Flair Airlines is expanding rapidly, but internal discord and regulatory scrutiny raise questions about its ambitious growth

From The Globe and Mail – link to source story

ERIC ATKINS, TRANSPORTATION REPORTER, THE GLOBE AND MAIL | 4 DECEMBER 2021

Flair has announced plans to lease and fly 13 Boeing 737 Max passenger jets.HO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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It’s early 2021, and almost a year into the pandemic the skies around Canada’s airports are mostly quiet. Porter and Sunwing are grounded, Air Canada, WestJet Airlines and Air Transat are operating a small number of daily flights, cancelling orders for new planes and losing millions of dollars every day as air travel in much of the world is halted.

It’s a different picture at Flair Airlines, the tiny discount carrier based in Edmonton. On Jan. 27, Flair announced plans to lease and fly 13 Boeing 737 Max passenger jets. The bigger fleet would fly new routes to eight Canadian cities – 18 by the summer. “With this order, Flair is well on the way to achieving its ‘F50′ ambition of growing to 50 planes within five years,” said Flair, which at the time had just three 737s, two of which were essentially grounded by the pandemic.

The new planes would be leased from 777 Partners, the Miami-based private equity company that owns 25 per cent of Flair and is a major creditor to the airline, which bills itself as a low-cost alternative to its large rivals.

It was a bold move, coming as the global airline industry was in crisis and largely grounded. Canadian airlines were seeking billions in aid from Ottawa to cover rent and other costs as thousands of aviation workers were at home or working on wages topped up by government subsidies. Flair unveiled another step in its expansion last month, with the planned addition of Mexico and other vacation destinations, and added Hollywood Burbank to its growing list of U.S. destinations.

But as Flair plotted its rapid expansion, one finance official warned the airline’s top executive that the plan was too risky.

Jocelyn Harris, Flair’s vice-president of finance until the end of 2020, said she advised chief executive officer Stephen Jones that the airline could not afford the expansion, given that it was almost completely shut down and could not pay its bills.

“I couldn’t comprehend it,” Ms. Harris said of the plan to lease planes from 777 Partners. “In the fall we were completely insolvent, and they were going to go and sign on these contracts for these planes.”

Ms. Harris, who has filed a wrongful dismissal and harassment lawsuit against Flair, alleged in a court filing and interview that 777 Partners was calling the shots at Flair. She said she warned executives that the control exerted by the U.S.-based company was a possible violation of Canadian laws. A foreign investor cannot hold more than 25 per cent of a Canadian airline’s shares, nor is it allowed to take charge of company decision-making, known by the regulator as “control in fact.”

Ms. Harris’s allegations come amid a tumultuous time for the airline industry, which is facing new travel restrictions due to the Omicron variant. Flair is also facing a lawsuit from its largest Canadian investor, Prescott Strategic Investments, which is partly owned by Jim Scott, Flair’s former CEO.

The Globe and Mail has learned that the Canadian Transportation Agency, the airline industry regulator, is investigating Flair’s financial arrangement with 777 Partners, which was founded in 2015 by Steven Pasko and Joshua Craig Wander.

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“Flair is required to comply with the Canada Transportation Act’s Canadian ownership and control requirement to hold its licences,” the CTA said in a statement to The Globe. “In assessing the control in fact requirement, the CTA considers a number of factors, including any implications that may arise from the leasing of assets from non-Canadians. There is, however, no specific restriction precluding the leasing of assets from non-Canadians.

“CTA staff are aware of the arrangement between Flair and its U.S. investor, and is currently looking into the situation,” said the regulator, a quasi-judicial body that has the power to levy fines, sanctions or suspend operating licences.

The CTA said the Flair investigation has not yet been referred to a panel.

Mr. Jones, Flair’s CEO, said in a statement that his airline is “58-per-cent owned and controlled by Canadians, well above the minimum standard established under federal regulation.”

Flair lawyer Mike Wagner declined to comment on the lawsuit filed by Prescott, citing a publication ban and sealing order on the file sought by Flair.

Justice Ward Branch of the B.C. Supreme Court on July 12 issued a publication ban on the lawsuit and sealed the file. In an e-mail, Mr. Wagner said the publication ban prevented him from saying why he sought the publication ban. Mr. Scott and Prescott lawyer Steve Warnett declined to comment. Prescott also named 777 Partners in the suit. The investor declined to comment.

Ms. Harris, who left the airline on Dec. 31, 2020, alleges she was fired in retaliation for her complaint about harassment by Juan Arciniegas, a 777 Partners executive who was working at the Edmonton office. She also alleges she was let go for “raising concerns with respect to the increasing control of 777 Partners, contrary to the Canada Transportation Act,” according to her statement of claim, which has not been proven in court.

“Flair is vigorously opposing these unsubstantiated allegations through all proper legal channels,” Mr. Jones said.

Michael Robinson, a spokesman for 777 Partners, said Ms. Harris’s claims of “verbal harassment and bullying” are “without merit and will be vigorously defended should an attempt be made to involve the company.”

Mr. Robinson said the CTA inquiry is a routine part of the regulator’s “routine ownership stake review,” adding that “777 Partners has, and will continue to, assist Flair in any dialogue the CTA wishes to have with the airline.”

In 2019, 777 Partners bought a 25-per-cent stake in Flair for an undisclosed amount. Flair, in a statement announcing the investment, said 777 Partners’ “financial strength” would help it grow and compete with Canada’s two dominant airlines.

The private equity investor does not disclose financial data. It made headlines in the sporting world in September with the purchase of Italy’s oldest professional soccer team, Genoa Cricket and Football Club, for a reported US$175-million. Its other investments include Synchrono Group Inc., a North Carolina-based insurance underwriter. Its aviation stakes include Air Black Box, a technology platform that allows a handful of Asian airlines to cross-sell seats; World Ticket seat-sales software; and Bonza Aviation, an Australian low-cost airline slated to launch in 2022 with two or three Boeing 737s. The investor has also bought the rights to use the name World Airways Inc., the U.S. carrier that stopped flying in 2014.

“Our senior management team is composed of industry veterans with backgrounds in private equity, venture capital, investment banking, financial technology, insurance, actuarial science, asset management, structured-credit, risk analytics, complex commercial litigation and computer science,” the company’s website says. “We partner directly with our management teams and portfolio companies to build long term value for all stakeholders.”

In 2004, 777 Partners co-founder Mr. Wander was convicted of cocaine trafficking in a Florida court, pleading no contest to the charges. He received 16 years’ probation, according to Florida court records. According to a news report on his trafficking case, the then-22-year-old admitted that a package containing 31 grams of cocaine was for him and a friend. He reportedly avoided a jail term of as long as 26 years with his plea.

Flair and 777 Partners representatives did not address questions about Mr. Wander’s criminal record nor grant an interview with him.

“The company will not comment on any legacy issues regarding Mr. Wander’s distant past,” Mr. Robinson said.

Jamina Kotak, Flair’s chief of staff, said in an e-mail that the airline is “pleased to be associated with Mr. Wander and 777 Partners. We could not imagine a more supportive director, shareholder and lender.”

The 737s that 777 Partners will lease to Flair are among the 24 aircraft the private equity company is buying from Boeing. The deal includes an option to buy another 60 of the aircraft. Flair this month is flying nine 737 Max aircraft, five of which are leased from 777 Partners and four from an unrelated company, Ms. Kotak said.

Ms. Harris said Flair owed about $129-million to 777 Partners at the end of 2020. The loan came with 18-per-cent interest. The airline’s executives and Mr. Wander held talks with government lenders Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada for emergency financing but were turned down, Ms. Harris said.

Flair declined to answer questions about its financial picture. “As a private company, Flair generally does not publicly disclose or discuss its confidential financial information, which includes among other things debt, financing, lending and aircraft leasing details,” Ms. Kotak said. “Flair has benefited from a tremendous amount of support from its vendors throughout the COVID pandemic. Several vendors agreed to defer payments.”

To be granted an air operating licence to fly from point to point in Canada, an airline must be majority-owned by Canadians. Foreign ownership is capped at 49 per cent, or 25 per cent for a single individual or entity. In addition, the airline must be controlled in fact by Canadians.

According to the CTA’s website, “control in law is generally shown by owning enough shares to carry the right to a majority of votes. Control in fact goes beyond control in law as it includes the ability to exert control by any direct or indirect influence.

“Although the term is not defined in the [Transportation] Act, the agency considers control in fact to be: the power, whether exercised or not, to control the strategic decision-making activities of an enterprise and to manage and run its day-to-day operations,” the CTA says. “Those who may have the power to influence a company’s decisions can include minority owners, designated representatives, financial institutions, employees and others.”

Ms. Harris said 777 Partners stayed out of the aircraft operations and maintenance component of the airline. “But on the commercial [side] – the schedule, what planes we were going to fly, how are we going to advertise and market, and the vendors we engaged with – it felt everything had to be almost run through them,” she said.

David Gillen, a transportation professor at the University of British Columbia, said the leases do not appear to violate Canada’s foreign ownership laws. “The lessor might wield a lot of weight in decision-making but they are not an owner, any more than the bank holding one’s mortgage is an owner – unless of course, you cannot make a payment, at which time they might become an unintentional owner,” Prof. Gillen said.

The rules are intended to ensure Canadians make the decisions that affect domestic airlines, said John Gradek, who teaches aviation leadership at McGill University.

“If Flair is trying to disrupt the Canadian marketplace without really having to follow the same rules and the same practices as other Canadian carriers, it gives them an unfair competitive advantage,” he said. Other domestic carriers would welcome the chance to have greater access to foreign funding, he added.

Flair drew the attention of the regulator due to the nature of its financial arrangements with 777 Partners, Mr. Gradek said, leasing planes from the same part-owner and lender. “I think it was the fact that 777 Partners … was the entity that really wanted to deploy airplanes into Canada,” he said.

The Flair investigation appears to be at the initial stage of fact gathering to support a recommendation of action or dismissal. “And then it’s handed up to the [CTA] panel for them to do the adjudication and the formal issuance of CTA order, if one is required,” Mr. Gradek said.

“If it’s a serious enough breach of regulations and practices they can look at … monetary penalties or they can make a recommendation to Transport Canada for a regulatory remedy, including suspension of the airline operating licence.”

Flair Airlines expands on Eastern Canadian services with flights to Deer Lake

2x weekly service from Kitchener-Waterloo to Deer Lake begins June 8

Edmonton, Alberta, December 3, 2021 – Flair Airlines, Canada’s low-fare airline, expands into Newfoundland with service to Deer Lake Regional Airport from Region of Waterloo International Airport beginning in June 2022. Flair is the first Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC) to serve Deer Lake.

“We’re excited to connect the Waterloo Region with Western Newfoundland as our first point of service to the province. Deer Lake is ideal for exploring Newfoundland and is the gateway to the majestic Gros Morne National Park,” said Stephen Jones, President and CEO, Flair Airlines. “Flair’s goal is to make the unaffordable affordable and our $49 fares to Deer Lake do just that.”

The service will bring affordable air travel to a previously unserved market and will help connect Canadians across the country who have been paying too much for too long.

“We are excited to welcome Flair to Deer Lake as a new airline but also with a new destination for travellers leaving our region and a new market to access for people in Western and Southwestern Ontario. Flair provides affordable air travel and as we are recovering it will make it easy for families to reconnect more often,” said Tammy Priddle, President and CEO, Deer Lake Regional Airport Authority. “Being just 45 minutes away from Gros Morne National Park, as well as two other World UNESCO Heritage sites, L’Anse Aux Meadows and Red Bay, make Deer Lake the gateway to some of the most unique and picturesque destinations in the world. We are really looking forward to establishing this partnership and to the many more opportunities this will create.”

One-way fares, including taxes and fees, begin at $49 CAD from Kitchener-Waterloo. There are limited seats and availability for the fares. Flights are now available for booking at flyflair.com.

About Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines is on a mission to liberate the lives of Canadians by providing affordable air travel that connects them to the people and experiences they love. With an expanding fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, Flair is growing to serve more than 30 cities across Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. For more information, please visit flyflair.com.

Flair Airlines brings LiFE to Inflight Entertainment and Shopping Experience

Passengers travelling on Flair’s fleet of Boeing 737s will be able to access free inflight entertainment, purchase food and drinks, and shop for products using their own devices

Edmonton, Alberta, November 25, 2021 — Flair Airlines is pleased to begin offering travellers touchless inflight entertainment and ancillary offerings as a part of the airline’s latest passenger experience enhancements.

LiFE in Air photo

The innovative solution, developed by LiFE In The Air, lets Flair passengers use their own devices to buy food, drinks, and other products during the flight. Passengers can also enjoy free inflight entertainment including short-form stories and films and stay entertained with games and community-driven traveller content.

“At Flair Airlines, we are committed to improving the passenger experience and preparing for the future. When people return to travel, they will notice a better airline experience,” said Stephen Jones, President and CEO of Flair Airlines. “The steps we are taking today to digitize the inflight experience will exceed people’s expectations.”

Passengers can access the new system with their device browser via QR codes onboard or by Flair’s updated mobile application here (iOS)(Android).

LiFE in Air photo

Flair’s existing mobile app, Fly Flair, will also combine booking and trip management functions with a webview option for inflight entertainment. This will allow ordering and delivery of purchases directly to passengers in their seats while on board.

In addition to stimulating demand for domestic travel, Flair is dedicated to supporting Canadian businesses by launching a first of its kind Virtual Buy On Board advertising program. This innovative program is a passenger-centric forum that allows brands to connect with Flair’s passengers and deliver immersive inflight digital experiences. Passengers can engage with brands and make purchases in flight, for delivery to their homes.

“From our findings, we know that passengers are open to learning about relevant products, services and brands,” said Bayram Annakov, CEO of LiFE In The Air, Flair’s inflight e-commerce service provider. “Technology — especially the use of personal devices in air — provides a much more engaging experience for passengers without the waste of printed magazines. The Flair Airlines Virtual Buy On Board program is designed to fulfil this need while facilitating people actually ordering goods and services in an updated format.”

Flair also offers a wide range of entertainment options from the National Film Board of Canada, including Canadian-made films and documentaries, as well as various games, such as ZeptoLab’s Cut The Rope. Passengers can fly with Flair while being entertained and delighted by free world-class content and an opportunity to support local Canadian artists and creators.

To enquire about offering products and services inflight or virtually, please visit, https://flyflair.com/life-partner

About Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines, Canada’s only independent Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC), is liberating Canadians with low fares and affordable travel options, connecting travellers with people and experiences they love. With an expanding fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, Flair is growing to serve 31 cities across Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. For more information, please visit flyflair.com

About LiFE In The Air

Founded by entrepreneur Bayram Annakov and his team in 2020, LiFE In The Air enables airlines to seamlessly monetize inflight customers through an innovative digital experience. Designed for the post-COVID traveller in mind, LiFE In The Air enables airlines to offer an onboard e-commerce experience and a platform for engaging onboard content.

Flair Airlines becomes first Canadian airline with service to Hollywood Burbank Airport

  • Inaugural flight to Los Angeles/Burbank is Sunday from Vancouver
  • Service from Edmonton to Los Angeles/Burbank begins December 16

Edmonton, Alberta, November 20, 2021 – Flair Airlines, Canada’s only independent ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC), becomes the first Canadian airline to provide service to Hollywood Burbank Airport with the inaugural flight from Vancouver International Airport on Sunday. Flair is rapidly expanding into the US and Mexico, and service to the Los Angeles area will continue to grow as Flair adds flights from Edmonton International Airport starting December 16.

“We are excited to bring our low fares to LA and become the first Canadian airline to serve Hollywood Burbank Airport,” said Stephen Jones, President and CEO, Flair Airlines. “Our flight today is the start of connecting Hollywood North with Hollywood while providing a hassle-free experience straight to the hustle of downtown LA, the Hollywood hills and Burbank’s neighboring film studios.”

The inaugural flight from Canada to Hollywood Burbank Airport will depart on Sunday, November 21, at 11:15am.

“We are delighted to add a new route with Flair Airlines offering travellers options to visit Greater Los Angeles for some sunshine and Hollywood fun,” said Russell Atkinson, Director Air Service Development, Vancouver Airport Authority. “We know that more choices and affordable airfares are important to travellers now more than ever. We look forward to the continued success of Flair and seeing their growth as they connect the people of B.C. to more new destinations.”

“We’re looking forward to having Canadian travelers experience the most convenient way to visit the Los Angeles metro area,” said Frank Miller, Executive Director of Hollywood Burbank Airport. “We also know our local passengers will welcome and enjoy the ease and convenience of using this service to get from Southern California to Vancouver.”

One-way fares, including taxes and fees, begin at $99 CAD from Vancouver or Edmonton. There are limited seats and availability for the fares. Both routes are available for booking at flyflair.com.

The new service to Los Angeles/Burbank is among other US destinations Flair started in November, including Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas. Flair will also be starting service to Palm Springs and Phoenix-Mesa in December. Flair is disrupting the Canadian market with affordable air travel options as part of an ambitious goal to grow to 50 aircraft in 5 years.

About Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines is Canada’s only independent Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC) and is on a mission to liberate the lives of Canadians by providing affordable air travel that connects them to the people and experiences they love. With an expanding fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, Flair is growing to serve 31 cities across Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. For more information, please visit flyflair.com.

Price wars, budget options coming to airline market amid COVID recovery

From The Toronto Star – link to source story

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press | 19 November 2021

MONTREAL – Canada has so far been a difficult place for budget airlines to thrive, but that appears to be changing, thanks mainly to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian market, long defined by two dominant incumbents and consumer reluctance to embrace the ultra-low-cost model, is now poised to enter a period of price wars and suppressed fares as the pandemic upends the aviation sector.

“The pandemic has clearly changed the game for everyone,” Stephen Jones, CEO of discount carrier Flair Airlines, said in an interview.

“The emergence of ultra-low-cost carriers and competition can only be good for consumers. It’s driving efficiency into what was a relatively inefficient industry and lowering prices, I think permanently.”

While the pandemic saw billions of dollars in revenue go up in smoke over the past 20 months, it also burned down barriers to entry for upstarts.

Plummeting demand for aircraft meant carriers could access them more quickly and cheaply. A pilot shortage that had plagued the industry is no longer as severe. And greater availability of airport slots has given companies leverage when striking deals with airport authorities.

“All the competitors are relatively stretched — their balance sheets are stressed, their fleets are contracting. And so the conditions for expansion for a ULCC [ultralow cost carrier]are fantastic right now,” Jones said.

ULCCs, which offer bare-bones discount fares and charge extra for services such as checked bags and cancellations, have expanded their global market share, largely outside of Canada, to more than 37 per cent from about one-quarter a few years earlier, according to Jones..

Several carriers have been beefing up over the past six monthsin preparation for a clash with Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. — and with each other — particularly for domestic flights and to sun destinations.

Flair was down to one aircraft in April. It now has a dozen planes, with four more coming next year as the Edmonton-based airline adds routes from Victoria to St. John’s, N.L.

Lynx (formerly Enerjet) announced this week it will launch commercial routes next year with three new Boeing 737 Max airliners, part of an eventual fleet of up to 46 within seven years.

Meanwhile, WestJet budget subsidiary Swoop continues to expand, unveiling nine new routes out of Edmonton this week.

Demand remains the big caveat, though airlines say they are confident it will continue to rise next year, particularly among recreational travellers. Business travel — which can yield fatter profit margins and make up for seasonal lulls — continues to lag, a problem that hits bigger airlines harder than discount carriers, which offer no business-class tickets and fewer international flights to commercial hubs.

“Canadians are finally embracing the ULCC model,” said Robert Kokonis, president of consulting firm AirTrav Inc.

“You’d go to chat boards online and people were grumbling about having to pay extra to check in a bag or even to pay money for a carry-on bag. But Canadians are starting to realize that, hey, if I can pay a really rock-bottom airfare, I’ve got money left over to spend at the destination.”

Porter Airlines, while not a ULCC, is another smaller player that is expanding its fleet, securing 30 Embraer E2 narrow-body jets for delivery between mid-2022 and the end of 2023, with an option for 50 more.

Bound for sun destinations and Canadian cities, they will fly from Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax as well as Toronto’s Pearson airport — rather than Porter’s current downtown base at Billy Bishop airport — allowing for head-to-head competition with Air Canada, WestJet, Transat AT Inc. and Sunwing Airlines.

“Air Canada and WestJet won’t take the new incursion by Porter lying down. They’re going to come out and be robust competitors,” Kokonis said, adding that prices will fall “for sure” compared to pre-pandemic fares.

“As the ULCCs gain traction in the deeper sun destinations — places like the Caribbean and Mexico — I think it’s going to pose a significant competitive issue for both Sunwing and Transat. Both of those players are heavily oriented around package vacations.”

However, history has shown that success in this market is far from guaranteed. Between 1995 and 2015, no fewer than six low-cost carriers tried and failed to get off the ground: Greyhound Air, Roots Air, Air Canada’s Zip, Jetsgo, Zoom Airlines and Canjet.

“Before, some of the new entrants that came in were not terribly well-financed or well-backed,” said David Huttner, a commercial aviation expert who has worked with Flair.

“You have three Alberta-headquartered parties in there now” — Flair, Lynx and WestJet’s Swoop — “who are extremely well-structured.”

Flair remains undeterred, with flights to nine U.S. airports so far — mainly U.S. sun destinations — as well as Cancun and Cabo in Mexico.

“They could become the price leader in the Canadian marketplace,” said aviation expert and McGill University lecturer John Gradek.

“You are now talking about a carrier that has risen like a phoenix from the ashes.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2021.

Flair Airlines says “¡Hola México!” with Low Fare Flights from Canada to Cancun and Los Cabos

Canada’s leading low-fare airline begins Mexico service in February from Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia

Edmonton, Alberta, November 16, 2021 – Flair Airlines, Canada’s only true ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC), continues to expand and change the face of the Canadian aviation market as it introduces nonstop, low-fare flights to Cancun and Los Cabos, Mexico, from Vancouver, Abbotsford, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Kitchener-Waterloo.

“Starting in February, Canadians will enjoy affordable, sunny winter getaways to Cancun and Los Cabos without breaking the bank,” said Garth Lund, Chief Commercial Officer, Flair Airlines. “We can’t wait to get our customers to the beach.”

“The average February temperature in Canada is -6 °C; the average temperature in Cancun is 28 °C, so February seemed like a good month to start service,” he added.

Starting February 1, Flair will offer nonstop flights to Los Cabos on Tuesdays and Saturdays from Vancouver, and Wednesdays and Saturdays from Abbotsford and Edmonton. Nonstop flights to Cancun will be on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Ottawa and Wednesdays and Sundays from Kitchener-Waterloo. The ultra-low fares will start from $129 CAD one-way. All routes and schedule details can be viewed at https://www.flyflair.com.

Comments from our airport partners

Vancouver International Airport (YVR):

“We are delighted to see Flair adding a new route out of YVR. Flair’s new offering of flights to Los Cabos in Mexico provides yet another great option to escape a west coast winter,” said YVR Director, Air Service Development, Russell Atkinson. “We wish all the best to Flair as they expand and offer Canadians a unique, new travel experience. With more people being vaccinated and travel measures easing, we look forward to continued increased service from Flair which will benefit the community and the economy that supports it.”

Region of Waterloo International Airport (YKF)

“I am pleased that Flair Airlines in expanding service from the Region of Waterloo to Cancun, Mexico,” said Karen Redman, Regional Chair. “Expanded local service means more options for families, continued job growth, as well as a strong tourism sector and local economy.”

Abbotsford International Airport (YXX)

“On behalf of the City of Abbotsford and the Abbotsford International Airport Authority, I’d like to congratulate Flair Airlines on their expanded service to Los Cabos this coming winter from YXX,” said Henry Braun, Mayor of the City of Abbotsford and chair of the Abbotsford International Airport Authority. “Expanding routes offered at Abbotsford International Airport, not only gives travellers more accessible and affordable options, it also has a positive impact on our local and regional economy and is an important step in our pandemic recovery.”

Ottawa International Airport Authority (YOW):

“With the first snowfall on the ground and temperatures falling, we are confident that passengers in Ottawa-Gatineau will embrace Flair’s service to Cancun as they escape to the beautiful beaches and warm sunshine,” said Mark Laroche, President and CEO of the Ottawa International Airport Authority. “Flair’s expanded offering at YOW benefits the entire community; our passengers enjoy more travel options, and the Ottawa International Airport takes another step forward in its pandemic recovery.”

Edmonton International Airport (YEG):

“EIA is pleased for Flair to announce its first Mexico destination. Thank you Flair for your continued investment in your hometown airport and for providing capacity to Los Cabos International Airport so Edmontonians and surrounding communities can get their vitamin SEA,” said Myron Keehn, Vice-President, Air Service and Business Development, Edmonton International Airport.

About Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines is Canada’s only independent Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC) and is on a mission to liberate the lives of Canadians by providing affordable air travel that connects them to the people and experiences they love. With an expanding fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, Flair is growing to serve 28 cities across Canada and the U.S. For more information, please visit http://www.flyflair.com.

Second low-cost carrier set to land at Comox Valley Airport

Swoop Airlines is set to service the Comox Valley Airport in June 2022. (Contributed)

From Comox Valley Record – link to source story – Thanks to CW

Swoop Airlines is set to service the Comox Valley Airport in June 2022. (Contributed)

Swoop Airlines arriving at YQQ in June 2022

ERIN HALUSCHAK | November 15, 2021

The Comox Valley Airport (YQQ) welcomes Swoop Airlines to the Comox Valley with service starting in June 2022.

“Swoop’s arrival will generate a lot of excitement for travellers looking for affordable options to reconnect with their friends and family,” said Mike Atkins, Comox Valley Airport’s CEO.

“We are delighted to have Swoop support travel to the Comox Valley, particularly for our tourism partners ready to welcome visitors to the spectacular region we serve.”

Swoop will commence three times weekly service from Edmonton, using their modern fleet of Boeing 737-800NG aircraft, on Thursday, June 9, 2022.

“We are thrilled to begin service to Comox Valley Airport with the announcement of our new non-stop service to Edmonton,” said Charles Duncan, president of Swoop. “With more than three million travellers having already experienced Swoop’s incredible service and ultra-low fares we are confident this new route will be a huge success.”

In October, Flair Airlines announced they will commence flying out of YQQ in March, 2022, with three weekly non-stop flights to both Edmonton and Calgary.

Established in 2018 as an independent subsidiary of the WestJet Group of Companies, Swoop – like Flair Airlines – is an Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC). ULCCs offer unbundled low base fares that only includes the seat; baggage, seat selection, snacks and carry-on bags come at additional fees.

On Vancouver Island, Swoop currently flies to the Victoria International Airport.

Canadian airlines adding flights, capacity in bid to recover COVID-19 losses

From Global News – link to source story and videos

By Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press | October 31, 2021

WATCH: Airlines struggle to keep up with passenger volumes – Sep 4, 2021

Airlines are adding flights and capacity in the hope that passengers are eager to jump back onto flights after more than 18 long months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been going through the equivalent of about 11 years of historical growth over the past six months, so the growth has been really tremendous over a very, very short period of time,” says John Weatherill, chief commercial officer at WestJet.

After a near-grounding of flights, the Calgary-based airline expects to be at about 70 per cent its pre-COVID capacity by the end of December, fully restore its domestic business by next summer and see its international capacity fully return by the end of 2022.

Air Canada, with its larger network and increased service to international destinations and business travellers, is projecting that it will be back to where it was before the pandemic struck by 2023 or 2024.

“But those dates are very movable depending on how things develop over the next six months,” said Mark Galardo, senior vice-president of network planning and revenue management at Air Canada.

Future waves of COVID could upset these plans, although airlines expect a growing number of vaccinations will help to address any new health challenges.

“We’re feeling generally good that the worst is behind us,” he said in an interview.

Click to play video: 'Flair Airlines to add routes between Winnipeg and Regina, Saskatoon in 2022'

Flair Airlines to add routes between Winnipeg and Regina, Saskatoon in 2022

Galardo said COVID has been an eye-opening experience that wiped out a decade of growth.

North American passenger demand was down 79 per cent in January 2021 compared with January 2019 with seat capacity off 60.5 per cent, according to the International Air Transport Association, the trade group representing airlines.

The situation has improved, but the number of scheduled domestic flights for the fourth quarter is still down 40 per cent and capacity is nearly 25 per cent lower than where it was before the pandemic, according to Cirium, the aviation data company.

The easing of travel restrictions and rising vaccination rates have allowed demand to improve but the aviation sector’s future “remains more uncertain than it has in decades,” says a report from Deloitte advocating reform in the Canadian aviation sector.

“The pandemic has completely upended the sector’s future,” the report said, noting it could take up to five years for air traffic in North America to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Garth Lund, chief commercial officer at Flair Airlines, says the recovery so far has been uneven. Low-cost airlines like Flair that are expanding their fleet will see a much faster recovery with these types of carriers increasing their market share globally from before the pandemic.

That’s because they mainly serve leisure travel which has seen pent-up demand. They’ve also parked fewer of their planes than legacy carriers, been able to secure newer planes and have used the pandemic to get better airport deals, recruit crews and catapult the growth of the business.

“The past 18 months or so, or even past six months was really a bit of a once in a lifetime opportunity for really catalyzing that growth,” Lund said.

Click to play video: 'WestJet, partners agree restart of travel and tourism essential for economic recovery'

WestJet, partners agree restart of travel and tourism essential for economic recovery

For the industry as a whole, vaccinations for both passengers and employees are key.

“I think that helps people’s confidence to travel,” added Charles Duncan, president of Swoop, WestJet’s low-cost carrier.

However, business travel _ which is Air Canada’s bread and butter and helps to offset lower leisure fares _ could face a longer road back to normalcy as many big companies have postponed reopening their offices.

Galardo said that until business recovers, it will be betting even more on the leisure market that has been more resilient and is partly supported by multicultural communities travelling to visit families and relatives around the globe.

Westjet’s Weatherill said uncertainty around travel restrictions and testing requirements are contributing to passenger reluctance to purchase tickets.

Testing is expensive, especially the PCR test required to re-enter Canada. As vaccinations become available to children as young as five, the industry wants to see testing, which it views as the “last major logistical and economic hurdle to recovery” end in 2022.

“It’s also unnecessary in our view, and it’s in a world where effectively everyone who’s travelling is double vaccinated,” Weatherill said.

The hope is that an updated U.S. air passenger policy allowing vaccinated travellers to rely on rapid tests instead of PCR tests or use self-testing kits will be adopted by Canada.

“We would hope that Canada eventually sees the light (and end the PCR requirement),” said Robert Kokonis, president of airline consulting firm AirTrav Inc.

“Once we do that, I see demand further improving in the forward booking season, both for winter and for summer.”

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: How to save on travel amid soaring flight prices'

Consumer Matters: How to save on travel amid soaring flight prices

The impending reopening of the U.S. border for Canadian travellers on Nov. 8 will also help to boost passenger confidence because there’s been confusion with air travel being permitted while the land border has been closed, added Lund.

“Adding more consistency between the two will just help people to have that confidence to to fly south.”

Meanwhile, a 120 per cent increase in fuel costs over the past year to the highest level since 2014 presents a challenge for all airlines, which are loathe to impose fuel surcharges.

“We haven’t had a domestic fuel surcharge at WestJet since 2008,” Duncan said.

“We do not intend to bring back a fuel surcharge and will work diligently to manage this increasing expense while maintaining low fares for Canadians, as we have consistently done over the last 13 years.”

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Flair Airlines expansion to the U.S. begins with first flights to Florida and Las Vegas

Inaugural flights to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale start Sunday from Ottawa and Toronto• First flight to Las Vegas is Tuesday from Toronto

Edmonton, Alberta, Oct. 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Flair Airlines, Canada’s only independent ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC), expands service into the United States Sunday as the airline reaches a major milestone as part of its unprecedented growth. Flair’s rapidly expanding fleet and network is changing the way Canadians travel, and the inaugural flights to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas mark the start of ultra low fares for travel outside of Canada.

Flair’s inaugural flights to the US are:

October 31, 2021:

Flight #334 – Ottawa (YOW) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL), 7:00am EST – 10:30am EST

Flight #144 – Toronto (YYZ) to Orlando Sanford (SFB), 11:15am EST – 2:00pm EST

Flight #111 – Toronto (YYZ) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL), 12:00pm EST – 3:20pm EST

November 2, 2021:

Flight #176 – Toronto (YYZ) to Las Vegas (LAS), 1:00pm EST – 3:00pm MST

“Flair’s launch of service to the US is an important milestone in our mission to make air travel affordable for everyone,” said Stephen Jones, President and CEO, Flair Airlines. “We continue to change the way Canadians think about air travel as they discover the freedom and benefits our low fares provide in their travels. We are thrilled to bring iconic US destinations like Las Vegas, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale into our network of Canadian travelers who are anxious to get back to exploring the world.”

“Las Vegas has long been a favorite destination for visitors hailing from all parts of Canada,” said Chris Jones, Chief Marketing Officer for the Clark County Department of Aviation. “As both the U.S. and Canadian governments relax restrictions on international travel, Flair’s newest service from Toronto, with more markets to follow, will expand the opportunity for Canadians to conveniently enjoy the Entertainment Capital of the World.”

“Canada is one of Orlando Sanford International Airport’s most exciting opportunities to generate additional passenger traffic.  We just completed a major terminal expansion and update and we are proud that Flair Airlines is making use of these improvements,” said Tom Nolan, President and CEO, Orlando Sanford International Airport

Flair is in the midst of exponential growth as it continues to expand into new markets while it takes delivery of new 737 MAX aircraft. The growing fleet of aircraft provide Flair remarkable fuel savings and reduce the airline’s CO2 emissions by 14%. Flair is striving to become Canada’s greenest airline as it grows its fleet to 50 aircraft by 2025.

About Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines is Canada’s only independent Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC) and is on a mission to liberate the lives of Canadians by providing affordable air travel that connects them to the people and experiences they love. With an expanding fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, Flair is growing to serve 28 cities across Canada and the U.S. For more information, please visit http://www.flyflair.com.


					

Flair Airlines grows Winnipeg service with flights to Regina and Saskatoon

Service beginning in Spring 2022 key to Flair’s strategy to delight Saskatchewan and Manitoba passengers with low fares

Edmonton, Alberta, Oct. 28, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Flair Airlines, Canada’s only independent ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC), continues to grow its 2022 schedule with the addition of twice weekly nonstop service between Winnipeg and Regina as well as Winnipeg and Saskatoon. The new routes are part of Flair’s unprecedented growth as the airline expands its fleet to 16 aircraft and creates new affordable connections across North America.

“Low fare travel has arrived for the Prairies and we are excited to connect more families and travelers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan,” said Stephen Jones, President and CEO, Flair Airlines. “Connecting Regina and Saskatoon to Winnipeg with sustainably low fares is an important step in Flair’s growth and we know our customers will love the service.”

“We eagerly anticipate the arrival of these new Flair service offerings between Winnipeg and Regina/Saskatoon at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport,” said Barry Rempel, President and CEO of Winnipeg Airports Authority. “Our partnership with Flair is growing and their efforts to provide Manitobans with more convenient, low-cost domestic travel options are playing a critical role in quickly restoring the affordable, wide-ranging air services our community relies upon to sustain itself and grow.”

“Skyxe is thrilled with the continued expansion of our relationship with Flair Airlines. Winnipeg is a key domestic market for Saskatoon which will benefit from increased air service opportunities for our guests. The addition of Flair’s low cost air service option will provide residents of Saskatchewan the ability to visit friends and family in Winnipeg conveniently and more frequently,” said Stephen Maybury, President & CEO, Skyxe Saskatoon Airport.

“We are thrilled to see Flair Airlines introduce this new route between Regina and Winnipeg. Travelers in southern Saskatchewan want connections between these two cities. This is a fantastic addition from Flair to build on the other amazing Canadian cities they are already serving out of YQR,” said James Bogusz, President and CEO, Regina Airport Authority.

Flair is adding new 737 MAX aircraft to its fleet in 2022 as it strives to become Canada’s greenest and most sustainable airline. The new aircraft deliver fuel savings and reduce the airline’s CO2 emissions by 14%. Flair recently announced a 33 percent increase in its fleet and additional routes within Canada and to the US.

Fares on the new routes will start at $49 CAD one-way for both the Winnipeg-Regina and Winnipeg-Saskatoon routes, including taxes and fees. All routes and schedule details can be viewed at https://www.flyflair.com.

About Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines is Canada’s only independent Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC) and is on a mission to liberate the lives of Canadians by providing affordable air travel that connects them to the people and experiences they love. With an expanding fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, Flair is growing to serve 28 cities across Canada and the U.S. For more information, please visit http://www.flyflair.com.

New Routes

  • Winnipeg – Regina (YWG-YQR) – 2x weekly starting April 14, 2022
  • Winnipeg – Saskatoon (YWG-YXE) – 2x weekly starting April 16, 2022

Recently Announced & Current Winnipeg, Saskatoon & Regina Routes

  • Regina – Edmonton (YQR-YEG) – 2x weekly starting April 14, 2022
  • Regina – Toronto (YQR-YYZ) – 2x weekly ongoing
  • Regina – Vancouver (YQR-YVR) – 2x weekly resumes March 28, 2022
  • Saskatoon – Edmonton (YXE-YEG) – 2x weekly starting April 16, 2022
  • Saskatoon – Toronto (YXE-YYZ) – 2x weekly ongoing
  • Winnipeg – Abbotsford (YWG-YXX) – 2x weekly resumes December 16, 2021
  • Winnipeg – Calgary (YWG-YYC) – 2x weekly ongoing
  • Winnipeg – Edmonton (YWG-YEG) – 3x weekly starting April 15, 2022
  • Winnipeg – Waterloo (YWG-YKF) – 2-3x weekly ongoing
  • Winnipeg – Ottawa (YWG-YOW) – 2x weekly ongoing
  • Winnipeg – Toronto (YWG-YYZ) – 2-6x weekly ongoing
  • Winnipeg – Vancouver (YWG-YVR) – 2-4x weekly ongoing