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Air Canada Part 2: Financial progress makes investment grade metrics more tangible
A decade ago it would have been unheard of for Air Canada to contemplate reaching an investment grade credit rating. The airline had emerged from bankruptcy protection, but was still struggling financially. It would teeter on the verge of another formal restructuring before setting out on a course to restructure its financial foundation – a process that has allowed the airline to improve its balance sheet and leverage.
Air Canada’s leverage targets for YE2018 will not meet the general proxy for an investment grade rating; however, its lower capital commitments and debt refinancing could create an opportunity for achieving that status beyond 2018.
Attaining an investment grade credit rating likely remains a longer term goal for Air Canada as its major financial goals in the short term remain paying down debt that is creeping up due to a fleet renewal, as well as funding growth to drive long-term shareholder value. More meaningful shareholder returns will likely occur once the company reaches what it deems as acceptable progress in debt management, and reaches a certain maturity level in growing its international network.
This is Part 2 in a two part series on Air Canada. Part 1 dealt with long haul LCC subsidiary, rouge.
Air Canada Part 1: low cost rouge is a pillar of growth; but further expansion might be constrained
During the past year Air Canada has found itself defending its double-digit capacity growth, stressing that 90% of its capacity in 2015, 2016 and 2017 is being deployed to its international network – an entity the company believes is far from reaching maturity. Recently the airline has outlined plans to introduce a raft of new long haul flights to Europe and Asia operated by Air Canada mainline and its low cost arm – Air Canada rouge.
Air Canada stresses the pillars of its international expansion – Boeing 787 widebodies and the establishment of its low cost subsidiary rouge – enable the company to enter international markets it once considered unviable due to higher costs. During the summer of 2018 rouge will nearly reach its 50 aircraft cap, and Air Canada needs to start determining if there are further opportunities to grow its low cost unit. Those evaluations will partially dictate Air Canada’s overall growth levels beyond 2018.
In the short term Air Canada is not seeing any broad changes in consumer behaviour, reflected in its solid booking curves. Weaker markets in Western Canada, hit by the downturn in the oil sector, are stabilising as capacity cuts have resulted in a rational supply-demand scenario.
This is Part 1 in a two part series on Air Canada. The second instalment will focus on the airline’s costs and balance sheet management.