Having expanded into new markets, including flights in and out of the airport in Breslau earlier this year, Flair Airlines is planning for more growth next year.
The Edmonton-based ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC) started the year with three aircraft, adding eight new 737s from Boeing last month to bring the fleet to 11.
“We’re certainly growing quickly,” Garth Lund, Flair’s chief commercial officer, said in an interview. “We’ve seen pretty positive response from customers. Particularly during the summer, we’ve been flying 90 per cent full, which is really encouraging. I think people really do value the opportunity to buy cheaper airfare.”
“As we grow our fleet and expand our service, we see the demand for Flair’s low fare travel continuing to explode across Canada. We are absolutely focused on rescuing Canadians from the bloated prices they have long suffered in flying,” said Flair president and CEO Stephen Jones in announcing the company’s plans to extend its flight schedule in 2022.
The schedule expansion extends the booking period into summer 2022, with the company noting many year-round and seasonal routes will see an increase in service, including flights departing from Breslau (YKF), Toronto (YYZ), Vancouver (YVR) and Montreal (YUL).
The goal is not only to serve established routes, but to bring low fares to new markets, meeting a demand for lower fares, said Lund.
“Our philosophy is that we don’t necessarily want to just steal passengers from other airlines; we really want to expand the market by making travel affordable for people who may never have been able to fly before. As a result of that philosophy, I think not only do we want to grow on existing routes in Canada, but new routes … so Kitchener to Vancouver is a good example,” he said. “Expanding on those routes which we already serve, and allowing people to be able to travel, but also we want to develop markets which never may have never existed before with a nonstop service.”
Flair bills itself as Canada’s only ultra low-cost carrier in the vein of Ryanair and EasyJet in Europe. Despite the smaller population and larger geography, the company sees a significant market in Canada.
“Even though the population of Canada is a bit less than 40 million, we do still think there is a lot of potential for growth. If you look globally, low-cost airlines have around 35 per cent of the global air travel market, and we think there should be a similar share within Canada,” said Lund, noting the ULCC share of the existing market is less than 10 per cent.
That potential for growth in new markets is what has fuelled expansions at the Region of Waterloo International Airport, which is currently undergoing some $44 million in upgrades.
“There does seem to be some entrepreneurial spirit happening amongst some carriers and potential new carriers, so we continue to have discussions with old and new carriers. We’re optimistic that Flair has opened people’s eyes that there is an opportunity here like we’ve been saying for many, many years – it just took a little bit longer than we anticipated it taking, but I think we’ve finally arrived,” said airport general manager Chris Wood.
“Once we get through this expansion, we’ll be able to handle significantly more flights with Flair and others. That’s the idea – we that we’re able to grow with them.”
“We’ve been really pleased with the development of our operation in Kitchener-Waterloo. We have two aircraft based there, and we have crew as well based locally in Kitchener-Waterloo,” said Lund. “We’re already happy with the progress, and we’ll be starting service to Orlando and to Fort Lauderdale for the winter, so bringing in new destinations to allow people to fly to the sunny south. And then going forward, I think it is a market that we will be looking to develop.”