So far, Air Canada Cargo does not serve domestic routes, except for flights between Toronto and the maritime provinces. However, this will change once more freighter aircraft join the fleet. Currently, Air Canada Cargo operates two B767 P2F converted aircraft. By the end of 2022, that number will double, says Jason Berry (J.B.), Managing Director of Air Canada Cargo. And more are to come, including production freighters.
CFG: In a recent interview with John Lloyd, Air Canada Cargo’s Director EU, ME, India, he
said that, apart from Frankfurt and Madrid, no further European destinations would be served by Air Canada Cargo in the near future. Now Cologne and Istanbul have been added to your schedule.
What’s behind this network expansion as now announced?
J.B.: Air Canada Cargo has been focused on building long-term, scheduled operations as opposed to charter work or chasing short-term market trends. As such, we are continually evaluating opportunities that we believe fit our strategy and complement our global network.
CFG: Frankfurt and Cologne are just 180 km apart. Why do you serve two airports that are geographical “twins”?
J.B.: In Frankfurt, we have a self-handled facility and provide an undisputed world-class service. The opportunity to utilize Cologne as a link to Istanbul, provides us with added flexibility in our schedule and serves as a force multiplier for Air Canada in the German market.
We serve both markets because we see value and flexibility with having a presence in Cologne. While Frankfurt is a key cargo and passenger hub for Air Canada, Air Canada Cargo has a great opportunity to offer scheduled service in Cologne as well. The pandemic has shown us all the importance of regular and reliable air cargo capacity. Cologne is primarily served by integrator and ACMI business which, of course, offers very little space to the open market. We anticipate our forwarding partners will be keen to have predictable and reliable lift without having to worry about being displaced during the peak season.
CFG: London-Heathrow is not on your agenda for freighter flights. Why?
J.B.: Similar to Frankfurt, we are self-handled in London-Heathrow and have a fantastic team that supports our customers across the UK. Our presence in London-Heathrow extends back decades and is a market where we continue to offer a strong level of cargo capacity and options with our passenger network. Air Canada will operate nine daily flights from the UK to North America at our peak this summer! We feel confident with our existing presence and the capacity we can offer. This is one of the beautiful parts of being a combination carrier. We can leverage both our strong passenger network along with the new freighter capacity we’re strategically introducing across the globe.
CFG: Does Air Canada Cargo plan to operate nonstop flights, taking off from Madrid to destinations in Latin America, deploying B767-P2F? This way combining your southbound routes ex Canada with transatlantic services originating in Spain?
J.B.: We do not anticipate non-stop flying, however, our freighter network has been thoughtfully constructed to ensure connectivity from Europe to Latin America is seamless and highly efficient through our Toronto hub, which has also seen significant enhancements and investments this year. Our ability to link continents via Toronto enables Air Canada the ability to offer multiple origins and destinations without the need to fly direct. Our freighter and widebody network from our hubs in North America offers unparalleled connectivity in the region. We are the only global combination carrier operating in North America, and are thrilled to have such a unique product offering for our customers. As the remainder of our 10 freighters enter the fleet, we expect to continue to offer even more valuable connectivity to our forwarding customers.
CFG: Currently, intra-Canadian freighter services are not standing high on your schedule, except for flights linking Toronto with Halifax and St. John’s. Customers may be interested to know whether services to BC, Manitoba, or to more destinations in the U.S. (in addition to Miami), are on your route map, once more B767P2Fs join the fleet.
J.B.: As we add additional freighters into our fleet, we expect to expand internationally as well as at home in the domestic Canadian market. Today, there is very little domestic air cargo freighter capacity that is not utilized by integrators and postal operations. Customers are eager to see us enter this space in order to bring competition and options to the market.
CFG: Last year, different media reported that Air Canada intends to convert seven B767 from pax to cargo, and is hoping to operate the freighters before the end of 2022. What’s the status of the conversions?
J.B.: The supply chain challenges affecting the world have also impacted the timing of our freighter conversions. We launched our first 767-300 freighter in December of 2021, and our second aircraft entered service last month. We expect to have 4 freighters by the end of the year, and recently announced the purchase of two, brand new, factory-built Boeing freighters. This will not only provide us with additional capacity for expansion, but it will speed up our timelines for bringing aircraft into service.
CFG: Jason, thank you for this interview.
Regarding the Cologne flights, we asked Anrea Tony Geslao for a statement on their importance for the role of Cologne/Bonn as a hub for transcontinental air freight traffic. Mr. Geslao is the new cargo director at CGN. He succeeded Torsten Wefers, who recently moved from Cologne to Liege, where he became VP Marketing & Sales.
Here is the executive’s comment:
“Cologne Bonn Airport is delighted to welcome Air Canada Cargo as its newest airline partner in the air freight sector connecting the Canadian market with Western Germany and onwards to Turkey. Forwarders doing business in these regions will benefit from this new scheduled service which further enhances our extensive cargo network. The airport and all involved stakeholders are looking forward to this new operation and will ensure a flexible, smooth, and efficient operation.”
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