In a hangar at YYZ on Wednesday, 19OCT, Transat launched its 2022/23 winter season, with company execs hosting 40 members of the travel industry and media at an event against the backdrop of a shiny Airbus A321neoLR (long range) aircraft.
Open Jaw was among guests eager to tour the Airbus and chat with two flight attendants who noted that passengers appreciate the somewhat wider seats in Y (1.5” wider than industry standard) and the leg rests in Club Class.
“We are busy-busy,” Nicole Bursey, Commercial Director for Transat Tours told Open Jaw. “And life feels back to normal. The winter is off to a great start, both with individuals and groups.”
CUN and PUJ, as always, are star sellers in both English and French Canada, “and we’ve just added non-stop flights to Jamaica from Moncton and Halifax and they are being very well received.”
The past 7 days have seen the highest number of bookings for the upcoming winter, and the pace is accelerating.
Joe Adamo, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, provided attendees with an update about the direction Transat's three businesses (the airline, the tour operator and the retail network) are heading post-pandemic.
The good news is that the company expects to reach 2019 levels by next year. And Adamo suspects the industry has yet to tap into all of the pent-up demand.
The "New" Transat
“Like all of you, we have had to rebuild our company in every way,” he said.
“We are leaner, more efficient. We need to make better use of all of our ‘metal’,” he commented, adding that after fuel and salaries, lease costs are the number 3 expense for the carrier. “We need to feed our routes better, better exploit our own network and utilize aircraft more fully.”
Staff now totals 4,300, and Adamo doubts the company will see its workforce return to its 5000-strong pre-pandemic levels.
The “new” TS will have its operations concentrated in Eastern Canada, with significantly more capacity, he added. “We could not and cannot operate effectively in Western Canada and have no plans to return in any meaningful way," he said in perhaps tacit acknowledgment of WestJet's strategy to focus on Western Canada. The two airlines have entered into a codeshare agreement this year.
Another key update concerned the age of the fleet, which Adamo described as “massively transformed” and is today 40% younger than pre-pandemic. The carrier currently has 12 A321 LRs with orders on the books for 17 more including 4 of the Extra Long Range version, with capability to fly from Canada to Greece, Italy, the Middle East and North Africa. “A game changer in the single-aisle space,” he said.
Transat's new partnership with Porter, announced 18OCT, features “great complimentarity” with pax now able to fly on PD from YTZ to YUL and connect to Europe on TS.
Some Challenges Continue
Adamo dealt frankly with some of the issues facing the carrier, including fuel costs. “Every time fuel goes up 10 cents a gallon, it has a $19 to $28 million effect on our bottom line,” he pointed out, adding that every time the Canadian dollar loses 1 cent against the US, there is an additional hit of $12 to $15 million.
And he was very open about the call centre challenges experienced by TS, like many other travel suppliers. “Clearly we all share some of these challenges, but I want to reassure you this is not cost-cutting. We onboard staff every day, we have increased salaries and a lot of processes have been onlined. We are not out of the hole, but we are deploying every resource available.”
He assured advisors that Transat is reducing wait times by "several minutes" every week.
New Campaign, New Optimism
In closing, Adamo referenced the company’s new new marketing campaign focused on why people travel, not just take vacations, including a touching 2 minute video titled Travel Moves Us. Without a single smiling flight attendant and only one glance at an airplane, the spot shows how travel can open our lives, whether we are living with an anti-social kid glued to her phone or a stubborn middle-aged spouse.
As we prepare to brush off our snow scrapers and shovels, Adamo says he’s cautiously optimistic, as well as appreciative of support from key partners, like those in attendance. “We’ve been to hell and back in the last 2 ½ years. We wouldn’t be here without you.”