‘NEW NORMAL’ CHALLENGES

Transat CEO: Working on Wait Times, Warning About Fare Hikes

Following its annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday 27APR, during which the company announced a board member shuffle, Transat’s CEO Annick Guérard (pictured) addressed two of the biggest concerns plaguing every company working towards Canada’s travel recovery.

On Hold

Long wait times to reach customer service started early in the pandemic and the resulting flood of requests for cancellations, refunds or rebookings overwhelmed systems.

But the resumption of travel hasn’t been a magic bullet. Staff shortages mean the trade as well as consumers continue to be frustrated trying to get through, with GlobalNews describing waits of “hours on hold” for customers to reach Transat service team members.

Guérard said she hoped the long waits would be over as quickly as this summer, acknowledging that current service wasn’t rising to the company’s expectations of “outstanding” standards.

However, she didn’t indicate how the operator planned to solve the problem. As the Globe & Mail reported, the company predicts summer traffic to nearly meet pre-pandemic levels - while at the same time employing “about 10% fewer people than it did in 2019 when it gets back to pre-COVID business volumes.”

Pain at the Pumps

At the same time, the CEO was also the latest to sound the alarm about impending fare increases coming down the pipeline as a result of spiking fuel costs due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Higher fares will only complicate the operator’s post-pandemic recovery strategy as Canada’s aviation industry landscape is being redrawn with new startups often competing on price.

Transat plans to add to its customer base and revenues by strengthening its domestic service via partnerships like the code-share deals announced with WestJet and Porter here at home, new interlining service (which Transat calls Canada’s first web-based interlining service) that lets Transat pax book onwards flights with airlines in other countries - and potentially even joint ventures with other large foreign airlines or another merger like the one cancelled with Air Canada.

Despite the challenges facing the entire industry and Transat’s own unique position, the CEO remains optimistic about Transat’s future.

“I’m 100% convinced we’ll make it, and I don’t think I’m being naive,” Guérard reportedly told the Globe. “We know what we have to do.”

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