By BRENT JANG
Saturday, January 8, 2005 - Page B2
Air Canada will be starting non-stop service between Toronto and Seoul, expressing confidence that it will entice foreigners wanting to bypass visa restrictions and fees in the United States.
The airline has benefited from picking up business from travellers going between Asia and South America, especially the Japan-Brazil and Japan-Peru flights, via airports in Toronto and Vancouver.
The new route between Toronto and the South Korean capital of Seoul will begin July 1 and will be offered three times a week using 282-seat Airbus A340-300 aircraft. Air Canada will continue its daily flights from Vancouver to Seoul.
The U.S. government, as part of beefed-up security since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, toughened visa requirements for "transit passengers" landing in the United States and then changing planes en route to other global destinations.
"Air Canada offers international travellers between Asia and South America the added convenience of avoiding U.S. transit visa requirements," Air Canada planning vice-president Ben Smith said in a statement yesterday.
The carrier saw its traffic soar last year on international routes as many foreigners opted for lower airport congestion and less red tape in Canada compared with the United States.
Montreal-based Air Canada already operates daily non-stop flights starting at Toronto's Pearson International Airport to Delhi, Hong Kong and Tokyo. From Vancouver, the airline also offers daily non-stop flights to Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Beijing and Shanghai.
In adding international destinations, Air Canada is seeking to promote Canada as a gateway to Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, said Triant Flouris, a business professor at Concordia University.