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Air Canada targets international market with major Asian push

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport in Toronto in this file photo.


With international routes seen as one of the last remaining areas of expansion for Air Canada, the airline announced a major new push into the rapidly growing Asian market, including seven new weekly flights to China this summer.

On June 1, Air Canada will be flying three additional weekly departures from Toronto to Beijing, for a total of ten a week. Plus it's adding four more Vancouver to Beijing flights, for a weekly total of eleven departures.

Other new additions include a new Toronto to Seoul flight three times weekly, beginning in June 2, and a switch from the previously five-times-a-week Calgary to Tokyo Narita flight to a daily departure, starting in May. A new, non-stop Toronto to Istanbul service, to offered three times a week beginning June 4, is still subject to government approval, Air Canada said.

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Air Canada's announcement is being touted as "the most far-reaching international expansion of its schedule in its 75-year history," said Ben Smith, executive vice president and chief commercial officer. "With our Asia expansion alone, we will be flying 11 daily departures or more than 43,000 seats a week across the Pacific Ocean this summer – a commitment of up to 14 widebody aircraft valued in excess of $2-billion."

In conference calls to analysts, Air Canada has repeatedly stressed its focus on international expansion, even as many await the launch of its new, yet unveiled low-cost carrier. That discount subsidiary, however, will focus on leisure destinations in the United States and Caribbean, as well as flying some routes to Europe at a cheaper price which the main Air Canada network already serves.

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Guy Dixon is a feature writer for The Globe and Mail. More


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