Air Canada and Barbados tourism officials marked 65 years of the carrier’s non-stop flights to the island last night, a collaboration which has seen hundreds of thousands of Canadian travellers flying to the island since 1949.
Following an evening of history and looking ahead to the next 65 years, the two partners officially marked the anniversary this morning with a symbolic Air Canada flight between Toronto and Bridgetown, Barbados.
“The expression ‘in it for the long haul’ is something of a cliché,” said Michael Friisdahl, President/CEO, Air Canada Leisure Group, “but in this case it’s completely true.... since that first plane landed so many years ago, we’ve been on the same team and worked hand-in-hand to bring Canadian visitors to this wonderful country. Canadians loved Barbados in 1949 and they love it even more today.”
It was in 1948 that Barbados’ Seawell Airport (the original name for Grantley Adams International Airport) was first opened, with Air Canada – then known as Trans Canada Airlines - operating their first flight to the island the following year, on Dec. 2, 1949. The small hotels operating in Barbados at that time welcomed 1,500 Canadian travellers flying with Air Canada in that first year (packed into DC-4 Northstars for the 15-hour flight), according to a presentation at the event. That number has since grown substantially, with Air Canada - the island’s longest-serving airline - bringing 160,000 Canadian passengers on 860 flights in 2014 alone. According to Barbados Consul General Haynesley Benn, the year 1979 is seen as something of a watershed moment for the partnership, when the airline brought a record 92,000 travellers and made Canada the top international tourist market for Barbados.
“Our country depends in large part on tourism,” said Benn, adding that 2015 is expected to be a strong year for Barbados tourism, with international arrivals projected to increase by five per cent. “Given our current forecast in Canada, 2015 is poised to be the best performing year since 1980.”
Friisdahl said that in 2014, Air Canada’s Barbados’ flights featured a seat capacity of 123,000, a number that will increase to 152,000 seats in 2015 with the addition of a daily B777 service between the island and Toronto. He added that Air Canada Vacations will also work with 30 hotel partners on the island for the coming sun season, providing plenty of accommodation options for travellers.
PHOTO: Michael Friisdahl, President/CEO, Air Canada Leisure Group; Duncan Bureau, VP Global Sales, Air Canada; Peter Mayers, Director Canada, BTMI; Alvin Jemmott, Chair, BTMI; William Griffith, CEO, BTMI.