Air Canada is coming back to Hamilton.
The national carrier, which departed the city’s John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport in 2008, announced Wednesday it will launch a new twice-daily service to Montreal starting in May.
Airport president Frank Scremin welcomed the announcement as an exciting boost to his long-held dream of Hamilton as a passenger destination.
“This is very exciting because we’ve been hunting for Montreal for quite a while now,” he said. “Montreal is a high demand destination we keep hearing about.”
Demand for the service comes from both business and leisure travellers, Scremin added.
In its news release announcing the new service, Air Canada said its flights are timed to offer connections from Montreal’s Trudeau airport to/from Atlantic Canada including Halifax and St. John’s, and to Europe including Rome, Geneva, Barcelona, Paris and Lyon.
Benjamin Smith, Air Canada’s president for passenger airlines, said in a news release Hamilton airport’s location was the selling point that brought the company back.
“Located in the heart of the populous Golden Horseshoe of Southern Ontario, Hamilton is a convenient departure and arrival point for the business community as well as tourists, visiting friends and relatives,” he said. “This is the only non-stop service between Hamilton and Montreal and is part of our strategy to increase and strengthen our presence in the Greater Toronto Area as well as in Montreal.”
Air travel analyst Robert Kokonis, of Ancaster-based Air Trav Inc., said the new service is a welcome development on many levels. It offers the chance to reach international destinations from Hamilton while cashing in on its airport’s oft-touted advantages of quick departures.
It will also be a draw for business travelers, like him, who are frustrated by congestion at Toronto’s Pearson Airport or the traffic problems of getting to Billy Bishop Airport on Toronto Island.
“I for one am very pleased because I travel a lot,” Kokonis said. “If I can go out of Hamilton to anywhere with decent connections, I will take that option every time.”
The new service will use 50-seat Bombardier CRJ jets making 13 round-trips a week. Given Hamilton airport’s ability to draw new customers with the right service, Kokonis said, it should be possible to fill at least 80 per cent of those seats.
“I think that is a very doable number if it’s marketed properly.”
Air Canada is the first of three new passenger services targeting Hamilton as their hub. The other two are proposed ultra low-cost carriers NewLeaf Travel and Canadian Jetlines. Under that model the fare paid by a customer ensures a seat on the aircraft. Everything else, from more legroom to carry-on baggage to food and entertainment, is extra.
NewLeaf had planned to launch service to Canadian destinations including Saskatoon, Halifax, Kelowna, Winnipeg and Regina at one-way fares ranging between $99 and $150. Flights to American destinations such as Las Vegas, Florida and California and to the Caribbean were to be added later.
The service was to start this month but has been grounded until the spring because of licensing issues with the Canadian Transportation Agency.
Jetlines president Jim Scott said the airline is still raising money to launch its service and they’re aiming to be in the air sometime this year.
Scott welcomed the Air Canada announcement as a validation of the Hamilton attributes that led his company to locate here.
“It really validates our business plan that sees Hamilton as a great alternative to Toronto,” he said, adding new services will bring new passengers.
“It’s like a shopping mall; you need a lot of different stores to draw people in.”
Passenger traffic through Hamilton’s airport peaked in 2003 at about one million, when it was the eastern hub for WestJet. In 2014, the airport saw 332,000 passengers.
If all available seats are sold, the new Air Canada service has the potential to increase passenger volume by 10 per cent.
The only current year-round scheduled service from Hamilton is a single daily WestJet return flight to Calgary. That’s in addition to seasonal service to vacation spots.
The Air Canada service will be operated by Jazz Aviation LP. It will offer twice daily flights Sunday to Friday, with single flight on Saturday. Sunday to Friday the service will leave Montreal at 6:30 in the morning and arrive in Hamilton at 7:40 a.m. The flight will depart again at 8:10 a.m., arriving in Montreal at 9:21 a.m.
Daily service will leave Montreal at 4:55 p.m. and arrive 6:07 p.m. The flight will cash in on Hamilton’s quick turnaround to leave again at 6:40 p.m. and arrive in Montreal at 7:50 p.m.
The service is expected to start May 24.
The Hamilton Spectator`
Air Canada announced Wednesday it’ll launch new flights direct between Hamilton and Montreal beginning in May.
The flights are scheduled to leave each airport twice daily except Saturday, which will have one flight each way.
The airline says it timed the flights so passengers could connect with flights to Atlantic Canada and Europe.
Air Canada’s passenger airlines president, Benjamin Smith, cited the population of Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe as a factor in deciding to launch the service in Hamilton.
“Hamilton is a convenient departure and arrival point for the business community as well as tourists, visiting friends and relatives,” Smith said in a press release.
Montreal is a destination that Hamilton airport passengers have requested often, said Frank Scremin, president and CEO of the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport — both for business and for getaways.
The service is scheduled to begin on May 24. The airline says the flights will be on Jazz Aviation LP 50-seat Bombardier CRJ jets.
The starting price for the flights appears to be $147 or $148 each way.
Sunday to Friday flights:
-Montreal to Hamilton: Depart YUL at 6:30 a.m., arrive YHM at 7:40 a.m.
-Hamilton to Montreal: Depart YHM at 8:10 a.m., arrive YUL at 9:21 a.m.
-Montreal to Hamilton: Depart YUL at 4:55 p.m., arrive YHM at 6:07 p.m.
-Hamilton to Montreal: Depart YHM at 6:40 p.m., arrive YUL at 7:50 p.m.
Latest in a series of promises
The announcement is the latest in a series of ideas pitched by Air Canada and upstart airlines for flights to and from the Hamilton airport.
Air Canada said it would launch its low-cost Rouge service from Hamilton to Calgary last year, but it delayed that route after a plane crashed in Halifax.
On Wednesday, Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told CBC News that route is off the table.
“At this point there is no plan for a Calgary route from Hamilton,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have determined that customers in Hamilton and the surrounding region want non-stop service to Montreal, and there is also significant demand in Montreal for a non-stop flight to Hamilton.”
Meanwhile, companies including Canada Jetlines and NewLeaf have circled the Hamilton airport, hoping to land their own “ultra-low-cost” service in Hamilton. Jetlines hasn’t announced any firm dates.
And while NewLeaf launched with much fanfare last month, getting Hamilton’s hopes up, the airline abruptly postponed its service two weeks later, saying it would refund tickets for anyone who’d already bought.
Air Canada is coming back to Hamilton.