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Air Canada Expands India Service, Plans Mumbai Flight In 2017

The increased air connectivity will cater to rising immigrant traffic, student population, tourism and business travel

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Air Canada will launch direct Toronto-Mumbai flights from July 2017 and increase services on the Delhi route as growing business and tourism fuel air travel between India and Canada.

The airline, which began flying between Delhi and Toronto last year, is starting direct Delhi-Vancouver flights on October 20.

The seasonal, thrice weekly service complements Air Canada's Toronto-Delhi non-stop flight, the airline announced.

Customer response to the Toronto-Delhi service has been "extremely positive" and it is going to become a daily service from November 6, said Duncan Bureau, Air Canada's vice president for global sales.

"With the new Vancouver route we are strategically increasing our presence in the important Asia-Pacific market," he said.

The thrice weekly Mumbai service starting next year will link India's financial capital with Toronto, a major North American city with significant Indian immigrant population.

Air Canada operates Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft on the India routes. The aircraft feature 29 business class lie-flat seat suites, 21 premium economy and 247 economy class seats.

The increased air connectivity will cater to rising immigrant traffic, student population, tourism and business travel.

The Toronto-Delhi flight has enjoyed load factor, or the percentage of seats filled, of about 85 per cent, said Arun Pandeya, Air Canada's country head and general manager for the Indian subcontinent.

"For us, big growth is happening in the corporate sector. The student, immigrant and tourism segments are doing very well," Pandeya said.

Canada has emerged as a major destination for Indian students seeking higher education. Some 49,000 Indian students were enrolled in Canada last year, witnessing a rapid rise in their numbers in recent years. In 2006, Canada had only 6,927 Indian students.

There is also a new push to develop Canadian-Indian business ties and many leading Canadian companies, including Brookfield Asset Management, Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, pension fund Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, and Fairfax Holdings of Indian-born businessman Prem Watsa, have committed billions of dollars in investment in India.

Tourism marketing agency Destination Canada has launched new promotions to attract Indian visitors, who typically spend more and stay longer in Canada.

According to official figures, the number of Indian overnight arrivals increased 19.3 per cent to 176,000 in 2014 and generated $280 million dollars in revenue for the Canadian tourism economy.

Leisure visitors were just 10 per cent of these arrivals, while 53.5 per cent travelled to visit friends and relatives and over 27.5 per cent for business.

On average, Indian visitors spent $1,411 and stayed 33 days in Canada.

"While the concept of Canada as a vacation destination is relatively new in India, the market grows every year," Destination Canada says on its website.

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