Flair Airlines’ chief executive Stephen Jones is pushing back against suggestions that the Canadian low-cost carrier is struggling in the aftermath of competitor Lynx Air’s collapse. 

“Let me be clear: Flair has not made any reductions to its schedule following the closure of Lynx Air,” he says. 

Responding to media reports that Flair had “made flight reductions due to financial difficulties”, Jones said on 22 March that those accounts were “simply false”. Resurgent demand following the Covid-19 pandemic and Flair’s increased emphasis on “snowbird” routes to warm-weather destinations during Canada’s wintertime has helped it stay afloat in the highly competitive Canadian market. 

”Compared to last year, when we flew a predominantly domestic network, Flair Airlines has significantly increased its presence in these markets and opened over 20 new winter sun routes,” Jones says. 

The ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) reports that its capacity, measured in available seat miles, will be up 4% year-on-year in the March to May period.

”The focus on winter sun markets has proved tremendously popular with our customers,” Jones says. ”We see similarly high demand for the upcoming months. This summer will be incredibly strong, with higher customer demand and robust yields.” 

Flair Airlines Boeing 737-800

Source: Flair Airlines

Flair’s operations are reportedly holding steady following the closure of competitor Lynx Air

Canada’s low-cost segment has recently been shaken by the financial collapse of start-up Lynx after an initially promising launch. The now-defunct carrier cited stiff competition and “compounding financial pressure” as factors contributing to its demise.

John Gradek, a faculty lecturer and coordinator of the Aviation Management programme at Montreal’s McGill University, told FlightGlobal this month that the “writing was on the wall” for Lynx when founding chief executive Merren McArthur resigned last fall and was not replaced. 

But rumours of Flair’s struggles are likely overstated. He believes Flair will remain in a relatively steady position through Canada’s spring and summer months. 

“They’ve gone out and added a whole bunch of passengers that were booked on Lynx through the summer, so the traffic is there,” Gradek says. ”What they’ve also done is raised rates of fares significantly since the demise of Lynx, particularly in Canadian markets… so that will be a short-term lifeline.”

Gradek adds that Flair’s long-term outlook “may not be as rosy”. Historically, it has been difficult for ULCCs to stick, partly because Canada has some of the world’s highest airport fees. Those fees place extra pressure on low-cost operators attempting to compete with the duopoly of Air Canada and WestJet

“The pricing behaviour of the duopoly in Canada has driven ULCCs out the door,” Gradek says. “We’ve gone through at least 20 ULCC models that have succumbed to the same type of competitive pressures. When the duopoly raises its prices, it creates an opportunity for some more to show up and the cycle starts over again.” 

Jones acknowledges “the market dominance of large carriers and challenges faced by newcomers”, but insists the ULCC model “has potential to thrive in Canada”. 

”With the closure of Lynx Air, the significance of Flair Airlines in the market has become even more pronounced,” he says. “We embrace and recognise the responsibility that comes with being the only ULCC in Canada.” 

Edmonton-based Flair operates a fleet of nearly 20 737s, mostly newer Max 8s. 

Last year, leisure carrier Sunwing Airlines was acquired by WestJet, which also shuttered its in-house ULCC subsidiary Swoop, bringing those assets into its primary WestJet operation.