Anna Buchnea, Air Canada’s newly appointed national director of passenger sales, was in Vancouver last week visiting travel agencies and getting to know the Western market.
|Anna Buchnea, director, passenger sales Canada, Air Canada
HelloWestTravel.com sat down with Buchnea in the Maple Leaf lounge at YVR before her flight back to Toronto to hear about the scope of her new role, and relations with Western agents.
Buchnea, who speaks five languages and has a business degree from Ryerson, began her relationship with Air Canada when she was 17; with her first flight ever from her native Sweden onboard the ‘Waltzing Matilda’.
Buchnea was appointed June 1st to replace Peter Wilson, who retired. She has been with Air Canada for 32 years, starting as a travel agent. Her former roles include airport customer service, management roles in leisure sales, and she handled the American Express travel division for three years. Most recently she was general manager, sales communication and support, dealing with industry partners such as tourist organizations and hoteliers, and supporting travel agencies with customer service issues.
“B.C is an important province to Air Canada, and it’s important for me to get to know agents out West, and to support James Howey, B.C's regional general manager,” said Buchnea.
Buchnea also explained the structure of sales at Air Canada.
“With our global sales branch, we offer what we call channels, based on different business models. We have agencies that fall into the multinational channel, agencies that fit into the leisure sales channel, which is tour operators, consolidators, we have corporate sales, and we have passenger sales, which is my channel. It is the large, independent agencies across the country that I’ll be working on,” she said.
“I think customer engagement is really important. My department doesn’t deal directly with the travellers; we deal with the travel agent community- they are the ones putting forth the customers’ needs.”
Buchnea is ready to take on the challenges that come with her new position, and said lifelong learning is most important to her.
“We had some problems earlier in the year, and I think that was a big concern for customers. If I was a traveller, I would have been concerned, but things have now settled down,” she said.
Buchnea is optimistic about the future of relations with travel agencies.
“I think it’s important to understand the needs of the agencies- they are [our] customers. We are really appreciative. There is a lot of competition out there. We have been talking to [agents] about opportunities and if they can make us aware of issues that are preventing them from selling us- that could be a pricing issue-then we have a chance. I think that comes with the trust of the relationship that we have,” Buchnea said.
Buchnea believes that going forward, a low cost model is important for Air Canada.
“There have been discussions- that is pretty public. I think Air Canada has the intention of launching a low cost carrier, but there's nothing concrete."
"The details are still totally up in the air," she joked.