Home For the Holidays: 5 Questions With Air Canada’s Andy Shibata

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Air Canada - Our Home

It’s been a landmark year for Canadian pride, and not just because of the nation’s 150th anniversary. As many Canadians and admirers celebrate their homeland, whether they live there or abroad, Canada’s largest domestic and international airline is celebrating, too.

Air Canada’s new campaign strikes a balance between ‘home’ in the universal sense and also ‘home’ in the sense of carrying Canada in their hearts, wherever they travel. Serving more than 200 airports on six continents, Canada’s flag carrier is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and in 2016 served close to 45 million customers, with its performance earning it the title of Best Airline in North America by Skytrax World Airline Awards at the Paris Air Show in June.

With the holidays upon us and many Canadians traveling to visit loved ones—and people traveling to Canada to visit their loved ones—the airline is celebrating with a new ad narrated by Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds.

Called “Our Home,” the ad captures the emotion Canadians associate with home—a place they carry with them wherever they go—while celebrating diverse and universal values.

The video is part of a larger holiday campaign that last week saw the carrier hosting heartwarming welcome home celebrations at Canadian airports, with pop-up boutiques giving away cards, teddy bears, flowers and even free airfare to some lucky family and friends waiting on their loved ones.

“I felt a connection to this script because I know what it’s like to carry that feeling of home with me wherever I go,” said Reynolds. “Being a Canadian who travels all over the world, I understand how my home made me who I am and the special regard people everywhere have for Canada. But what’s even more exciting to me is that Air Canada, through the Air Canada Foundation, has been involved with Canadian charities like SickKids, an organization I’ve also been fortunate to work with.”

It’s part of a larger campaign Air Canada launched in November to celebrate “home,” and all that means to customers. Canadians were asked on social media to share a story about who they most wished to spend the holidays with. Eight entries, from the most fun to the most meaningful, were awarded a pair of tickets from anywhere Air Canada flies to bring those special people home.

Air Canada also hosted in-airport celebrations to make the reunions even more memorable when passengers arrived and saw their loved ones waiting for them at the airport. Among the inspiring stories were brothers who hadn’t seen each other in more than five years and grandparents from Boston who longed to be reunited with their grandson in Regina.

Andy Shibata - Managing Director, Brand at Air Canada“The stories we heard were all unique and really touching,” said Andy Shibata, Managing Director, Brand at Air Canada (right). “It’s very gratifying to experience these moments because our customers are always at the centre of everything we do.” We spoke with him for more insights into the campaign.

Andy, how is this fostering Canadian pride beyond this benchmark year for the nation while making an emotional connection with the Air Canada brand?

We are very proud to be Canada’s airline. “Fly the Flag” refers to the pride we take in bringing Canada to the world, wherever we fly. It is a core behavior that defines how we focus on elevating customer experience.

Our recent ad celebrates Canada’s core values of diversity and inclusion, one of our defining strengths. Our hope is that the ad resonates with Canadians, as well as people around the world who share these same values. We can all relate to the idea of home, but it means something different to everyone—this is especially true over the holidays, and we wanted to tell those stories.

How is this rolling out and will it continue into 2018?

The ad itself will run on television, online and in cinemas throughout the holidays and is part of a larger campaign that we launched in November to celebrate home. Canadians were asked on social media to share a story about who they were most missing for the holidays. Eight were chosen and awarded a pair of tickets from anywhere Air Canada flies to bring those special people home.

We also had some fun in arrival areas in airports across Canada with celebrations to make homecomings and reunions even more memorable. We offered gifts, including giant teddy bears, balloons, and flowers. Some lucky travelers were even surprised with free airfare to help shorten the time between visits with their family and friends.

And we’re not ending it with the holiday season. The current holiday marketing activity is part of a larger campaign to come and will be shared during key milestones throughout the year.

Looking forward, how do you plan to build on the momentum of this year as you continue to grow and evolve the Air Canada brand internationally?

We plan on reaching our goal of becoming a top 10 global airline in everything we do by focusing on elevating customer experience. From the introduction of our new narrow-body 737 MAX fleet to our renewed partnership with the COC and CPC and recent work with Ryan Reynolds, we’re aiming to take our brand higher than ever before.

The press release mentions this being the start of an ongoing partnership with Reynolds; anything more you can share?

Ryan is a Canadian who travels all over the globe, and knows what it feels like to be a Canadian away from home for long periods of time. This makes him the ideal partner for Air Canada as we celebrate the Canadian spirit, and the deeply personal connections we have to home through this campaign. Ryan will continue to work with Air Canada in 2018 with new projects already on the horizon, including work with the Air Canada Foundation and SickKids hospital.

The Winter Olympics are coming up in February. Anything we can look forward to around celebrating Canada’s athletes and national pride around the Games?

Definitely. We’ve recently announced a continuation of our partnership with the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Teams, and we’re excited to be working with them again to help bring Canadian athletes—and their spirit and drive—to the world stage.

We’ll be backing Team Canada by providing support for their competition at the 2018 games in Pyeongchang and the 2020 games in Tokyo. This includes the air transportation logistics behind flying the athletes, coaches, support staff and equipment to and from the host countries, as well as offering our Altitude Podium Program to enhance the travel experience of the athletes, so they can focus on their training and performance.

Air Canada will also provide every Team Canada athlete with what we call the Care and Share Package. Inside are amenities to make their flights as comfortable as possible, but also gifts for the athletes to give to special people they meet in South Korea, to share a little piece of Canada.


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