MONTREAL – Transat A.T. Inc. announced the signing of a seven-year agreement with Thomas Cook Group Airlines for the exchange of aircraft on a seasonal basis. Under the terms of the agreement, Thomas Cook will make available every winter to Air Transat a number of narrow body Airbus A321s and will receive at least one wide-body Airbus A330-200 in return. This will enable both companies to manage and utilize their fleet more efficiently.
The agreement takes advantage of the different seasonality of the two companies: Air Transat uses a greater number of smaller aircraft in winter to serve its destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida, and larger aircraft in summer to serve the transatlantic market. In contrast, Thomas Cook uses smaller aircraft in summertime to fly to destinations around the Mediterranean Sea and larger wide-body aircraft in the winter to fly to the long-haul destinations like Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
In the past few years, Air Transat has implemented a flexible-fleet model, through agreements with various carriers, enabling it each winter to increase the number of narrow-body aircraft it operates and to reduce the number of wide-body aircraft. For example, in the winter 2016–2017, the Company operated 20 narrow-body aircraft (Boeing 737) and 12 wide-body aircraft (Airbus A310 and A330), while in the summer 2017, it used 7 narrow-body aircraft and 25 wide-body aircraft.
“This agreement marks a new step in the reconfiguration of our fleet,” says Jean-Marc Eustache, President and Chief Executive Officer of Transat. “It allows us to improve our flexible-fleet model, making it even more efficient. Our fleet will eventually consist solely of Airbus A330 and aircraft from the A320 family, such as the A321, which will mean a more harmonized travel experience for our customers as well as lower operating costs,”.
Christoph Debus, Chief Airline Officer, Thomas Cook Group, said: “The new partnership provides additional growth opportunities for our airline, and again demonstrates how Thomas Cook Group is transforming through partnerships. By taking advantage of the complementary seasonal demand in North America and Europe, we will be able to operate additional long-haul flights during winter and better balance the seasonal demand for our short and medium-haul aircraft, resulting in more cost efficiency and choice for our customers.”
Optimization of the Air Transat flexible fleet began with the recent announcement that its A310s would be replaced, beginning in early 2019, by A321neo LR aircraft, which have a range well-suited for operations in both of the carrier’s markets. The agreement announced today is the second step in that optimization, and will see Air Transat’s seasonal B737s replaced by A321s. The third step will be the replacement of the B737s in its core fleet, which today number 7, also by A321s. At the same time, Air Transat has endeavoured to extend the leases on a large number of its A330 aircraft, thus taking advantage of lower leasing costs and ensuring stability for the years to come.
All of the A321s from the Thomas Cook fleet will be recent aircraft, and will have the same cabin configuration as Air Transat’s coming fleet of A321neo LRs: 199 seats, 12 of which will be Club Class. This means Transat customers will enjoy a more comparable in-flight experience regardless of destination.
In addition, once the optimization is complete, Air Transat will operate only two types of aircraft, and reap the benefits of the Airbus shared-cockpit philosophy and so-called mixed-fleet flying (i.e., pilots can be rated to fly more than one type of aircraft). This will enable the company to reduce costs (for example in maintenance and training) and considerably simplify its operations.