Air Canada launched two daily flights from Atlanta to Montréal Wednesday, entering head-to-head competition with hometown airline Delta Air Lines Inc. on a route linking two major North American business and aerospace hubs.
Air Canada, which bills itself as the largest foreign carrier operating in the United States, has a presence in 48 American cities. The new Atlanta-Montreal routes will augment four daily flights to Air Canada’s largest hub in torontobringing to six its daily frequencies out of the world’s busiest airport.
Montreal is the largest city and economic hub of Francophone quebec, Canada’s largest province by land area and its second largest by population, accounting for about 20 percent of the country’s economic output. It’s an undisputed aerospace hub and boasts vibrant business sectors like electric vehicles and film that match up well with Atlanta’s growth industries. Montreal is also home to Air Canada’s headquarters.
The June 1 launch comes just in time for the Southeast USCanadian Provinces Alliance summit set to be held in savannah June 19-20, an annual conclave between six states and six provinces returning to an in-person format for the first time since 2019.
During Wednesday’s celebration at gate F14 in the Maynard H. Jackson International Terminalwhich marked its 10th anniversary in May, Canadian diplomats, airline officials and airport leaders framed the flight as a boon for business between the two global cities and their surrounding regions.
“I am thrilled to see the partnership that exists between the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia and Canada,” said newly arrived Canadian Consul General James Hill. “And it really speaks to our shared history, our values, our longstanding ties, which are getting stronger now that we have yet another opportunity to connect our country and the city of Atlanta. “
Mr. Hill added that he was glad to see his “new favorite city” of Atlanta connected better with Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, one of his favorite hubs, especially at a time of reconnection after the most intense phase of the pandemic. The result should be even deeper business links.
Already, 367 Canadian-owned companies operating in Georgia and two-way trade with Canada worth $11.2 billion support 45,000 jobs in the state.
“That’s a lot of billions, and that’s the reason why we need these direct air links,” Mr. Hill said.
Beyond two new flights offering executives greater options, there’s also the cargo that each arriving Embraer E175 jet will deliver in the belly of a plane ferrying up to 64 passengers seated in coach and 12 in business class (76 total), said Elliott Paigedirector of air-service development at the Atlanta airport, who worked to woo the Air Canada route.
“There are a lot of aerospace and automotive components that are air-cargo-reliant so it’s a benefit to us in terms of having that connectivity,” Mr. Paige told Global Atlanta. “We will likely see more high-tech goods in those sectors moving between both regions. That means more jobs and more growth, and what tends to happen is that those industries attract even more ancillary industries.”
ATL Deputy General Manager Jan Lennon framed the flight as a return, both to business-as-usual for Hartsfield-Jackson and for Air Canada, which opened routes to Atlanta quickly after the signing of an open-skies accord between the US and Canada in 1995. That same year, Air Canada’s CEO visited Atlanta and called the agreement a “green flag at the Indy 500” for route development, declaring an Atlanta-Montreal route imminent. The route ran until the early 2000s.
Ms. Lennon gave one further “history note” for the dignitaries, passengers and journalists assembled near the gate to partake of Air Canada cookies and pick up both logo pens and lapel pins emblazoned with entwined US and Canadian flags.
“Our first official international flights were to Mexico and the Caribbean in 1971. Before that, however, we had flights to Montreal that connected in New York,” Ms. Lennon said. “Despite the differences in latitude and climate, Montreal, Quebec; Atlanta, Georgia — we share similarities: cosmopolitan cities that worked leaders in business, education, culture and sports.”
David WeinerQuebec’s delegate at an Atlanta diplomatic office the province has operated since 1978, picked up on the sports connection, noting that Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1996, 20 years after Montreal.
Mr. Weiner also pointed out that Montreal embraced Georgia-born baseball great jackie robinsonwho played in 1946 for the Montreal Royals, a minor-league team in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, before breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues the following year.
Quebec and Georgia, Mr. Weiner also noted, trade about $2 billion in goods every year.
Some passengers slated to take the 3:20 pm flight, which had been delayed to a 3:45 departure time, embraced the flight for reasons of convenience over history.
Rita McDonaldan Augusta, Ga.resident but an Italian native, was traveling with seven other family members to see her ailing 88-year-old mother in a nursing home, perhaps for the last time. Her son de ella, traveling with the group, booked the Air Canada flight online. It would be her granddaughter’s first-ever time on a plane, a new experience.
“Hopefully it will be a good one,” Ms. McDonald told Global Atlanta after taking pictures with officials and snagging a cookie.
Sebastian Domanskya senior manager for revenue development for Air Canada, said the Atlanta flights aimed to bolster options for just such connecting passengers, along with those ending their journey in Montreal.
“We connect a lot of passengers internationally, to Europe, and beyond, and that’s also why the flights are timed that way,” he said, noting that offering both a 9 am and 3:20 pm option out of Atlanta allows travelers to hit “banks” of connections in Montreal later in the day.
Delta Air Lines offers two nonstops from Atlanta to Montreal each day, departing at 10 am and 8:45 pm
Editor’s note: Global Atlanta is hosting a forum focused on Georgia-Canada ties with a particular focus on Quebec Tuesday, June 7 at 5 pm at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. Both Mr. Hill, the consul general, and Mr. Weiner, the Quebec delegate, are listed among the speakers, which also include three innovative Quebec companies in electric mobility. Learn more and sign up here.