Jacksonville Business Journal
Just three weeks after Air Canada announced it would fly between Toronto and Jacksonville, the Canadian airline made another announcement.
Instead of May 21, the initial start date for service, Air Canada decided it would start flights May 7.
The catalyst for changing the date, which is highly unusual for air carrier: The Players Championship.
“It is unusual,” said Lisa Pierce, senior director of U.S. sales and market development for Air Canada, in an interview with the Business Journal.
Pierce said that when the flight was announced, it was suggested that they move the service up a few weeks to accommodate passengers who would be interested in attending the tournament.
"Many Canadians love golf almost as much as going to Florida, so we are very pleased to adjust our schedule to accommodate fans attending The Players,” said Pierce at the time of the decision, back in December.
But it’s not easy to just reschedule a flight, which is why many times it doesn’t happen.
Pierce said the biggest constraint to setting up a route and then moving the date is making sure the aircraft is available. Then, it’s setting up the crew pairings well in advance.
Next, the passenger demand has to be enough to justify the expense. Finally, space has to be available at both airports for the earlier time frame.
But all of that has come together, Pierce said, and made the earlier start date worthwhile.
Although she didn’t know exactly how many customers have booked on each plane, she did say that the 72-seat capacity flights are filling up.
Starting the service between Jacksonville and Toronto made sense for the airline, Pierce said, as Jacksonville is an ideal market because it has both leisure and business components.
“There are a lot of headquarters down there,” she said. “There are Canadian businesses looking to do business in Florida, and vice versa. There’s a commitment to the Florida region. And since we’re already servicing other cities in the state, it made sense to add Jacksonville.”
Meanwhile, Toronto is one of Air Canada’s biggest hubs and an international gateway to the country. The airline even offers a free stopover in Toronto up to 7 days, as part of a way to spur economic development in the city.
But Pierce emphasized that part of Air Canada’s appeal is its availability to do what it did with Jacksonville: be flexible and fit the needs of the customers, including servicing a golf tournament.
“Air Canada is growing, but we are nimble,” she said. “We are able to change our schedule when there is a commercial request made. That’s something that sets us apart from the competition.”