Canada: Airports, carriers plan for future activity
“We’ve had traffic from Asia to Latin America, and we’re seeing demand for transits over Toronto. We could fill 777s with cargo from Asia and Europe to Latin America,” Turpin says.
Canadian leisure airline Air Transat is trying to build up Latin American as well as transatlantic traffic through Punta Cana and Cancun, two destinations it serves with ample capacity. It runs up to 40 flights a week to the Mexican airport in the winter.
“We can link with European carriers, and we can sell South America in cooperation with South American carriers,” says Paul Nugent, senior director of cargo.
The airline’s cargo capacity has expanded considerably through the addition of A330s to a fleet that previously consisted entirely of A310s. Nine A330s have now come on board, and two more are due before the end of the year. These planes have been chiefly deployed on the dense longhaul sectors like London, Paris, Athens and Istanbul. The Turkish city is the latest addition to the schedule, but only on a seasonal basis. Paris and London, on the other hand, have become year-round destinations, where the capacity increase through the A330s has pushed up cargo revenues sharply.
The onslaught of lift with the advent of the summer season has begun to put downward pressure on yields, as airlines are fighting for market share, Nugent reports. He intends to counter this in part by honing a cold-chain product and other special offerings.
Air Canada Cargo spent much of the past two years overhauling its product portfolio. For the most part, the effort was about sharpening product definitions, but it also generated a new service last year. Having previously targeted the pharmaceutical industry and other customers who need temperature-controlled service with its AC Cool product, the airline developed two separate offerings called AC Absolute and AC Pharmacair.
Featuring express processing and active temperature control containers that can regulate ambient temperature within narrow ranges, the former is aimed at high-value healthcare traffic, while Pharmacair is a more basic solution using passive cooling technology.
For all the concrete changes happening in Canada, new security requirements still represent a huge unknown. Carriers and forwarders are bracing themselves for a major shift in their operating environment.
The implementation of the 100-percent screening mandate for bellyhold cargo in the United States and noises from the Transportation Security Administration about extending this to freighters have prompted some suggestions that Canada could emerge as a transit point for cargo that would otherwise go through U.S. airports. Nugent, however, does not expect such a scenario.
“I think security will come full-force everywhere eventually,” he comments. “Sooner or later, we will be in a 100-percent screening mode in Canada.”