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Issue 18 - Canadians Zoom to Scotland

Scotland Magazine Issue 18
January 2005

 

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Canadians Zoom to Scotland

Vivien Devlin recently experienced direct flights between Toronto, Halifax and Glasgow on this enterprising new airline created for the 21st century traveller

It’s a fact. There are now almost as many Scots living in Canada as in Scotland with more Scots in Ontario than in Glasgow and Edinburgh combined. In the Canadian census 2001, more than four million Canadians ticked the ‘Scottish Origin’ box.

It’s heart-warming to hear of such patriotic pride. Many may well be descended from the first Scottish settlers who left the Highlands and Islands during the late 18th and early 19th century on board the emigrant ships heading for Charlottestown, Prince Edward Island and Pictou, Nova Scotia.

It’s staggering to think that more than half a million Scots emigrated to Canada between 1901 and 1930 – no wonder that the vast majority of people in Scotland have friends and family living in Canada.

With Scottish ancestral research now a popular pastime as well as the importance of extended family gatherings – and for all Canadians wishing to visit Scotland, the good news for 2004 is the launch of Zoom airlines. Based in Ottawa, this privately owned company was developed to provide superior, low cost scheduled flights between Canada and Europe.

You can now fly Zoom direct from Toronto, Halifax, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver to Glasgow.

The company was set up by Scottish brothers Hugh and John Boyle, who have had long experience in the travel and tourism business. From 1975 their first company Falcon Leisure pioneered cheap flights, a concept which led to the development of Direct Holidays. This became one of the leading holiday companies in the UK and when it reached a profitable peak in 1998 it was sold to Airtours for a cool £ 84 million.

Looking for a fresh challenge the Boyle brothers headed west to Canada. Based in Ottawa they created GO Travel Direct with the aim to offer direct-sell quality vacation packages from Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax to the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida. However they were unhappy with the quality of the airlines they chartered:

“We realised it would be a far better idea to have full control of all aspects of Go Travel,” John Boyle explained, “so we decided to start our own airline.”

It was an inspiring but daunting prospect. Post 9/11 there was immediate disquiet in the aviation industry. Many leading airlines were tightening their belts, forced to make redundancies and cutbacks on routes and services.

However, this enabled them to employ the most experienced pilots, engineers and cabin crew with a top team of experts to set up their new airline. In May 2002 Zoom took off – operating the Canadian leisure flights to sunshine destinations. But this was just the beginning.

The Boyles began to study the competition on the Canada/UK airline transatlantic route.

Literally taking a blank sheet of paper, they began to plan the ideal model for a Canada-Europe airline, a low fare carrier with flexible booking on one-way routes. They were inspired by the popular no-frills low-cost European airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair.

The key factor was that Zoom would be a “hybrid”, a cross between a scheduled and lowcost airline using Boeing 767-300 aircraft. Quality is their number one priority with good leg room, (seven seats across rather than the usual eight), superior in-flight service including movies, hot meals and complimentary wine.

For a moderate supplement, passengers can book one of the 50 premium seats at the front, offering priority check-in, larger seats, increased seat pitch with complimentary drinks throughout the flight. This is not Business or First class standard but from my personal experience the premium cabin is highly recommended – the added comfort and service is fantastic.

One thing for sure, wherever you may be seated, the friendly and welcoming cabin crew will look after you with genuine care and attention. I particularly observed that families are offered every consideration to ensure children enjoy a safe and comfortable flight.

Fly Zoom has been created with the passenger clearly in mind. Flexibility, affordable fares, with fast direct booking by phone or on line through www.flyzoom.com. This is a user friendly, bi-lingual French and English website. The earlier you book your flight, the cheaper the fare will be but if you cannot plan ahead Zoom guarantees that the fare will be lower than any other scheduled or charter airline on the same route.

With the flexibility of one-way travel you can choose to fly from one Canadian city and back to another destination. Zoom is keen to promote tourism from Canada to Scotland. Now you can book a UK round trip – fly Zoom to London for business or leisure and then travel onwards to Scotland to visit family or friends, tour the Highlands, play golf, or enjoy arts and culture. At the end of your trip, fly back direct from Glasgow to Canada. That is the flexibility of one-way journeys. Zoom also operates a no hassle reservation system. If you need to change the date of travel, there is a nominal fee for alterations.

The summer 2005 flight programme will have double the capacity to meet the demand for flights with increased frequency between Glasgow, Toronto and Vancouver. There will also be a brand new service to Manchester as well as an expanded flight schedule to London and Paris.

A couple of true entrepreneurs, the Boyle Brothers certainly have a canny, Scottish aptitude for business and a determination to fly high. Do they see themselves as the Richard Bransons of Canada?

“No, I don’t think so,” responds John with a laugh. “We are ambitious – but I would say rather less flamboyant!”