LILLEY: Flair Airlines pledges to keep flying, offering cheap flights

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The Flair Airlines CEO came out to defend his company on Thursday saying his low-cost airline is here to stay no matter what the big players throw at it.

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Stephen Jones was responding to weeks of stories about Flair potentially losing his operating license for not being Canadian enough under the law.

At a time when Canadians need discount options to travel after two years of COVID-related lockdowns and restrictions, the idea that one of the few discount airlines would be closed seemed shocking. Still, it could have happened, leaving passengers to pay more for flights than Flair says are technicalities.

“Flair Airlines is here to stay,” Jones said. “Canadians can continue to book incredibly affordable airfares with confidence. »

Questions have been swirling around Flair ever since the Canadian Transportation Agency issued a preliminary conclusion on March 3 that “Flair may not actually be controlled by Canadians”. Such a finding, if upheld, could result in the airline’s operating license being revoked, which Jones says won’t happen.

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“There’s no way Flair will lose his license on May 3,” Jones said.

The CTA had expressed concern that the company which leases its planes to Flair and owns a 25% stake in the company, may have taken effective control of the company after providing emergency funding to help Flair weather the pandemic. of COVID. The arrangements left Flair’s minority shareholder, 777 Partner of Miami, with the majority of seats on the board, which raised questions for the CTA.

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Jones said those issues have now been ironed out, with 777 Partners reduced to two seats on an expanded nine-member board and a revised shareholders’ agreement to address outstanding issues.

Beyond that, Flair has requested an 18-month exemption from the current rules to give the company time to restructure its debt, including what is owed to 777 Partners. Since similar exemptions have been granted in the past, including a five-year foreign ownership exemption issued to Canada Jetlines in 2016Flair’s 18-month request will likely be granted.

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Jetlines is set to launch a new super low cost carrier as low cost airlines are known in the industry. They will join Flair and soon Lynx in offering cheap flights to Canadian vacationers.

It’s a business model that exists in the US, Britain, Ireland and Europe, but is absent here. Air Canada is operating Rouge, which they tout as a discount airline, but not really cutting it, while WestJet is trying to build Swoop, which they claim will be a true discount airline.

“Canadians have paid too much for air travel,” Jones said, blaming what he called the duopoly of Air Canada and WestJet. “It shouldn’t be cheaper to fly to Europe than to fly within our country.”

Yet this is too often the case.

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A search for return flights from Toronto to Calgary departing April 28 and returning May 5 showed a fare of $911.65 on Air Canada, $727.46 on WestJet while Flair offers a seat for just $339.89 $.

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We desperately need competition in the airline industry in Canada, the rest of the world has options that we just don’t have. A big part of the problem, for big airlines and discount crews, is government regulations that either prevent choice or drive up costs.

There are times when flying with the big guys makes sense and times when you just want a little getaway. Just like sometimes you want a nice suit and shopping experience and other times you just want to pick up a t-shirt at Walmart, it should be with the airlines.

Hopefully soon, Canada can catch up with the rest of the world.

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