PHOTO: Air Canada has more than just a new look up its sleeve in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Air Canada)
Air Canada doesn't plan on becoming the world's largest airline anytime soon, but that doesn't mean Canada's flag carrier isn't expecting to achieve significant growth in the near future.
To fuel that growth, the airline is targeting not only U.S. travelers, but global travelers crossing North America for one reason or another. According to Bloomberg, Air Canada is set to launch service to six U.S. cities this May, including Memphis, Tennessee, and Savannah, Georgia.
What's more, the airline hopes to lure passengers with a connecting flight to make that connection at one of its hubs in Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver instead.
"Every time an American flies up on us they go 'Oh my God, you’re the best-kept secret. How did we not know about this?'" Air Canada's president of passenger airlines Ben Smith told Bloomberg.
Air Canada currently boasts about 41 percent connecting traffic at its hubs but is targeting 50 percent. That figure is still far less than some other notable international carriers.
The carrier also aims to achieve a 1.8-percent market share of the U.S. international market, which Smith told Bloomberg means attracting "one or two business customers a day from Philadelphia, you know? One or two from Cleveland."
By attracting more connecting air travelers, Air Canada will be better suited to expand its long-haul service. In turn, that should attract more profitable customers. Bloomberg reported the carrier's total long-haul capacity is expected to exceed 18 percent this coming spring, which would top Dubai-based Emirates.
"I don't know when, but there will be a reaction by the U.S. carriers at some point when the supply of seats gets too high," Cowen & Co. aviation analyst Helane Becker told Bloomberg. "In the short term, the U.S. carriers are probably focusing on some other markets as a group—Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco—but once they stop focusing on that, you might start to see some competitive response to Air Canada."
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At the moment, though, Air Canada appears poised to benefit from the growth of U.S. airlines' rivals in the Middle East.
"For now, it’s not on their radar screen. They have bigger fish to fry, such as the Middle East carriers," added Becker.
As Air Canada continues to grow, it will do so with a brand new look. Last week, the Montreal-based carrier unveiled a new Canada-inspired livery that will be rolled out across its entire fleet as well as new uniforms for customer-facing employees.
The airline will also launch new onboard food and beverage products in 2017.