BRAMPTON, Ont. - Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) says it's studying Bombardier's new CSeries commercial jet "very carefully" as it reviews its fleet of more than 100 narrow-body planes.
"Of course it hasn't flown yet, but we like the CSeries based on what we've seen so far on paper," president and chief executive Calin Rovinescu said during an unveiling of the company's new operations centre on Tuesday.
"It is part of our assessment."
Montreal-based aircraft manufacturer Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) has delayed the inaugural flight of the CS100 three times. Industry analysts believe the plane won't begin commercial service until early 2015.
Rovinescu noted that Air Canada will not be making its decision on the basis of whether jets are permitted to fly out of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
Porter Airlines has built its campaign to fly jets from the island airport around the CSeries, which Bombardier has billed a "whisper jet."
"It's such a big decision," Rovinescu said. "We would not make our narrow-body refleeting decision on the basis of any one airport, or access to any one airport. It's a much, much broader question than that."
Rovinescu made his comments during the opening of Air Canada's new operations centre in Brampton, Ont., a facility the company said should "significantly improve" its operational capabilities while also increasing efficiency.
About 400 employees will staff the 75,000-square-foot operations centre when it begins operating in January 2014.
The $60-million facility will serve as central control for the airline's day-to-day operations, from which staff will oversee almost 600 Air Canada flights each day.
Staff will be responsible for dispatching flights, scheduling crews, handling flight changes and cancellations and planning for disruptions such as storms, among other things.
With corporate headquarters in Montreal, Air Canada is the country's largest domestic and international airline, flying to more than 175 destinations on five continents.
Rovinescu also said the airline — which counts 53 U.S. centres among its scheduled destinations — may be able to pick up a few extra slots at airports south of the border if American Airlines and U.S. Airways are forced to divest some slots in order to secure a merger.
"There will be some bits and pieces available for carriers like us, for sure," he said.
"Certainly there will be some advantages if there are conditions imposed on the merger."
Otherwise, the proposed merger, which has been challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice as well as attorneys general in five states, will have no impact on Air Canada's operations, Rovinescu said.
However, Rovinescu said he would be "astounded" if the U.S. Justice Department were to "completely kibosh the merger."
"My personal belief... is that there will be some form of consolidation, probably with conditions. Clearly the industry is headed in that direction."
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