Air Canada and WestJet Adding to Economy Class Seating
The competition over the Canadian business traveller is fierce these days, with main airline competitors Air Canada, WestJet and Porter Airlines adding new features to entice travellers while keeping cost-savings as high as possible.
Air Canada reported last week its first quarter results of a $210-million loss compared with a $19-million loss last year in the first quarter. The airline has also had significant and highly-publicized labour relations problems during the past year.
Meanwhile its competitor WestJet reported a record first-quarter net income of $68.3 million, up 42 per cent from the $48.2 million of last year.
To offset these losses, Air Canada has revealed that it is considering adding a “premium economy class” to target travelers that want the comfort of business class for the more reasonable economy class price. These premium economy seats would feature wider seats and more legroom for passengers for a slightly higher economy price. Air Canada is examining the pros and cons of reconfiguring its existing two-class seating arrangement of economy and business.
“We’re very well familiar with some of the benefits that you can have from having premium economy. The big factor, of course, is measuring the capital costs to transform airplanes. But that’s under study right now.” Air Canada chief executive officer Calin Rovinescu said during a conference call with analysts to The Globe and Mail.
Advocates think that the revenue raised from traveler booking the premium economy class would offset the slippage from passengers in business class who downgrade to economy.
WestJet is countering with the purchase of a fleet of Bombardier Q400s for its new short-haul carrier and the announcement of possible new seat configuration for its larger 737-800s. The additions will sound familiar, including roomier premium seats and a higher-density economy class.
WestJet signed a letter of intent for 20 Q400s, with another 25 on option. The order, which is expected to be firmed up shortly, has a value of roughly $600 million based on list price, but could grow to $1.35 billion if all the options are exercised, according to Canada.com.
It will be interesting to see which airline heavyweight will win the most business travellers.
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Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.