I keep a regular eye on websites like Routes Online because I love it when airlines announce new routes, especially when foreign airlines launch services to Canada. Besides the opportunity for Canadians to use their Miles & Points to travel on these flights, there's also something genuinely exciting about new route announcements and the possibilities they open up, in terms of broadening links between countries and facilitating brand-new cross-cultural connections.
Last year, TAP Portugal resumed service between Lisbon and Toronto, which is great for Canadians hoping to visit the Iberian peninsula. And just last month, Air Canada added direct service to Buenos Aires starting in May 2018, improving their South American coverage and doing away with the annoying one-stop flight via Santiago, Chile.
In that spirit, I wanted to give the airlines of the world some ideas as to new Canadian routes that I think would make sense and that we as Canadian travellers would welcome greatly. Here's hoping that a few airlines' scheduling departments end up seeing this! 😄
1. ANA / Japan Airlines – Toronto to Tokyo
Let's start off in Asia. It comes as a real surprise to me that neither of Japan's leading airlines find it worthwhile to offer service to Toronto, which is by far the largest market in Canada. The demand for travel is certainly there, and Air Canada is currently the only player in the market, offering direct flights to Tokyo Haneda and an on-again-off-again service to Narita throughout the year.
While both ANA and JAL do serve Vancouver with daily flights, I'm sure residents of Eastern Canada would jump on the opportunity to fly premium Asian carriers on their way to Japan and the wider East Asia region. Redeeming 60,000 Alaska miles for a one-way business class flight on Japan Airlines wouldn't be half bad either.
2. Singapore Airlines / Air Canada – Vancouver to Singapore
Singapore used to fly three times weekly to Vancouver but suspended that service in 2009, citing the economic downturn. Now that things are finally looking up a bit, I wouldn't be surprised to see Singapore resume service to Canada in the near future. Of the four North American destinations that Singapore currently flies to, however, only San Francisco is served by a direct flight. So the possibility of a fifth freedom flight via somewhere like Seoul or Tokyo would be quite likely and very welcome indeed.
On the other side of the coin, Air Canada has publicly expressed interest in linking up Vancouver with South East Asia for the first time, leveraging the range and cost-effectiveness of its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Air Canada's been growing their international network at a tremendous rate in recent years, so there's a good chance that Singapore will be in the mix when the next route announcement drops.
3. Avianca – Toronto to Bogotá
Moving on to Latin America, this one just makes sense to me. Colombian Canadians are the largest South American immigrant group in Canada, with most of their numbers concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, according to the 2011 census. Presently, the Toronto–Bogotá route is only serviced by Air Canada Rouge, five times a week.
Since Avianca recently acquired a fleet of 787 Dreamliners and are offering a far superior onboard product to Rouge, I do think that they would make an absolute killing if they entered the market here. Given Colombia's geography, they'd also be able to rake in the profit from connecting traffic to the rest of South America. Once Aeroplan resolves its booking issues with Avianca, this would open up many more possibilities for award travel to South America as well.
Strangely enough, Avianca does actually fly to Toronto right now – from San Salvador, a remnant of the route network of El Salvador's TACA Airlines, which Avianca acquired in 2009.
4. Swiss – Vancouver to Zurich
Edelweiss Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Swiss International Air Lines, is a leisure airline based in Zurich, and currently offers seasonal service to Vancouver. So this one isn't really a potential new route, but rather an upgrade from Swiss's equivalent of Air Canada Rouge to a mainline service.
I do think a strong case can be made for such an upgrade, especially given that Air Canada will begin service on the route in mid-2018. Also, Edelweiss currently flies to Vancouver only in the summer, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me given the strong winter sports tourism connection between the two locales.
For points collectors, the arrival of Swiss business class will give residents of Western Canada a much easier time getting to Europe using Aeroplan, which has always posed quite the headache.
5. Ethiopian Airlines – Toronto to Dublin to Addis Ababa
This one is quite interesting. Right now, Ethiopian's service between Toronto and Addis Ababa is nonstop on the westbound flight, but stops in Dublin on the eastbound to refuel (a result of the "hot and high" departure from the high altitude of Ethiopia's capital). However, Ethiopian doesn't have pickup rights between Dublin and Toronto, meaning you can't book a ticket solely between the two cities.
Contrast this with the airline's flight from Addis Ababa to Los Angeles, which stops in Dublin in both directions and does possess local pickup rights. If Ethiopian implemented a similar schedule on their Toronto service, that would be one hell of a way to fly to Europe! I imagine they wouldn't have much trouble turning a profit either, given the cost-effectiveness of their 787s and the economies of scale they've built up in their "mini-hub" in Dublin (besides Toronto and Los Angeles, their Washington DC flight is also operated with a refuelling stop in the Irish capital on the eastbound).
6. WestJet / Air Canada – St. John's to Europe
For quite some time a while ago, one of the weirdest things you could see at London Heathrow Airport between the hours of 10am and 1pm was a tiny Airbus A319 decked out in Air Canada colours sitting next to all the other Air Canada widebody aircraft. You guessed it – that's the flight from St. John's, Newfoundland, which was easily serviced by such a small bird because of how little distance there is between Canada's eastern frontier and Europe.
Indeed, the westbound flight can be completed in just a shade under five hours, which is pretty incredible. I actually took this flight a few years back, and it was plain weird sitting on a single-aisle narrowbody while flying over an entire ocean. These days, the Air Canada flight is operated by a Boeing 767, while WestJet has also gotten in on the game, launching seasonal service from St. John's to Dublin and London Gatwick.
What I love about these flights is how easily they allow you to visit Newfoundland on your way to Europe. As everyone knows, travelling within Canada is pretty damn expensive, and almost prohibitively so when it comes to Atlantic Canada. With the ability to add an extended layover or stopover in St. John's on your way to Europe, you get to see a beautiful part of the country and break up your journey into shorter chunks (which many people place value on).
That's why I'd love to see WestJet or Air Canada use St. John's as a jumping-off point for flights to more European cities – especially WestJet, as it'd be a great way for them to expand their international reach in advance of their massive Boeing 787 order getting delivered. Perhaps it's even something that the Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism Board or the provincial government could look into working with the airlines to ensure that everyone comes out ahead.
It's exciting news when new airlines launch service to Canada because it instantly opens up many more doors for us Canadian travellers. The above list is by no means exhaustive – I'd love to see more direct flights to Africa, for example, but I'm not sure the demand is quite there yet. However, I do think I've charted out some possibilities that might make sense for some of the airlines I've mentioned, and I'm looking forward to seeing if any of my predictions play out in reality. Let me know in the comments what you think!