Nonstop to Toronto
ERIC SMITH | The Daily News
Air Canada will begin direct service between Memphis and Toronto in May. It will use the 75-seat Jazz CRJ airplane, smaller than the Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner and 777-200LR, shown above. Photo: Air Canada
As carriers reduce capacity to cope with shrinking demand for air travel, Air Canada is beefing up its service by entering seven U.S. markets – including Memphis. The Montreal-based airline is adding twice-daily, nonstop, year-round flights between Memphis and Toronto, the company announced Wednesday. The service, which begins May 17 and will connect Memphis International Airport with Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport, is the airline’s Memphis debut. Air Canada will use the 75-seat Jazz CRJ airplane.
“It’s good for us, it’s good for the traveling public,” said Larry Cox, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. Cox said Wednesday morning the announcement was news to him, albeit “great news.” He said the airport had been in discussions with Air Canada over the years but hadn’t been able to secure anything until now. Cox said Northwest Airlines previously flew a Memphis-to-Toronto flight, but that was dropped following the merger with Delta Air Lines, which now flies to the Canadian city from here through Detroit or Minneapolis. “We miss not having the nonstop to Toronto, and I think it’s great that Air Canada can serve it,” Cox said. “This is the reason Air Canada probably sees an opportunity to get into the Memphis market for the first time, because Delta flying in that market, it would be more difficult for them to compete because they’d just be able to get the ‘O and D’ (origination and destination) market on this side going to Toronto.” This announcement further bolsters the airport’s status for international service, Cox said. Currently, Memphis has daily nonstop flights to Amsterdam, Cancun, Mexico, and Montego Bay, Jamaica. The airport also has seasonal service to Cozumel, Mexico, and to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Vicki Rush, CEO of A&I Travel Service Inc., said Air Canada hasn’t entered the flights into the air travel system yet, but she nonetheless was excited with the news, calling it “fabulous.” “I think new service into the market is always a great thing,” Rush said. “You’re always looking for that to bring some prices down. I think that the main point with anyone, especially a carrier who has no footprint here – Air Canada – is what kind of equipment is it? Who’s their frequent flyer partner? Those are huge issues.” As Rush pointed out, Air Canada’s frequent flyer network is Star Alliance, whose U.S. airlines include Continental Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways, but not Delta, which operates a hub in Memphis and uses SkyTeam as its frequent flyer network. “If all things are equal, if the price is the same on Delta and Air Canada, it’s going to be hard for them to woo customers, I’m afraid,” Rush said, adding that passengers would forego nonstop if they get to accrue frequent flyer miles. “Nonstop is a wonderful thing, but it’s 800 miles each way.”
Air Canada also is adding service between Toronto and six other U.S. markets – Orange County, Calif.; San Diego; Portland, Ore.; Cincinnati; Portland, Maine; and Syracuse, N.Y. “This additional service to seven more U.S. cities further solidifies Air Canada’s position as the leading transborder carrier between Canada and the U.S. and the No. 1 foreign carrier flying to the United States – offering the most flights per day to more destinations in the U.S. than any other international airline,” Ben Smith, Air Canada’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “It also demonstrates our commitment to drive Toronto’s growth as a hub.” Pamela Griffith-Jones, vice president, chief marketing and commercial officer for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), called the route announcement “great news for passengers flying between Canada and the U.S.” “We have worked with our airline customers’ needs in mind to create opportunities for route expansion,” Griffith-Jones said in a release. “We are very pleased with Air Canada’s continued commitment to using Pearson as a connection point with the U.S., and as a gateway to connect passengers to destinations around the world.”