Frank Sinatra’s ‘Come Fly with Me’ could have been the theme song at the latest Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce breakfast on 7 June at Sydney’s Doltone House in the city.
A crowd of over 70 business and government professionals turned out to celebrate the recent launch of the redesigned Boeing 777 aircraft on Air Canada’s daily flights from Sydney to Vancouver. They also learned about the new flights between Brisbane and Vancouver on Air Canada’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and the latest infrastructure projects at Sydney Airport.
Duncan Bureau, Vice-President of Global Sales, said Air Canada is investing heavily in new planes and will have one of the youngest fleets in the skies by 2020, when it will also be the eighth largest airline in the world. They are also refurbishing 18 planes in their Boeing 777 fleet, including the one that services Vancouver-bound travellers from Sydney.
With screen shots of a refurbished Boeing 777 playing behind him, Bureau described how the daily direct service flight between Sydney and Vancouver now features an upgraded international business class service that is the same as that offered on the carrier’s flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet.
The front end of the plane now has 40 executive pods arranged so that every passenger has direct access to the aisle. Business class passengers can enjoy a state-of-the art entertainment screen with hundreds of hours of top-rated entertainment and noise-cancelling headsets, headrest with head and neck massage/lumbar support and massage function, gourmet cuisine and fine wines, a plush duvet and pillow, complimentary skin care products and ambient lighting among other features.
There is also a new premium economy service on the route featuring 24 seats with greater recline and a larger seat (compared to economy class) plus premium cuisine, complimentary wine and spirits, USB ports for charging and a next generation entertainment system.
Kerrie Mather, CEO and Managing Director of Sydney Airport, praised the strong relationship between Air Canada and the airport, noting the Vancouver-Sydney route had been running for almost 16 years. She remarked that Canada was one of Sydney’s largest and fastest growing markets, with over 110,000 Australians visiting Canada in 2015.
She also discussed the ‘economic engine’ that is Sydney Airport. Over 40 million passengers a year pass through its terminals, connecting on to more than 90 international, domestic and regional destinations. “The airport contributes $30.8 billion in economic activity a year, equivalent to 6.4 per cent of the NSW economy. A major employer for the state, Sydney Airport generates more than 300,000 jobs in NSW with 29,000 jobs at the airport itself,” she said.
The airport is currently undergoing more improvement projects than at any time since the 2000 Olympics. More than 150 projects and $1.3 billion will be spent on services and facilities over the next five years to improve the customer experience.
The latest phase of the improvements program in T1, the international terminal, includes enhancements to gate lounges, immigration and security areas, new navigational signage, and upgraded food and beverage areas with a Marketplace teeming with street food style fare and a City View precinct premium dining hub featuring a variety of restaurants.
Retail is being revamped with the arrival of several prestige brands like Kate Spade, Tiffany & Co. and Hugo Boss. A new airport hotel is due to open in 2017 and there is also a five-year, $500 million road investment program being undertaken with the NSW Government to improve roadways around the airport to decrease traffic congestion.
Mather said staff and partners were aiming for a seamless, world-class airport experience for everyone coming, visiting or leaving Sydney Airport.
Robert McDougall, Acting Consul-General for Canada, spoke about how the “growing aerial connection between Canada and Australia reinforces and builds on a long-running and wide-ranging economic relationship based on a shared past and common set of values.”
He reported that bilateral commerce is strong and growing rapidly, driven mainly by strong two-way investment and a growing services exchange.
Air Canada’s flights from Sydney and Brisbane will particularly support the growing trade in services between the two nations, he said. In 2014, Canadian services exports to Australia totaled roughly A$1.6 billion, an almost 5 per cent increase compared to 2013.
During the same year, Australian services exports to Canada amounted to A$965 million, up by 2.6 per cent year over year. Australia is Canada’s eighth largest services export partner.
McDougall said Canadian companies, across many sectors, were flourishing in NSW and many Australian companies were doing well in Canada. Despite the recent resources downturn, there are still strong connections between Queensland and Canada. He also highlighted the growing links between Canadian and Australian universities and several partnerships that are underway.
He congratulated Air Canada for its continued expansion into Australia and for offering new and improved services. “This move should yield major benefits not only to the company and its passengers of all nationalities, but also to the important relationship between our two prosperous and go-ahead economies.”
Brisbane is the second Australian destination for Air Canada. The Brisbane-Vancouver service is the first direct flight between Queensland and Canada. Currently three flights a week, it will go daily later this month.
Responding to a question from the audience, Bureau noted the Dreamliner would be able to carry more freight than the Boeing 767, an area of business that Air Canada wanted to grow in Australia.
“Air Canada staff take pride in flying the Air Canada logo and maple leaf brand – it was not something to be taken lightly,” said Bureau. He also said when people see an Air Canada plane they feel like they are ‘home’, which is a sentiment the airline was encouraging.
Air Canada’s services from Australia are timed to optimise connectivity to and from the airline’s North American network, which includes direct services to 64 Canadian cities and 52 destinations in the United States.
Under a previous brand name, Air Canada has been operating in the Australian market since 1949. Air Canada itself was the first airline to offer a daily, non-stop service between Canada and Australia, beginning in 2007, with a same plane, one-stop service from Toronto to Sydney and non-stop service from Vancouver to Sydney.