be a key player to participate in this. We’re on a journey to becoming a global champion within aviation, to be the very best within our industry.
What is one of the best features of Air Canada?
All of us at Air Canada take immense pride in that our airline is Canada’s flag carrier and is among the 20 largest airlines worldwide. Air Canada is widely recognized and consistently named as being among the best North American airlines flying internationally, with our most recent honours as “Best Airline in North America” and “Best North American Airline Flying Internationally.” We also are very proud of how we have built an unparalleled schedule across North America that radiates from our four solid Canadian hub airports, means that customers can get practically anywhere they want to either directly or within two flights. Additionally, we’ve received a number of awards for our culture in our company, and we’ve been named for four consecutive years as a Top 100 Company to work for in Canada.
Direct flights were recently introduced from Vancouver to India; why did Air Canada see a need for this service?
India has been a destination we’ve been interested for a long time in flying non-stop to from Vancouver due to the longstanding clear cultural ties between western Canada and India, and it was a matter of having the right aircraft to operate this route efficiently and profitably. For us, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft with its economies and efficiencies is the right aircraft for this route, and as it is also the most technologically advanced passenger aircraft flying, it also makes long flights like this extremely comfortable from a passenger point. Our non-stop India route from YVR offers the shortest elapsed flying time from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles to the Indian subcontinent, with savings on average of eight hours or more. All of these attributes from the Dreamliner aircraft, the network schedule, and the streamlined connection process at YVR, are built to make Air Canada’s flight and YVR the preferred trans-Pacific gateway when flying to India.
What are the other services offered with the direct flight?
We’re very proud to feature two Vancouver-based, acclaimed chefs for our India flights. Chef Vikram Vij provides all cabins of service on all of our flights from Canada to India with contemporary Indian dishes. His creations complement the signature creations by Chef David Hawksworth who creates contemporary Canadian cuisine dishes offered in International Business Class. We have multilingual crews onboard and all of our flights to India have crew who speak both of Canada’s official languages, English and French, as well as Hindi and Punjabi. Additionally, our Dreamliners have the most advanced in-flight entertainment systems installed, and we offer 600 hours of complimentary in-flight entertainment which includes Bollywood and Hollywood movies, television programs, specialized documentaries, art house films, music, and children’s entertainment.
How have travellers reacted to this new service?
We have participated in several events within the South Asian community in the BC Lower Mainland, and everywhere we go, we have been absolutely delighted with extremely warm enthusiasm and support for our new route! The Province of BC has been extremely supportive, and representatives in fact flew on our inaugural flight to promote trade and investment between BC and India.
Are there plans on making it a year-round flight?
Vancouver-Delhi is currently a seasonal service, and to ensure that it can be viable as a year-round flight, it is important that this route be supported with demand and sustained usage of our International Business Class and Premium Economy services on an ongoing basis. With the attributes Air Canada offers, from the comfort of the Dreamliner aircraft, the premium services offered at the airport and onboard for customers flying Premium Economy and International Business Class, as well as the schedule network we have, we believe our flight and services are the most convenient for business travellers travelling between the Pacific Northwest and the Indian subcontinent. So we’re counting on the community to use the service in order for us to be able to look at a possibility of year-round flights which needs to show continued demand for this route, as well as meeting profitability targets. The bottom line is, we need the support of the community to use the service in order for us to look at extending it!
How has the new service strengthen the bond between India and Air Canada?
We’re supporting tourism growth and working closely with tourism organizations between Canada and India to market the beauty of our great province to visitors from India. Additionally, we’re also engaging with tourism and travel agency partners to promote India as a leisure destination. We’re looking forward to continuing to work together to our mutual benefit!
What future projects have been planned with India for 2017?
We’re excited to start flying to Mumbai, our second destination in India, and Air Canada will be the only carrier to offer non-stop service between Canada and Mumbai. This new route starts July 1, 2027, and will operate three times weekly. Our Mumbai flights depart from our global Toronto hub, linking Canada’s financial capital to India’s financial capital.
Do talk about Air Canada’s relationship with the South Asian community in BC.
We’ve developed strong relationship with organizations such as the BC-India Business Network, the Canada-India Business Council, and we’re also working with local post secondary institutions such as Langara College and BCIT to help further market and grow their international student programs.
We are delighted to work with Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala, to promote their cuisine on our international India flights. We are also extremely proud to have a number of employees from the South Asian community who bring their fluent language skills to their role as Air Canada brand ambassadors not only on the ground but in the air on our Delhi flights and around the world.
What new introductions by Air Canada should Vancouver residents/travellers expect for 2017?
We’re continuing our strategy of expansion globally. In 2017, we will launch new international services between Vancouver-Taipei, Vancouver-Nagoya, Vancouver-Frankfurt, and Vancouver-London Gatwick, and new transborder services between Vancouver-Dallas, Vancouver-Denver, and Vancouver-Phoenix will become a year-round flight.