Air Canada is getting a new look, and it’s one that the airline hopes will appeal to U.S. fliers.
Canada’s largest carrier revealed a new paint scheme for its planes last week, moving to a white-and-black look that features Air Canada’s traditional maple leaf logo in red. Also part of Air Canada’s image update: new uniforms for customer-facing employees, including pilots, flight attendants and airport agents.
The change comes as Air Canada is becoming increasingly global in its ambitions. Since 2015, Air Canada has announced dozens of new routes to international destinations such as Algiers, Algeria; Berlin; Prague; Casablanca, Morocco; Mumbai; Brisbane, Australia; and Marseille, France, among others.
But perhaps Air Canada’s most aggressive expansion during that time has come on routes to the United States, where the airline now flies to 57 destinations after series of expansions here during the past two years.
Now, Air Canada is stepping up efforts to court Americans traveling abroad. With its growing international footprint, Air Canada hopes to convince U.S. fliers to connect through its hubs in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver when flying overseas.
“To many of our customers in the United States, we’re this little secret that nobody knows about; this airline north of the border that actually flies internationally,” said Ben Smith, Air Canada’s president for passenger airlines. “If you want to go to Europe or Asia, you’ve got to fly over Canada if you’re originating or ending in the U.S. That puts us in a very privileged position to offer connections.”
Smith acknowledges that Americans flying from New York, Los Angeles and a few other cities probably have enough nonstop international options to make connecting itineraries a tough sell.
But Smith says from “the other 50 U.S. cities that we fly to, normally customers have to connect in one of those points” anyway. So, he says, Air Canada will try to make inroads with that set, hoping to convince them that “connecting over Canada is very easy.”
He notes most Canadian airports have “PreClearance” facilities, allowing U.S. travelers flying through Canada go through U.S. Customs and immigration during their connection and then arrive to the U.S. as domestic passengers.
“All of our operations at our key hubs – Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver – take place in one building,” he says. “The elapsed time (for connecting itineraries to the U.S.) is really fast. They speak English in Canada. It’s really simple.”
Now, with the new look and crew uniforms, Smith says it’s a chance for Air Canada to reengage with customers here and elsewhere. Air Canada’s goal: to cement itself as one of the North American’s top global carriers. The livery and uniform update “is all about that,” says Smith.
“We’ve got to earn that business and prove to the marketplace that we offer a compelling choice on service. We have to differentiate ourselves,” he continues. “We’re working hard to offer the best product from North America. We think we can go even higher.”
The new aircraft livery is expected to roll out to the airline's "flagship" Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Boeing 777s within 12 to 18 months, and to the entire fleet within three years.
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This image released from Air Canada shows its new paint scheme on one of its Boeing 787 "Dreamliners." (Photo: Air Canada)