Skift Take

Since 2009, Air Canada has reinvented itself, taking delivery of new Boeing 787s, improving passenger cabins, and adding international routes to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The airline's management, including Benjamin Smith, deserves credit for making Air Canada relevant again.

As recently as six years ago, Air Canada was a broken airline, teetering on the edge of its second bankruptcy in three years.

But after narrowly avoiding the repeat trip to bankruptcy, Air Canada’s then-new senior leadership team did something remarkable. They turned the carrier into among the most profitable — and popular — airlines in North America. They invested in new aircraft, including the Boeing 787, and in some of the more comfortable businesses class seats on the market. They won a four-star rating from SkyTraxx, one star higher than American, United, and Delta. And they turned their focus globally, adding a slew of new routes to cities like Dubai, New Delhi, Budapest and Casablanca.

Under new leadership, Air Canada sought to leverage Canada’s geographic location atop the United States. Air Canada knows it cannot attract many passengers from Chicago, Los Angeles or New York flying to Shanghai, because they have nonstop options on United, American and Delta. But for U.S. customers from smaller cities, such as Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City, Air Canada wants to be the preferred carrier for flights to Europe and Asia. For them, Air Canada provides an efficient and comfortable one-stop option.

Benjamin Smith, Air Canada’s president for passenger airlines, spoke about the airline’s global strategy in September at the Skift Global Forum in New York City.

Watch the complete discussion below. Or read more coverage from the event. 

At this year’s Skift Global Forum in New York City, travel leaders from around the world gathered for two days of inspiration, information, and conversation for panels such as this as well as solo TED-like talks on the future of travel.

Visit our Skift Global Forum site for more details about 2017 events, including our London event in April of 2017.


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Tags: air canada, sgf2016, skift global forum

Photo credit: Benjamin Smith (right), Air Canada's president for passenger airlines, is one of the architects of the carrier's new global growth strategy. Dan Peltier / Skift

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