Pivot Airlines assesses business travel demand and plans scheduled service early 2022
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After 16 months of pandemic-induced delays, Toronto-based Pivot Airlines is almost ready to sell tickets for its scheduled air service offering.
The new operator plans to launch in the first quarter of 2022 with service from the Waterloo International Airport (YKF) region to Montreal and Ottawa. It hopes to add three US destinations once regulatory approval is obtained, said Eric Edmondson, CEO of Pivot Airlines.
Tickets are expected to be available for purchase at www.flypivot.com between October 28 and November 5.
“We are positioning ourselves as a brand of value,” he said. Skies during a recent interview. “Our target is the business traveler, with some leisure travel, for those who expect a higher class of service. “
Pivot already has a check-in counter at the main terminal in Waterloo, and Edmondson said final negotiations are underway for the hangar, maintenance and operational facilities. The airline plans to keep its current hangar and executive office at Toronto Pearson Airport.
Currently, Pivot operates a Bombardier CRJ200 regional jet and has access to Dash 8-100s through an extended charter agreement with Central Mountain Air Ltd. in Calgary. The airline is actively looking for additional CRJ planes to meet its initial launch needs from Waterloo – around five planes in total, Edmondson expects.
“Our plan is to focus on all available CRJ variants, which would include the 200 up to the entire product line,” he said.
It has been an interesting road for Pivot, who obtained their air operator certificate in June 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc among other air operators.
“At this point, it was still not clear to everyone on the trail needed to deal with Covid,” Edmondson explained. “We were hoping to be able to start regular service in a few months, but we had to postpone that a bit. “
Luckily, Pivot secured essential service charter contracts and settled down to weather the pandemic.
“We were fortunate to be a small airline entering Covid, with a few key contracts, a small infrastructure and incredible support from our union partners, ALPA, Unifor and CUPE. We have been very busy during Covid, with little excess capacity. In fact, we stopped active charter sales six months ago due to capacity constraints. “
With 25 on staff, Edmondson said Pivot is now seeing bullish signs in the market, brought on by high vaccination rates and the reopening of the Canada-U.S. Border and the Atlantic bubble.
“We see the light at the end of the tunnel. We were tempted to step into the water a few times (with regular service) but we are glad we delayed.
However, he said the company has yet to assess the appetite of Waterloo companies to resume business travel.
“Our service launch will depend on the return of business travel,” said Edmondson. “It will depend on when these companies tell us they want to travel again. I think business travel will be the last to come back, which is why we are a little behind some of the leisure carriers. “
With a focus on diversified services, Edmondson expects charters to remain a central aspect of the business plan, accounting for around 50 percent of the airline’s total future revenues. Outside of the needs of its planned operating fleet, he said Pivot now had enough work for three Toronto Pearson-based charters.
“Our preference is to stay on the CRJ platform, but we’re not against other types,” he said. “If the market opportunities exist, I see us bringing the Dash 8-100 or -300 into our family. But if that turboprop market doesn’t exist, we’ll stick with the CRJ variants.
Pivot’s core business model calls for a strong emphasis on regional airports, such as Waterloo, which offer travelers the option of avoiding transit through Pearson. The airline is currently discussing possible routes with some smaller Ontario markets that are currently without service.
“We will let the market drive things naturally,” said Edmondson. “We believe that if you don’t have a specific need to connect through Pearson then you should consider the benefits offered by regional airports. If the market is not moving to regional airports as we anticipate and people want to continue to use a global hub for local travel, then of course we have our main base at Toronto Pearson. In some ways we share the difference, but we really take care of the same traveler on two different travel itineraries.
Once it establishes itself with a few national and cross-border highways, Edmondson said Pivot will work to establish interline and codeshare agreements. But these plans, of course, depend entirely on the demand for return business trips. If all goes according to plan, plane watchers will see Pivot Airlines take off from Waterloo Airport in early 2022.