Airline Spotlight: Air Canada

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Photo credit: Aero Icarus
Photo credit: Aero Icarus

Air Canada is Canada’s largest airline and the country’s flag carrier. The airline was founded in 1936 and is now the world’s ninth-largest passenger airline (based on fleet size). The airline is also the founding member of the Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance. Air Canada is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, and the company’s largest hub is Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario.

Air Canada was developed from the Canadian government’s creation of Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA) in 1936. TCA operated their first transcontinental flights in 1938 and by 1939; the fleet consisted of six 14-passenger Lodestars and 12 10-passenger Lockheed 14H aircrafts. TCA operated transcontinental mail and passenger routes between Montreal and Toronto and Vancouver via Edmonton, Lethbridge, Regina, Winnipeg, Kapuskasing and North Bay.

It wasn’t until 1965 that the Trans-Canada Airlines name was changed to Air Canada. By the early 1970s, Air Canada’s revenue was more than $500 million, and the fleet included eight extended DC-8s, four cargo DC-8s, 14 DC-8s, three Boeing 747s, 17 Viscounts and 36 DC-9s.

Photo credit: Ian Mackenzie
Photo credit: Ian Mackenzie

Air Canada introduced its routes across the Atlantic in 1987. The flights traveled to Glasgow, London, Paris, Manchester, Zurich, Munich, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Bombay, Geneva and Singapore. The airline’s fleet had grown to include 113 aircrafts, and Air Canada ruled 54 percent of the domestic airline market based on revenue, according to the Globe and Mail.

The international travel market plunged due to fears of terrorism in 1990, and it took some of Air Canada’s revenue with it. And the late ‘90s presented even more turmoil for the Air Canada brand. The Onex private equity company attempted to buy Air Canada and the airline’s biggest rival, Canadian Airlines, to merge the two. The Onex company was eventually forced to withdraw its offer after it was deemed illegal by a Quebec judge.

Despite economic difficulties in the airline industry in the 1990s, Air Canada acquired Canadian Airlines (the company’s biggest rival) on Jan. 4, 2000. The following year, a newly-merged carrier took to the skies, drawing its strengths from four regional airlines (Air Nova, Air Ontario, Canadian Regional and AirBC). The consolidation of the four companies was launched in 2002 as a new name and brand known as Air Canada Jazz. Air Canada Jazz served as Air Canada’s major regional line from 2002 until 2011. All Air Canada Jazz regional operators have since acquired the Air Canada Express Name; although, many planes do still feature the “Jazz” logo and memorable maple leaf paint scheme.

Photo credit: Prints Rupert
Photo credit: Prints Rupert

Air Canada had employed a scorched earth policy as one of its lines of defence against Onex’s takeover in 1999, and in doing so, they burdened themselves with demanding contracts with nearly all of their suppliers. On April 1, 2003, the company filed for protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. They emerged from the protection 18 months later and were reorganized under ACE Aviation Holdings Inc.

Air Canada celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2006, and it remains Canada’s largest airline. Air Canada was ranked as a 4 Star Airline by Skytrax in 2013 and was recognized as the Skytrax Best International Airline in North America.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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