September 15, 2022
President and CEO, Air Canada
Editor-In-Chief, Air Transport World
The COVID-19 pandemic radically altered the aviation landscape, prompting a sharp decline in demand for commercial air travel and forcing airlines to mitigate financial losses by adjusting operations. As the global travel market reopens, leaders in the aviation sector seek to optimize their investments in a post-pandemic world.
Several of these leaders joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to discuss the current and future state of aviation during the Global Aerospace Summit. In a Day 2 fireside chat, Karen Walker, Editor-in-Chief of Air Transport World, spoke with Michael Rousseau, President and CEO of Air Canada, to discuss the company’s current investments and sustainability initiatives.
Technology Can Improve Customer Experience in a Post-Pandemic World
When asked how Air Canada plans to deliver optimal customer service to post-pandemic travelers, Rousseau stressed the importance of investing in technologies that empower flyers.
“We believe that technology will play an important role going forward to make a much more frictionless experience for the customer,” he said.
Rousseau added that Air Canada had worked closely with its e-commerce and technology teams to develop tools that maximize flexibility for its customers.
“Customers want certainty. They want options,” Rousseau said. “We spent a lot of time…making the journey much easier for the customer [by] allowing that customer to get through the airport more quickly and giving that customer options in the case of disruption.”
Air Canada Will Invest in Cargo to Diversify Its Revenue Base
During the pandemic, Air Canada was one of several airlines to pivot to air freight and cargo shipping. Rousseau confirmed that while the company has revitalized its focus on commercial passenger travel, Air Canada is still heavily invested in its cargo division.
“Cargo is an excellent business for Air Canada,” he said. “It leverages our brand [and] it leverages our international network.”
Rousseau noted that Air Canada plans to convert eight of its older passenger planes into cargo aircraft, expanding the airline’s opportunities for moving cargo while diversifying its revenue base.
“We should have a fleet of 12 freighters in the next couple of years…and we’d like to do double the business over that period of time,” he said.
Key Stakeholders Drive Sustainability in the Airline Industry
Rousseau also provided context on Air Canada’s recent decision to purchase a fleet of 30 electric regional jets from Heart Aerospace, which the airline hopes will forward its goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
“These planes are well-positioned to replace the existing [regional jets] by the end of the decade [and] fly to smaller markets within Canada,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of opportunity, and the fact that we can go with zero emissions is a big step forward.”
For Air Canada, when it comes to driving sustainability efforts, investors and customers are not the only key stakeholders who play a role.
“[Sustainability] is an absolute necessity. But it’s not just customers,” Rousseau said. “Customers are one key stakeholder, but our employees are demanding it as well. They want to be part of an organization that’s helping the world.”
From the Series