Emirates senior management are reportedly eagerly awaiting the result of a federal election in Canada (Gulf News, 01-May-2011). A change of government may bring with it a more liberal aviation policy and see Emirates granted more landing rights. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has backed Air Canada’s opposition to grant more landing rights. Etihad and Emirates are each limited to three weekly services to Toronto. The carriers have long sought more landing rights at Toronto, as well as access to other Canadian cities such as Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.
Canada election brings fresh hopes for Gulf airlines
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Air Canada’s 1Q2017 margin pressure and lower ROIC targets trigger market trepidation
Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada, is working through a multi year effort to grow its international footprint and cut costs. The company’s strategy has entailed higher than average capacity growth compared with its North American global network airline peers. Its long haul push has resulted in growing stage lengths and yield pressure; but Air Canada’s EBITDAR margin, the preferred metric in which the company measures its performance, has remained well within its established targets.
The company’s capacity should continue to expand in the double digit range during 2017 as it adds more Boeing 787 widebody jets and plans additional new route introductions. Its stage length should continue to grow in 2017, which means yields will remain under pressure. Air Canada’s capacity growth should moderate in 2018 as several initiatives it has undertaken during the last few years reach maturity.
Air Canada has been reasonably successful in growing its valuation during its large scale capacity growth, but a downward revision in ROIC targets and warnings of lower EBITDAR margins for 1Q2017 are triggering some pressure on its stock price. For now, markets are not quite reassured by Air Canada’s pledges that it will still meet its stated annual EBITDAR margins in 2017.
Canadian start up ULCC NewLeaf makes numerous schedule adjustments as WestJet targets competition
Canadian ULCC start up NewLeaf Travel is reaching six months of operations and during that time has transported 150,000 passengers under its unique arrangement with Flair Airlines, in which Flair operates aircraft on behalf of NewLeaf.
NewLeaf continues to promote the stimulatory benefits of its model, but its network development has featured many fits and starts, including the recent temporary suspension of some routes due to problems with Flair’s aircraft availability. Before the launch the company also decided to cancel service to Phoenix Mesa airport, due to WestJet’s decision to introduce new flights in direct competition with NewLeaf.
NewLeaf opted to use existing aircraft capacity in order to be a first mover in the ULCC space within Canada, but its recent schedule adjustments indicate that purchasing existing capacity might not be a viable model for the long term. WestJet’s competitive response to NewLeaf also raises questions about whether the ULCC model will ultimately prevail in Canada.