Transat hosted key business partners for a coming-out party at one of its Toronto Pearson hangars on Wednesday. Visitors were invited to familiarize themselves with one of Air Transat’s all-new A321neo LRs, a model the company believes will lead it to a brighter future.
We’re hesitant to call it a post-pandemic gathering just yet, but the “release party” seems fitting, as Air Transat emerges from more than three years of upheaval and uncertainty, which began with the attempt to purchase of the company by Air Canada.
At the time, and shortly before the pandemic, Transat had about $500 million in cash and no debt. Three years later, as Joe Adamo, director of sales and marketing, put it, the company is “full of steam”.
Transat abandoned its ambitions to move into the capital-intensive hotel business and made the decision to focus on three lines of business – airline, tour operator and retail travel network.
“We are still standing after three tumultuous years,” Adamo told the rally. “Like many of you, we have had to rebuild our business from every point of view. We are a very different company and we are confident but cautious for 2023. The past three years have shown that being cautious is the right way to be.
Adamo says the focus right now is on “stabilization and transformation.” The new Transat puts much more emphasis on Eastern Canada, with “abundant offers in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes this winter.
“It’s absolutely the right thing to do to focus on Eastern Canada. We need scale to be effective,” Adamo added.
There are important positives for the future. With the arrival of a dozen A321neo aircraft, Transat’s fleet is 40% younger than at the start of the pandemic. Five more are to arrive with firm orders.
Adamo says Air Transat needs to do a better job of getting passengers to its YYZ and YUL hubs, and is seeking airline partnerships to help fill the hopper. Once that relationship is with Porter Airlines, which is now codeshared on domestic flights to and from Halifax and the City of Toronto (YTZ), and select Air Transat flights to and from of Montreal (YUL).
Porter has big plans for expansion in North America, so Adamo says the relationship will grow and fuel more passengers on TS’s European routes.
Going from four to two compatible aircraft types — with very similar cockpits — gives Transat the ability to increase utilization — the number of hours its planes spend in the air to earn money. This is critical to profitability, as aircraft leasing is the airline’s largest cost after labor and fuel.
With nearly all travel and flight restrictions lifted and a solid plan for winter flights, Air Transat is optimistic that the 2022-2023 travel season will be the start of a successful recovery.
“Winter is looking pretty good,” Adamo said. “Prices are on the rise. It’s good for us. It’s good for you. And it is absolutely necessary.
The Transat sales boss and president of the TDC retail network says work is underway to improve the situation at a call center where “the quality of service is clearly unacceptable”.
“The pandemic has laid bare the inefficiencies of old systems that we have been using for too long. But the average wait times are improving and we are deploying all the necessary resources to be out of the water. We will return to acceptable levels of service.
Adamo and the Transat sales team thanked travel partners for their continued support. “We’ve all been to hell and back,” he said.