Canada: Airports, carriers plan for future activity
Besides Air Canada, which has a number of passenger flights from Vancouver to Asia, Cathay Pacific will feel the biggest effects from China Southern’s entry. In addition to Cathay’s double-daily passenger flights to Hong Kong, the carrier slots three freighters a week through Vancouver.
Stephen Wong, Cathay’s cargo manager for the Americas, is unfazed by the new entrant’s foray into Vancouver. “China Southern has a different market segmentation. We are very strong with our intra-Asia and worldwide network coverage,” he says.
Apart from its Vancouver operations, Cathay has a double-daily Toronto-Hong Kong service, plus four freighters a week through Toronto; the freighters stop in the Canadian gateway en route from New York to Hong Kong.
For the time being, the airline has no plans to increase its footprint in the Canadian market, but down the road, its freighter presence there will include B747-8 cargo aircraft.
“We ordered the 747-8 for the North American market. We are now waiting for concrete dates from Boeing for the delivery. Canada will see the -8 freighter, but I can’t say yet when and where,” Wong says.
Korean Air, which has twice-weekly freighter runs in addition to its daily passenger flights on the Toronto-Seoul sector, is looking at the possibility of adding a third weekly frequency, but there has been greater need for capacity in other sectors of its network, according to Bob McGowan, general manager of cargo sales for eastern Canada.
Westbound traffic, which has been fairly strong, received a boost from lively demand for animal shipments, namely pigs to China and Korea and cattle to Central Asia. Korean livestock was largely wiped out by an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease last year, McGowan says.
The transatlantic market was relatively strong through the first half of the year, according to Canadian airline executives and forwarders. However, the advent of summer brought signs of slower momentum, just as capacity began to soar with the introduction of the summer timetable.
“In July, we’re seeing the impact of the extra capacity that has come into the market,” says Lise-Marie Turpin, managing director of Air Canada Cargo.
Air Canada has increased frequencies on the Copenhagen and Brussels routes and re-launched seasonal service to Athens, Barcelona, Madrid and Dublin. The airline’s ability to step up capacity is hampered by the stagnation in its fleet, however, with the delivery of B787s still some time out. In March, Boeing announced yet another delay in the schedule, which puts the arrival of the first of the Canadian airline’s 35 787s in the second half of 2013.
Under the circumstances, the airline is not thrilled with the clamor from Emirates and Qatar Airways for expanded traffic rights in the Canadian market. The last thing Air Canada wants to see is the two Middle Eastern carriers go up to daily flights out of Toronto, tapping into flows to India and beyond. The issue has led to a diplomatic row between Ottawa and Dubai, but so far the Canadian authorities have held the line on market access for Emirates and Qatar Airways.
Pedersen would welcome more choice, particularly flights on a daily basis rather than three days a week. However, he is more concerned with lift to Latin America, which has been short of demand. “A twice-weekly freighter to Latin America would be nice,” he says.
Earlier on, Air Canada deployed a mix of B777 and 767-300 aircraft on its Latin American routes, but the 777s have largely shifted to other sectors. With the reduction in lift headed to the southern hemisphere, the carrier has concentrated on traffic out of its home market, but it could easily carry additional freight from overseas destinations if it had more space.