Upstart Canada Jetlines is still trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. After a few false starts on domestic routes the airline now flies mostly transborder leisure routes from its Toronto hub. In something of a surprise move it now also says Doha is on its radar, in cooperation with Qatar Airways.
We are pleased to discuss potential opportunities with Qatar Airways, an international airline known for its world-class service and consistently recognized by the industry and consumers as the best airline in the world.– Eddy Doyle, President & CEO of Canada Jetlines
Under the proposed deal Canada Jetlines would market flights between Toronto and Doha. Initially the companies expect that these flights would be wet-lease operations, with Qatar Airways aircraft operating the service. The company anticipates eventually migrating to a Jetlines-operated 777 for the service. If you’re scratching your head wondering if there’s more to the story, well, there is.
The cooperation appears to be something of an effort to work around the limited frequencies available to airlines of each country under their bilateral air services agreement. Airlines from each country can only operate a limited number of flights between the two. Qatar Airways hit its cap with daily service to Montreal. But it wants more. Air Canada previously operated flights from Toronto to Doha and even added a codeshare with Qatar Airways to extend the relationship. But those flights ended in January 2023. Currently no Canadian airline is flying to Qatar, leaving those route frequencies idle.
Qatar Airways appears keen to capture that additional capacity, but have it run as a Canadian airline, allowing the increased operations.
This approach is not unique in limited access markets. Turkish Airlines recently leased high-density 777-300ER planes to India’s IndiGo Airlines, allowing that carrier to more than double its lift to Istanbul without increasing the number of flights. Not surprisingly, Turkish Airlines and IndiGo also applied for a blanket codeshare allowing those passengers to easily connect onwards to the United States on a single ticket.
But while similar approaches have worked in other countries, it is not clear regulators allow it in Canada. Canadian authorities have generally defending the limited foreign traffic rights to help protect their local airlines. Once Emirates and Air Canada agreed on a partnership last year, for example. But if the government decides that Jetlines doesn’t deserve the same considerations, this plan for more flights to DOH may be DOA.
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