Air Canada reported, Thursday, that it lost $249 million in 2011, almost 10 times what it lost the year before, despite near-record passenger loads.
The year’s total included a $98 million loss in the last three months of 2011, which is typically one of the better travel quarters because it includes the rush of passengers flying home for Christmas.
Despite the loss, Air Canada President and Chief Executive Officer Calin Rovinescu struck a positive tone, blaming much of the loss on soaring fuel prices which rose 23 per cent over the previous year.
“Our focus on revenue generation initiatives resulted in eight per cent growth or an increase of $826 million from the previous year,” he said in a release. “And a record revenue performance for the airline, which helped mitigate a fuel expense increase of $723 million.”
On average, almost 82 per cent of Air Canada’s seats were full in 2011, the second-highest passenger loads ever recorded. Revenues from business class, where airlines have traditionally made their biggest profits, rose eight per cent last year.
Despite that, the airline doesn’t predict a substantial increase in flights in 2012, and it’s taking a good hard look at competing more aggressively in the leisure market.
Rovinescu also said the airline’s strategy of funnelling passengers through major hubs is paying off.
“Our focus on growing international connecting traffic via our Canadian hubs is paying off,” he said, “particularly at Toronto Pearson where it has increased by 110 per cent since 2009.”
That’s good news for the hubs – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. For example in Calgary, Air Canada has announced an additional weekly flight to Tokyo, and flights to Frankfurt will operate with larger A-330 aircraft.
But the news is not as hopeful for people in cities such as Edmonton where some residents feel ignored by Air Canada, and have been voicing their hope for more flights in on-line forums.