The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Many Japan passengers traveling to the United States may not realize they can easily and expediently access the country through major Canadian cities. In 2014, Air Canada was named Best Airline in North America for the fifth consecutive year by Skytrax.


Kiyo Weiss
General manager, Japan

Renowned for its “Canadian hospitality,” Air Canada offers several same-day connections to US cities, allowing passengers to clear US immigration in Canada and have their bags checked through to a final destination. Kiyo Weiss, general manager, Japan, spoke to The Journal about the company’s services and future plans.

How many Japan–Canada flights do you operate?
We will operate a maximum of five non-stop flights per day in summer 2015: from Narita to Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto; from Haneda to Toronto; and from Osaka to Vancouver. Since I joined the company in 2009, we’ve gradually increased our
services and flight frequencies.

Highlights have included the first and only service to Calgary from Asia, launched out of Narita in 2010, and the only daytime North America service from Haneda to Toronto, launched in July 2014. We will resume service from Osaka to Vancouver in May 2015 after a seven-year hiatus.

What routes have same-day flights on to the US?
Narita – Vancouver – Las Vegas/Portland
Haneda – Toronto – New York/Orlando/Boston
Narita – Calgary – New York

How does US border preclearance work in Canada?
For example, you can fly out of Haneda to New York via a transfer in Toronto. As long as your US connecting flight occurs on the same calendar day you arrive in Toronto, your bags will be checked through to New York. Passengers would first arrive in Toronto and clear US immigration there without going through Canadian customs.

As there are a limited number of passengers using this service, you can complete the clearance process in a surprisingly short time. This means that when you land in New York, you will arrive at a domestic terminal, and can pick up your baggage to head directly into the city.

Does the process differ by nationality?
While the visa clearance facilities in Canada certainly ease international travelers’ immigration woes, US citizens can also benefit by avoiding long lines at busy US airports. The process is the same for all nationalities, but US customs regulations differ by country.

What sets you apart from other carriers?
Air Canada always has and will continue to invest in product enhancement to meet the changing needs of our customers. Our business-class cabins on Asia–Pacific flights all have lie-flat seats. With other airlines flying many different kinds of aircraft, there is a chance you will not get a lie-flat seat on each flight.

Also, our economy-class seats have more legroom than those of other carriers.

How do you inspire loyalty?
We are always looking for new ways to improve our customers’ flight experience. Air Canada is one of the first five members of the Star Alliance, and miles can be earned on all affiliated carriers’ programs, such as those of United and ANA.

In addition, we have our own frequent flyer program called Aeroplan and an elite membership program called Altitude, both of which generously reward our loyal customers. For our Japanese clients, who often have limited travel time, we try our best to make available same-day connections to popular destinations.

Is Japan a growth market for Air Canada?
Air Canada’s confidence in the Japan market is reflected in our doubling of service over the past six years. With economic conditions being what they are, we will strengthen our current service and continue to consider potential future moves.