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Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada, is the national flag carrier with hubs at Toronto Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport and Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. LCC, WestJet, is based at Calgary Airport and also has bases in Toronto and Vancouver. The aviation market is also comprised of Porter Airlines and several small regional airlines. Canada has a 'blue skies' (considerably less than open skies) aviation policy, under the government's board for aviation, Transport Canada. NAV CANADA is the air navigation service provider within Canadian airspace.
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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.
Canada’s WestJet is maintaining a reasonable level of confidence that its unit revenue growth will outpace cost inflation in early 2017, as it attains positive unit revenue in 1Q2017 for the first time in eight quarters. Improving conditions in the province of Alberta and growing ancillary revenue are helping to lift WestJet’s unit revenues in early 2017.
WestJet’s return on invested capital has been falling during the last few months, dropping out of its targeted range of 13% to 16%. The airline is not offering a specific timeframe to post an improved ROIC performance, but believes a better operating environment in Alberta should create a favourable scenario to attain targeted return levels.
After WestJet’s pilots endorsed a new deal in late 2016 that allows for the expansion of the airline’s widebody operations, speculation grew about a potential aircraft order from the company in the not too distant future. But WestJet is taking a cautious approach to its widebody evaluations, as current capital expenditures could reach CAD920 million (USD703 million) in 2017 and investors are looking for definitive progress in restoring historical ROIC performance.
China-US air growth slows as Xiamen Airlines flies Fuzhou-New York, making the world a smaller place
The world becomes a smaller place on 15-Feb-2017 with the launch of Xiamen Airlines' Fuzhou-New York JFK service. The route is a not a headline grabber like the ultra long hauls of Singapore-San Francisco or Doha-Auckland. But linking the two cities brings a nonstop flight to what is, by some calculations, the largest unserved trans-Pacific market.
The new flight reflects on current themes in the market between Asia and North America: the growth from China's secondary cities, more Chinese airlines being catapulted onto the world stage, and impacts to one stop competitors.
Fuzhou-New York will initially be only flown three times a week, supporting competitors' retorts that they have a frequency advantage – or at least for now. Competitors have also claimed a better product, but Xiamen's 787-9 is China's fifth widebody to offer direct aisle access business class. Soft service is catching up, and likewise for commercial planning: Xiamen's 787-9s do away with first class. This report looks at the growth of China and the rest of Asia to North America as growth momentum slows with China's bilateral capacity being reached.
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.
On 23-Jan-2017, the first full business day of the Trump administration, Emirates announced it would start Dubai-Athens-Newark service on 12-Mar-2017, with a daily 777-300ER. Emirates' 12-Mar-2017 launch of service will undoubtedly add to the list of complaints from the big three US airlines – American, Delta and United.
The list of potential protective targets is growing as the new Administration settles in: renewing the fight against Gulf fifth freedoms while pursuing a blockage of DOT's grant of a permit to Norwegian Air International; Gulf airlines in their home market; and unfair access in China.
It is difficult to see the US airlines winning all of their claims. At worst, their mounting complaints will result in the details being lost as the new administration under Trump eyes indisputable wins with infrastructure and non aviation transportation matters. The loudest voices may be ignored until there is a full government in place to wade through the complainers.
Delta Air Lines is rekindling its partnership with Korean Air. Delta has previously used heavy-handed tactics – cutting off codeshares, nearly eliminating reciprocal frequent flyer benefits otherwise enshrined in their SkyTeam alliances – to bully Korean Air into a JV. The attraction to Delta is a JV partner in Asia, which American and United have long enjoyed.
Korean Air, until recently, has failed to see the benefits of a partnership with Delta, which has a smaller trans-Pacific footprint. Although Korean Air felt the damage from all but losing its North American partner, what Delta needed to give Korean Air was time. It has helped that Delta is no longer pursuing a hub in Tokyo – a rival to Korean Air and Seoul.
A deeper Delta-Korean Air partnership, as hinted at by Delta management in Dec-2016, starts with both feeling competitive trans-Pacific pressure but jointly holding a position of strength, with a JV slightly smaller than United-ANA's, but much larger than American-JAL. Korean Air brings wider coverage to Southeast Asia, as well as North American gateways.