Travel Courier
Issue Date: Jul 04, 2019
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Air Canada wins five Skytrax Awards

Success breeds success


(Photo above: John MacLeod)

To say that Air Canada did well in the 2019 Skytrax World Airline Awards is definitely a bit of an understatement, considering it was picked as the Best Airline in North America; as well as having the Best Business Class Lounge Dining; the Best Airline Staff in Canada; the Best Business Class in North America; and the Best Airline Cabin Cleanliness in North America.

In fact, 2019 marks the eighth time in the past 10 years that Air Canada has been selected as the Best Airline in North America in the Skytrax World Airline Awards. And it’s also the first time that Air Canada has won five awards in the annual awards survey – which is based on passenger satisfaction surveys of over 21 million global travellers.

For John MacLeod, vice-president global sales & alliances for Air Canada, the significance of winning the Best Airline in North America award is that, “it’s a manifestation of all the hard work we’re doing to improve our product, expand our network and have better relationships with the people who we partner with in travel – the agency community and [our] corporate accounts.”

And he continued: “Each year, we seem to get a new award, and the one that’s really meaningful for us as a leadership team at Air Canada is the recognition of our employees in winning the Best Airline Staff in Canada award. We’ve come a long way and that is a milestone which is really important for us, and it’s time for us to celebrate that with our employees.”

Yet, clearly, Air Canada is prepared to rest on its laurels, with MacLeod telling Travel Courier that: “You know, the big one is the Best Airline in North America [award] and we’ve won that eight out of the last 10 years, and you know, I think for us it’s time to think about how do we shape up in the global environment, because we have this vision and aspiration to be a top 10 global airline and now is the time for us to starting thinking about our position relative to the global market rather than just the North American market. So, we are all energized and encouraged to continue to push the boundaries and start comparing ourselves with the global airlines.”

Noting that “it’s always good to aim high,” MacLeod told TC that to achieve this goal, “we’ll need the support from all the stakeholders at Air Canada, and we’ll also need the support of the trade and the travel agency community to support us in that quest.”

“You know success breeds success and that has enabled us to have the confidence to invest more in customer service, and we’re starting to focus on that. We’ve had a big capital investment on our fleet. We spent a substantial amount of time [on] customer service training. And we’d like to push that further.”

Looking forward in 2019, MacLeod notes that Air Canada has another major initiative, the move to a new Passenger Service System (PSS).

“We’re getting a new reservation system in November [2019] which will give us much more flexibility, not only in the products that we can offer our customers, but in the way we service our customers. They will be able to – and this goes for the travel agency community as well as customers who book directly with us – have improved self-service access when booking and flying on Air Canada. And we believe that’s the way of the future and that’s what people want.”

The new PSS – Amadeus Altea – is also used by 18 of Air Canada’s Star Alliance partners, which MacLeod says will give the airline “more seamless connectivity with our partner airlines, [because]
as you know, we connect a lot of traffic.”

For Air Canada, 2019 has also been designated as the Year of the Customer, and MacLeod told TC that the new PSS “is absolutely a foundational element and a foundational requirement for us to improve the experience that customers have in booking and in flying with us. But it also goes to when I talk about customers, I talk about – and think about – B2B as well. So, our travel agency community and making it easier for them to do business with us.”

For agents that means “not having to call us as often because they can have self-service more frequently and being able to offer them access to value-added bundles and products which are easier to book and easier to manage.”

As well, he said that: “The other part about it is taking some time to review our policies and procedures to make sure that there’s nothing in there that is causing friction between the travel agent community in dealing with Air Canada. If we reduce that friction, they can serve their own customers better and that reflects, eventually, well on Air Canada.”

And he added: “The ultimate goal is to make it so easy to do business with us that Air Canada becomes first choice because we’re just so easy to do business with.”

“For me, in the sales area,” MacLeod said, “this is a time to recognize our relationships with our travel agency community and our travellers and to say thank you for supporting us. We’re trying hard to make it even better for you.”