The Federal Court of Canada has ordered a second senior employee at WestJet Airlines Ltd. to testify under oath, the latest development in a predatory pricing investigation into WestJet and its budget subsidiary, Swoop, by Canada’s competition watchdog.
The inquiry, launched by the Competition Bureau in the fall, concerns allegations the two carriers used anti-competitive practices to crowd out B.C.-based upstart Flair Airlines from at least three routes last year.
Chief Justice Paul Crampton has ordered WestJet corporate planning manager Michael Claeren to be examined by Canada’s Commissioner of Competition, citing Claeren’s former role as senior leader of revenue and pricing at Swoop. He is set to appear next month alongside WestJet vice-president John Weatherill, who the Federal Court previously ordered to come before a presiding officer to explain the airline’s tactics.
Interim competition commissioner Matthew Boswell states in court filings that WestJet’s alleged predatory pricing _ when a company offers services below break-even costs to hobble a competitor _ constitutes an abuse of its dominant position.
The accusation applies routes between Edmonton and the cities of Abbotsford, B.C., Hamilton, Ont., and Winnipeg. On the Hamilton route, Swoop advertised all-inclusive fares for as low as $69 starting last June.
Flair Airlines chief executive Jim Scott has said the strategy cost his ultra-low-cost carrier about $10 million between mid-June and mid-October, placing it in jeopardy.
WestJet has said it is compiling information in response to the probe, which has seen piles of court-ordered documents and data from the two Calgary-based carriers handed over to the Competition Bureau.
Miami-based investment firm has acquired a 25% equity stake in ULCC Carrier
Edmonton, Alberta, April 02, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Edmonton, AB, Canada, April 1, 2019 – Flair Airlines(“Flair”), Canada’s only independent ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC), announced that Miami-based investment firm 777 Partners(“777”) has acquired a 25 percent equity stake in the airline for an undisclosed sum. This commitment reflects the significant opportunity for disruption that Flair and 777 see in Canada’s duopolistic marketplace.
“The aviation sector continues to be ripe for innovation and Flair is well-equipped to provide affordable airfare for Canada’s underserved market,” said Steve Pasko, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of 777 Partners. “Despite having a strong potential market for ULCCs, Canada lags behind the rest of the world in this space. Through this investment, we want to create a viable alternative for consumers in the region, who have faced a lack of air transportation choice until now.”
Originally founded as a charter airline in 2005, Flair transitioned into a full commercial airline operation in 2017 to create a fairer and more equitable airfare environment for all travelers. Having recently undergone a major re-brand, the organization receives its first Boeing 737-800 NG sporting the airline’s new-look livery this week.
“The financial strength of 777 Partners ensures that Flair is in a stronger position to compete and continue on our strong trajectory for domestic growth while meeting the clear demand for ULCC airline options in Canada,” said Jim Scott, CEO of Flair Airlines. “This significant investment comes at an exciting time for Flair. Building on the almost one million passengers we have carried in the last 12 months, Flair is leveraging 777’s expertise in the aviation sector to continue scaling our operations, as evidenced by plans to introduce four new airplanes to our fleet this year.”
777 Partners is an active ‘buy-and-build’ investor that manages high-growth companies within a long-term portfolio. The firm capitalizes innovative opportunities in niche, overlooked markets that will benefit from its ‘Shared Services’ model, a collaborative ecosystem between its portfolio companies that increases productivity and reduces business expenditure. The ecosystem provides efficiencies across staffing, back-office management, vendor negotiation and supplier management.
Edmonton, AB, April 01, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — To mark World Autism Day, 2019, Flair airlines today announced that all of its flight attendants have recently completed a specialized training course in ‘autism awareness’ – a first for a Canadian airline.
Flair’s cabin-crew members successfully completed the certification course conducted by Connecticut-based Autism Double-Checked: The course is designed to prepare flight attendants to recognize and cater to the special needs of autistic guests as well as – by way of a Flight Guide available to the flyer – to help prepare the autistic guest for the air travel experience.
In North America, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects approximately one in 58 children. Research has shown that families with an autistic child are significantly less likely to take vacations for fear of how their child will react when confronted with the many unfamiliar and daunting challenges represented by crowded airports, airplanes and hotels.
Flair’s Executive Chairman, David Tait commented, “This is a ‘first’ of which we are very proud. Our crews were very excited to participate in this training and look forward to easing some of the rigors of air travel for families with autistic children.”
Flair also has plans for helping to familiarize families with the travel experience on the ground. In cooperation with Edmonton International Airport (EIA), CATSA, Autism Edmonton and Autism Double-Checked, Flair will host a trial boarding event at EIA.
Families with autistic children will be invited to experience every phase of the airport experience: checking in, clearing security, waiting at the gate, boarding, finding your seat and fastening a seat belt. The standard onboard announcements will be made followed by the deplaning and arrival process. Tait added, “These are things we all learn to tolerate when travelling, for an autistic child however they can be frighteningly intimidating. Knowing the airline understands special needs and events like these ‘flights-to-nowhere’ greatly diminishes that fear of the unknown when the family goes on a trip.”
Full details on to the mid-June ‘Autism Flights’ event will be announced shortly.
Edmonton, March 26, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Flair Airlines, Canada’s only independent, low-fare airline, is pleased to announce the appointment of Sandy Burns as the airline’s new Flight Attendant Manager.
Ms. Burns previously held management roles with Air Canada Jazz and WestJet Encore, and has led teams of up to 500. A safety-focused leader, Ms. Burns joins Flair Airlines with close to 30 years of Canadian aviation experience, with more than 15 years of hands-on, in-flight experience.
“Sandy joins Flair with significant experience and a deep understanding of Canadian aviation. Our hiring strategy is simple: hire people who understand aviation and are passionate about bringing Canadians affordable air travel,” said Flair Airlines CEO, Jim Scott. “Sandy is an important addition to the Flair Airlines team and will ensure each passenger receives the onboard experience they expect.”
Ms. Burns is based at the Flair Airlines headquarters in Edmonton, Alberta, and will lead a team of more than 120 flight attendants. In her role, Ms. Burns will oversee the recruitment, retention, training and service delivery of the Flair Airlines flight attendant team as it continues to grow.
Some Canadians who planned to use Flair airlines to head south this spring have been left scrambling after the ultra-low-cost carrier cancelled several routes.
Flair is suspending seasonal service earlier than expected to some U.S. destinations beginning Thursday, Feb. 28, a spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.
Flair is ending flights to three places: Miami and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (near Tampa Bay) in Florida, and Palm Springs, California.
Flair said it will continue to fly from Winnipeg to Orlando unchanged, as well as between Las Vegas and Phoenix-Mesa in Arizona and Edmonton and Winnipeg, but with reduced frequency.
“We are in the process of contacting all affected passengers and providing them with full refunds or, for those who have already started their journey, alternative travel arrangements on other airlines,” spokesperson Iris Dias said.
The Edmonton-based airline said it entered an agreement with a third party airline to provide services to some US destinations, “to allow our people the time to train and prepare for the addition of our new aircraft type, the Boeing 737-800NG.”
Flair said that agreement was challenged by several external factors and disappointing passenger booking numbers did not deliver the results they had expected.
Analyst Marvin Ryder, a marketing professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., said these are growing pains that come with ultra-low-cost carriers — adding, as a young company, Flair is still testing to see what works and what does not.
“Expect the unexpected. Expect to suddenly hear they’re going to add routes; the next day they’re going to cut routes or they’re going to reduce the amount of service or changing the plane because they’re still experimenting.
“I just can’t state that enough: we are very much in the experimental mode.”
Another video – click here: One industry expert says to expect these ups and downs when booking with ultra low-cost carriers. Kendra Slugoski reports.
Ryder said he expects to see more of Flair testing routes and cancelling ones that don’t live up to expectation, adding the company can’t afford to keep running unprofitable flights just for the sake of keeping customers happy.
“In particular with Flair, it doesn’t have deep pockets. Swoop who’s the competitor, has WestJet — and well, WestJet’s got some pockets. They can run this trial a little longer. For Flair, if they’re not getting the pickup they need, they really got to cut their losses.”
Nikki Escaravage is learning just how much risk comes with taking advantage of a good deal. She and her two daughters were booked on a round-trip from Edmonton to Palm Springs, and left on Tuesday.
“It was a pretty good deal. I had known a few friends who had flown Flair air before and they had raved about it, so I thought I would take a chance and see if it worked for us.”
She arrived in southern California, only to be contacted by a friend who said the return flight to Edmonton next week had been cancelled. Escaravage said there was no notification on Flair’s website, and when she called was told the airline was re-structuring most of its flights to the U.S.
Escaravage said her flight was refunded but the airline didn’t offer to help with finding a new way home, so she booked with WestJet instead. She wishes Flair had done a better job of communicating.
“I’ve given you my money, I’m trying to have a nice time with my family and my flights are cancelled. You knew about it and didn’t tell me.”
“You should let your customers know.”
Ryder says the early days, or years, of a new ultra-low-cost carrier are like the “wild, wild west.”
“I always caution everyone who wants to book with a low-cost carrier: This is not the same as Air Canada, this is not the same as WestJet where you have a 50- or 60-year history of performance.”
He said many Canadians are willing to take the risk of sudden changes, if it means getting a great deal.
“We Canadians are just kind of learning what ultra-low-cost carriers are all about and here’s the good news — early indications are we like them and we are giving them our business,” Ryder said.
Flair said its Canadian flight network will be unaffected by the changes to its trans-border services.
The news comes one week after Flair unveiled a big re-branding, which includes green-and-black paint jobs on their planes and a new logo – with a lowercase “f” – as well as new crew uniforms and a new website.
The airline said the re-brand would “set the course for the airline’s next stages of growth.”
Flair said since it announced it was moving its headquarters to Edmonton last summer, it has increased its workforce by some 20 per cent to over 300 people, relocated to four floors of the office tower at Edmonton International Airport, introduced new international routes and welcomed the first Boeing 737-800 aircraft into its fleet.
It said four more are planned to arrive by the end of 2019.
Canadian travelers looking to head to south over Spring Break may be in trouble if they booked through Flair Airlines.
Several travellers have told CTV Winnipeg that they have received emails from the airline this week telling them that their flights have been cancelled.
“Flair can confirm that we are suspending seasonal service to some US destinations beginning February 28th,” a spokesperson said in a statement to CTV Winnipeg.
“We are in the process of contacting all affected passengers and providing them with full refunds or, for those who have already started their journey, alternative travel arrangements on other airlines.”
Flair has only suspended service between Winnipeg and Miami, and St. Petersburg-Clearwater. Scheduled flights to Orlando, Las Vegas, and Phoenix-Mesa remain unchanged.
Travel Consultant Iris Jamieson recommends that anyone affected by the cancellations should rebook with another airline as soon as possible to keep their travel plans from being disrupted.
“Christmas and Spring break are two of the most heavy traffic periods during the year,” Jamieson said.
Flair says their Canadian flight network will not be affected by the changes.
Top to bottom and nose to tail; flair undergoes redesign
Edmonton, AB, Feb. 13, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — For Immediate Release, February 13, 2019
flair airlines, Canada’s only independently owned ultra low fare carrier today announced a major rebranding to reflect the company’s vision of the future.
David Tait, flair’s Executive Chairman, stated, “For too long Canadians have had virtually no competitive choice between the cozy duopoly of full service airlines. But our fares are as much about competing with the great Canadian couch as with the ‘big two’ and the new look we are about to introduce will make us even harder to ignore.”
Effective today, flair’s, quite literally, top to bottom redesign includes a new website and URL, flyflair.com, a new logo that will define its brand, bold colour that will harness visitors’ attention, new crew uniforms and of course an eye catching new aircraft livery (aka ‘paint job’).
The re-brand will set the course for the airline’s next stages of growth: Since last summer when it announced Edmonton as its new headquarters, flair has increased its workforce by some 20 per cent to over 300, relocated to four floors of office tower at Edmonton International Airport, introduced new international routes and welcomed the first Boeing 737-800 aircraft into its fleet – four more are planned to arrive by the end of 2019.
Charles McKee, flair’s Chief Commercial Officer, commented “The bright modern design is reflective of the positive spirit we want travellers to experience and makes a solid statement that Flair is on a mission to make travel more accessible, more affordable and more desirable while allowing us to add little humour along the way.”
Key Highlights of flair’s Re-Brand: – New Flight Attendant uniforms, with special accents created by up-and-coming Canadian designers CarryCorp (set to be released in April 2019). – An entirely new aircraft livery, with the first Boeing 737-800 due to enter service in March 2019. – Airport signage, inflight menus, website and more, to be released Feb.13, 2019
About flair airlines For over a decade flair operated as a charter carrier before transitioning to scheduled service in 2017. To consistently offer affordable air travel to Canadians – with a fleet that now includes Boeing 737-800 – flair is focused on key airports, with its main transfer hub in Edmonton and a network that supports seasonal demand. flair services seven coast-to-coast Canadian gateways, and six US cities. flair operates over 200 flights per week.
Edmonton, AB, Jan. 03, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Canada’s only independent low-fare airline, Flair Airlines marked its first full year of scheduled operations with considerable growth.
Over the course of the year, the airline:
Added 114 more flights per week
Doubled its fleet from five to ten aircraft
Safely carried almost a million passengers
Flew coast-to-coast from ten Canadian cities over the summer
Added six US destinations to its winter schedule
“The past year has been one of steady growth for us,” said Jim Scott, President & CEO, Flair Airlines. “We more than doubled the number of flights per week we fly, ensuring travellers have access to affordable air travel to our 13 destinations across North America.”
Laying the Foundation for Success
To accommodate its transition from charter to scheduled carrier, Flair moved its headquarters to Edmonton, AB, proudly becoming Edmonton’s hometown airline. The partnership with Edmonton International Airport and relocation to Alberta’s capital ensure the airline has the tools to support the company’s ambitious growth strategy. Since the relocation, the airline recruited more than 100 employees, more than doubling its headcount.
The company’s growth plan was on display as it launched transborder operations in November, with its Edmonton to Las Vegas service. The addition of new destinations and routes continued in December with Palm Springs, Phoenix-Mesa, Orlando, Miami and St. Pete-Clearwater joining the airline’s route map.
“When we started the year, we were a domestic airline focused on giving Canadians a long-waited affordable travel option,” added Scott. “Our growth into an international carrier has been met with tremendous support. Canadians can now travel to US sun destinations with their loved ones, something they might not have been able to afford a year ago.”
In December, Flair Airlines welcomed its future: the Boeing 737-800NG. The new generation aircraft will carry more passengers, lower fuel costs and fly longer distances.
“The 737-800NG is Flair’s flight path to the future,” said Scott. “Lower fuel costs ensure we can keep our fares down and the longer range means we can fly more passengers non-stop to more distant destinations.”
The airline expects to add more flights, destinations, routes and aircraft to its roster throughout 2019, and plans to increase its employee base to support the growth.
The addition of six US destinations nearly doubles the airline’s route network for the winter
17 December 2018 – Flair Airlines (Edmonton, AB): Flair, Canada’s only independent low-fare airline, is the first carrier in the history of both Edmonton International Airport and Winnipeg International Airport to offer non-stop service to Miami, Florida. In addition to Miami, Flair launched non-stop flights from Winnipeg, Edmonton and Toronto to destinations like Orlando, Phoenix/Mesa, Las Vegas, St.Pete/Tampa Bay, and Palm Springs this weekend.
Over the last twelve months, Flair has rapidly expanded its network and fleet to include newly leased Boeing 737-800NG aircraft. Two of these three aircraft are presently operating flights to the US. Since June, Flair has also welcomed almost 100 new staff to accommodate this rapid growth. This winter, to destinations like Las Vegas, the airline offers US flights for as low as $99*one-way.
Flair’s Executive Chairman, David Tait, commented, “We’ve been overwhelmed by the terrific support of Canadians and are delighted to offer six popular – snow-free – southern destinations; all with low fares.”
“Flair has been a welcome addition to Winnipeg Richardson International Airport, and these new routes exemplify their commitment to our city,” said Barry Rempel, President and CEO of Winnipeg Airports Authority. “Our mission is to connect Winnipeg and the surrounding region to the world. As a result of our partnership with Flair, travellers now have more options, to more sunny destinations this winter and beyond.”
“Fresh on the heels of its inaugural US service to Las Vegas, Flair’s announcement of four new US routes is creating exceptional travel options for the Edmonton Metro Region,” said Tom Ruth, President and CEO of Edmonton International Airport. “Multiple routes and low fares make air travel more accessible while supporting tourism, business growth and continued investment in our region.”
“We proudly welcome Flair and its new routes to the Miami service area,” said Lester Sola, Miami-Dade Aviation Department Director and CEO. “South Florida residents can now choose from multiple options for travel to Canada.”
As a scheduled airline, Flair has flown more than 1.3 million passengers throughout Canada. Today is a significant milestone as the independently owned airline makes major strides into the U.S.
12 December 2018, The Canadian Press, CALGARY — WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it is co-operating with a probe by Canada’s competition watchdog following accusations of predatory pricing from a competitor.
The Calgary-based carrier said in an email Wednesday it is “compiling information” in response to an investigation from the Competition Commissioner.
Edmonton-based Flair Airlines has accused WestJet and low-cost offshoot Swoop of undercutting its business by pricing fares at or below cost and flooding certain routes with flights, contrary to competition legislation that protects new entrants from more dominant carriers.
Flair chief executive Jim Scott tells The Canadian Press that the ultra-low-cost carrier lost about $10 million between mid-June and mid-October as a result.
He says WestJet offered tickets starting at $39 for flights between Edmonton and Abbotsford, B.C., a move that cost Flair $2 million between June 20 and Oct. 15.
Scott says it was reassuring to see media reports that the Federal Court of Canada on Tuesday ordered a WestJet vice-president to appear before the Competition Commissioner to explain the airline’s tactics.