Carrier showing us another side of the country
Santo Domingo-based Arajet is committed to serving as an airborne link for Canadians wanting to visit different points in the Caribbean and Latin America and help us shift our perceptions of the country that it is based in as well.
The airline began both Montreal- and Toronto-Santo Domingo routes this fall, new additions for a youngish carrier that began operation less than 2 years ago.
There are 4 weekly flights from both the Québec and Ontario cities that use B737 Max 8 aircraft, the backbone of Arajet’s young fleet.
And by delivering many of its Canadian clients to the Dominican Republic, it’s enabling them to see another side of the country than the hugely popular beach resort of Punta Cana, says airline spokesman Manuel Luna.
“We want to show Canadians that we have more to offer than Punta Cana,” he said while at the company’s Santo Domingo head office. “We want to show Canadians that there’s more than Punta Cana.”
Those attractions include Santo Domingo itself, home to a carefully restored old quarter highlighted by Spanish colonial architecture and which features numerous bars, restaurants and boutique hotels, and has earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
The city’s long history leads to tourism authorities labelling it the “city where everything began in America,” with Santo Domingo the site of the first cathedral, university and hospital in this hemisphere.
Arajet — which gets its name from an Indigenous word for a macaw and uses a head of that bird as its logo — also offers a free Punta Cana shuttle for Canadians arriving in the Dominican capital, a 2.5-hour trip.
But Luna also noted that other oceanside resort destinations such as Juan Dolio and Boca Chica are less than an hour from Santo Domingo.
Arajet CEO Victor Pacheco rejects any suggestion that his carrier should be labelled a low-cost airline, instead describing it as a low-fare one, with the hub-and-spoke system that Arajet uses, which has Santo Domingo serving as the hub, distinguishing it from low-cost airlines.
But Pacheco said Canadians using his airline to reach the Dominican Republic or points elsewhere in a network that serves around 20 cities in 15 countries in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, can expect to save money, noting at one point it was offering Toronto-Santiago, Chile, fares for $150, while Luna said after using a Nov. 22 Google Flights search that return Toronto-Santo Domingo trips were available for $220 in the March 19-23 period of next year.
Arajet routinely undercuts competitors fares, with relying on B737 Max 8s helping it lower costs.
But Pacheco said Arajet isn’t sacrificing comfort to do so, saying Canadians will be flying on a “brand-new aircraft.”
Passengers can expect a 32-inch seat pitch, which Pacheco said matches Delta’s and is greater than that offered by many other large U.S. airlines.
“We don’t want to be a low-cost (airline) because low cost is associated with bad seats and bad service,” he added. “We want to be a low-price airline but with world-class service.”
Pacheco said his airline isn’t wanting to lure customers away from other carriers that send people to the Dominican Republic but rather grow the market.
Arajet passengers can buy food and drinks on board.
Arajet’s Canadian routes rely on a combination of Canadians heading south and Latin Americans living in this country who want to return to the countries of their births.
Arajet is eager to build the number of Canadian vacationers it hosts, looking for possible tour operator partners that would enable it to have packages that would provide both air travel and hotel stays.
Those departing from this country with Arajet can reach such distant points as Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires or the likes of Aruba the same day. Toronto departures, for instance, are at 11:10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and 6:55 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Arajet is happy with the performance of its 2 Canadian routes to date, saying ocupany is now around 80% for service that was originally planned to be available through March but is now going to be year-round, a reflection of good demand.
Airline on-time performance is around 90%.
Pacheco said his airline is keen on working with travel agents, with Arajet launching its Toronto route with a glitzy nighttime celebration for them.
He said Arajet is also looking at adding Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver to its network, although nothing has been decided.