MONTREAL — Air Canada says it is on the runway to achieving sustained profitability after ending the year in the black as it prepares to introduce premium economy seating on select international routes and ramp up the size of its low-cost carrier.
The country’s largest airline said Thursday it plans to add the new seating class on five Boeing 777 aircraft that will join the fleet over the next year, starting this summer. The planes will have more seats, while the premium economy cabin will have larger seats, greater leg room, upgraded meals, complementary bar service and priority check-in.
The seating will also be available on 37 Boeing 787 Dreamliners that are slated for delivery beginning in 2014, but there are no immediate plans to extend the service to its entire fleet as rival WestJet Airlines is doing.
As these planes are added, the airline plans to enlarge its discount Rouge brand — which takes flight in July with four planes — by adding six more aircraft in 2013. The fleet of Boeing 767 and Airbus A319s will grow to 32 by the end of 2014 and to 42 a year later before eventually reaching 50 planes.
The changes were announced after the carrier reversed last year’s net losses in both the final quarter and full year. It earned $131 million last year, a $380-million turnaround from 2011.
In the fourth quarter, net income was $8 million, or three cents per diluted share, reversing a net loss of $60 million, or 22 cents per diluted share, in the same 2011 period.
CEO Calin Rovinescu said the results clearly demonstrate that the carrier’s plan launched three years ago to stabilize and grow on a sustained basis is working.
“While we have more work to do, Air Canada today is a stronger and more stable airline and we can now fully turn our attention to the future,” he said.
On an adjusted basis, Air Canada beat expectations even though it posted a net loss for the quarter of $6 million, or two cents per share. Although a loss, it was still a big improvement on 2011, when it reported an adjusted net loss of $167 million, or 60 cents per share, for the quarter.
For the full year, net income was $131 million, or 45 cents per diluted share, on revenues of $12.1 billion. That is compared with Air Canada’s net loss of $249 million, or 92 cents per diluted share, on revenues of $11.6 billion in 2011, which included a $55-million charge related to Aveos.
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