08/23/2017 09:48 EDT | Updated 08/23/2017 12:40 EDT

Direct Montreal flights to Japan expected to generate economic returns for Quebec

MONTREAL — Air Canada says it will introduce direct year-round service between Montreal and Tokyo which the business community and politicians expect will generate economic returns beyond tourism.

The country's largest airline will operate year-round service starting next June to Narita airport.

Airline CEO Calin Rovinescu says it expects to fill the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with local and Eastern Canadian passengers and Americans travelling through one of its three key Canadian hubs.

Air Canada (TSX:AC) currently operates up to 46 weekly non-stop flights between Canada and Japan from Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. It says the Montreal direct flight represents a $200 million investment mainly for the use of the airplane that will create 150 direct jobs.

Montreal Board of Trade president Michel Leblanc says the flights will provide business opportunities for Quebec companies in artificial intelligence, gaming, clean technology and food.

Japan is Quebec's sixth largest market that purchased $1.3 billion worth of goods last year, said Deputy Premier Lise Theriault.

With more than 600 provincial companies having business links with Japan, the Asian market represents a big potential to expand their global footprint, she said at a news conference.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said direct flights will strengthen the city's economy by attracting new investment so it can play its role as the province's economic engine.

It could also spur real estate purchases by Japanese residents, as was the case with China following the introduction of direct flights. But Coderre said Montreal is well positioned to absorb the additional investment without facing negative consequences experienced from the level of foreign buyers in Toronto and Vancouver.