Big 2 airlines are regionalizing commercial aviation, experts say

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The 2 major airlines are regionalizing commercial aviation, according to experts

According to commercial aviation experts, the two main Canadian air carriers are dividing the market to keep the most profitable routes. (File photo)

Canada's two major carriers, Air Canada and WestJet, are increasingly focusing on their respective regional markets to improve their economic performance and counter competition from ultra-low-cost airlines, aviation experts say commercial.

This strategy led these two companies to cancel several flights across the country, which had the effect of regionalizing commercial air traffic.

Airlines are trying to shore up their fiefdoms, says John Gradek, a transportation industry expert at McGill University and a member of the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.

In 2022, WestJet announced a strategy that includes restructuring its regional flights. It has thus reduced the volume of its connections to the Atlantic, Ontario and Quebec.

Meanwhile, its connections between Toronto and Montreal are down 80% from pre-pandemic levels, according to Cirium, a firm that analyzes aviation statistics.

Conversely, Air Canada no longer serves several small airports in Western Canada and has eliminated flights at regional and international airports in the Prairies.

The carrier therefore no longer operates between Calgary and Nanaimo, Cranbrook, Kamloops, Castlegar, and Victoria, in British Columbia, Regina and Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, in Alberta, while these flights were scheduled in 2019 The company, however, continues to serve Vancouver Airport.

Commercial aviation has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic in due to national and international health restrictions.

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As WestJet and Air Canada flight volumes slowly return to normal, the arrival of ultra-low-cost airlines, such as Canada Jetlines and Flair Airlines , or regional airlines, like Porter, is changing the commercial aviation industry.

Basically [WestJet and Air Canada] are trying to create barriers to entry [to these markets] to [contain] other carriers, which is normal in a competitive environment, adds John Gradek.

Smaller airlines usually concentrate their services on the most profitable routes, thus taking market share from the two largest companies.

They're like, 'Okay, we're going to create our own little fortresses. We will manage them and we will try to develop our forces around these fortresses, explains the specialist.

Passengers are the first to experience the consequences of the regionalization of commercial air traffic. There are fewer choices and journeys can be longer than before due to the need to go through a central airport.

In addition, the lack of competition may increase ticket prices.

Airlines and airports have accumulated huge debts. They have to pay for them and the only way to do that is by focusing on the most profitable flights, says Barry Prentice, a transportation professor at the University of Manitoba.

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However, this regionalization raises fears of collusion. The Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce is calling on the feds to study the strategies of WestJet and Air Canada.

Air Canada has not adequately explained why why it decided to cut [the route between Saskatoon and Calgary], which has always been profitable for more than 30 years, writes in a press release Jason Aebig, the president and CEO of the Chamber of commerce.

< p class="e-p">The airline says it is following regulations and denies any allegations of collusion.

Experts believe WestJet and Air Canada will return canceled flights to service as soon as their revenues begin to increase.

With information from Kyle Baxx

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