‘All jet and no lag’ as Air Canada prepares to take off on its inaugural flight from Vancouver to New Delhi on its next generation Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Just as the community asked, but it is up to the community to keep the flight in the air.

From Customer Service to Senior Vice President, Regional Markets and Government Relations, Kevin Howlett is a true example of hard work and dedication paying off. After graduating from University in 1973, Kevin began his career with Air Canada in the Customer Service department. The following years he oversaw the merger of many Airlines in Canada, some of which many of us have not even heard about. There were also many challenges that arose; challenges that we as a flying public would not even consider such as managing an airline during the threat of ongoing global geo-political unrest, public concern for safety during the SARS pandemic, H1N1, and now even the Zika Virus. Kevin’s background has also included extensive experience in Human Resources & Industrial Relations, where he oversaw the evolution of Air Canada’s relationship with its unionized workforce during a period that witnessed significant transition within the airline Industry. And today, thanks to Air Canada’s strong belief of engagement with its employees and customers, the airline is well on its way to becoming a Global Powerhouse with its sizeable international expansion from Vancouver, leading to this new route: a non-stop flight from Vancouver to New Delhi.

One can say that many Indo-Canadian businesses in British Columbia have been lobbying for this direct flight for the past 20 years, yet as Kevin explains it, the aircraft economics were not where they needed to be until now, with the introduction of the new Dreamliner. But one can also say that even though there was demand from the public, would it have been profitable enough to sustain its own route without having to carve into the profit of other flights? Now was deemed to be the right time for this new venture with its 14 hour* flight from Vancouver to Delhi. Business travelers will benefit greatly from reduced travel time to Delhi and to connections beyond, as will the general South Asian community in Western Canada who want to avoid the traditionally long journey that used to require a connection in order to visit their family members and loved ones.

AAJ Magazine had an opportunity to speak with Kevin Howlett recently who brought along Air Canada’s Manager, Business Development James Howey for the conversation.

AAJ Magazine: Why did you choose the south Asian community to introduce this venture to? What made Delhi an appealing option; was it chosen on a local-population basis, statistics from previous years, or the growing trade with Canada and India?

Kevin: A number of reasons. India is the world’s third largest economy, and is also home to the most populous democracy in the world. This is coupled with India’s highly educated and growing middle class who are seeking new destinations and greater access to global markets. British Columbia has also targeted India as a partner to increase trade with. The Introduction of this non-stop flight will be the catalyst of growth and bi-lateral cooperation between Canada & India. In fact, since 2010 both Canada & India have been in talks around a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. In our view, investments such as our new service will help further accelerate these types of discussions. There is also lots of opportunity for the education system, for students to travel from India to BC. This flight will also be used to increase the growth of transportation of air cargo, another very important element of our business model. And for the traveling public, they can now enjoy the fasted elapsed time between British Columbia and India with our new service. With this new venture, they can be in India in less than a day’.

With a departure time from Vancouver of 11:45 pm, landing locally in Delhi at 1:55am two calendar days later, customers have time to make connecting flights or prepare for meetings with the luxury of not being as jetlagged upon arrival. This is thanks to many great new features unique to the Dreamliner such as the feeling of lower cabin altitude and higher humidity to reduce the effects of fatigue, as well as mood lighting that reflects the local time, so you know when to sleep, or when to rise. And one should not forget 600 hours of In-Flight Entertainment, route-specific hot meals and snacks, newspapers from around the globe, and an amazing language-qualified cabin crew (who by the way, have their own secret quarters on the plane to rest between destinations; but please don’t try to find it, we need them rested!).

After many years of lobbying for this direct flight, it will finally be in service in the Fall of 2016, which is next month! But as with all good things, there is a small but important catch – To keep this new flight running: We must understandably use it.

As Kevin mentioned, “This is a use it or lose it opportunity: the company has tried to meet the needs of the market by offering the three classes of service now on board the Dreamliner: International Business Class, Premium Economy, and Economy”. Kevin goes on to say, ‘Air Canada believes, that after years of pro-longed travel, people can appreciate the value and efficiency of a direct flight.” James Howey also states, “What this is, in our eyes, is a new level of engagement: Air Canada’s way of building greater ties with the community. With the upcoming Canada-India Business Council Partnership Summit in September for instance, now it’s about engaging the community, connecting with business, saving money, and increasing growth.”

For those of you wondering if this will be a year round service, James has an answer: “The majority of the Indo-Canadian community that travels is flying anywhere from October to April. Typically, from there we see demand drop off for which our customers are currently able to take advantage of our year-round service via Toronto with one easy connection.” Even so Kevin later comments, ‘Our hope is to take Vancouver-Delhi year-round, it will entirely depend on the demand of the market’.

So Air Canada will fly as the market wishes them to. With the engagement of the community, with the market supporting this new route, this can be a way to lessen the distance between families and businesses. Air Canada has taken this risk upon themselves to deliver what the customer has asked of them, and in this case the customer has asked for a non-sop flight. After years of thorough research, on October 20th, 2016, Air Canada and The 787 Dreamliner is set to take off on the inaugural non-stop flight from Vancouver British Columbia to New Delhi; just as the customer suggested and wanted! For more on this new service, contact your local travel agent or visit www.aircanada.com.

I know that you, the reader, want as much information as you can get before you travel on a 14 hour flight. I was skeptical at first as well. What am I going to do in the air for 14 hours? Then you break it down, and Kevin gave a wonderful answer, “600 hours of in-flight entertainment.” You can binge watch an entire TV series, and no one can say anything to you. Want to watch 3 Blockbuster films? Go for it! Haven’t played Sudoku in a while? Why not begin now? Falling asleep? You have time. Need to stay awake to finish the report? Go right ahead! One of the wonderful cabin crew aboard will be happy to serve you refreshments all throughout the duration of the flight.

The Introduction of this non-stop flight will be the catalyst of growth and bi-lateral cooperation between Canada
& India

October 20th, 2016, Air Canada and the 787 Dreamliner is set to take off on the inaugural non-stop flight from Vancouver British Columbia to New Delhi