Making Air Travel Affordable, Desirable, and Accessible
By Anna Guy
For over a decade, Canadians could only dream of low air fair enjoyed in other parts of the world. Flair Airlines is changing that.
The growth of Ultra-Low-Cost Carriers (ULCC) is one of the most significant changes in the global airline industry. Over the past three decades, the ULCC influx has had dramatic impact in the European, Asian, and North American airline industries, making travel accessible at price points never seen before. Despite the impact on the overall airline industry, up until 2017, Canadian travellers were lacking the low cost, reliable airline options long enjoyed in other countries.
Enter Flair Airlines: Canada’s only independent low-cost airline, making air travel more accessible, more affordable, and more desirable for all.
Business Elite Canada spoke with Flair President and CEO Jim Scott about a new way to travel in Canada. “At the core of Flair’s business model is connection,” says Scott. “The team at Flair are keenly aware that the cost of flying for the average family can be prohibitively high—and that an ultra-low-cost option means more connections for families, friends, and businesses.”
Flair Airlines itself started in 2006 as a charter operation for moving workers to the old fields. “It was a very well-run organization, but with the lowering of the oil prices had to reinvent itself.”
Several investors joined the team in 2017 to make this project a reality. At that time, the Flair team decided they could fill the vacuum left by West Jet—which had evolved from its origins as an ULCC in favour of more expensive carriers, business class offerings, and points systems—and bring Canada into the UCLL revolution.
“We offer travellers a significant discount, especially when people are travelling with families,” says Scott. “We feel that there’s between 10 and 15 million passenger trips per year that are not being flown in Canada because costs are too high—and we hope to fly about 1.5 million of those passengers next year and we are just scratching the surface.”
“We are proud to say Flair has connected millions of people that would have not necessarily connected in person or over the last two years. It’s all about connections.”
Flair customers can expect airfare that is approximately 30 per cent lower than the two main carriers. It can achieve this through “a very simplistic business model” of operating a single aircraft type and cutting out extras like lounges and meal service, says Scott. The company motto is “Plane and Simple”. “We have stripped back every costly addition so you can fly more for less,” says Scott.
“[The ULCC Model] has been very successful throughout the world, but Canadians weren’t able to access them,” says Scott. “Canada was the last country of the G7 not to have one. Since coming into the marketplace we’ve been very successful and picked up a lot of passengers.”
Supply and Demand
Flair Airlines was pleased to announce 2019 was a banner year as a result of competitive pricing and reliable delivery opportunities. In 2019, nearly 1 million passengers flew on over 6,400 flights.
Says Scott, “In 2019, we really transitioned to a more mature carrier, we moved to Edmonton, started to bring on a larger and more fuel efficient aircraft, went to more destinations, our on time performance was improved, and we became a dominant force on the main trunk routes as an ULCC.”
The main routes are between Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Toronto, with additional service to Abbotsford, Kelowna, Edmonton, and Halifax seasonally. Frequent travellers are also noticing Flair’s offerings, choosing the airline over its costlier competitors. When they are leaving from the same terminal, in the same aircraft, in the same sky, it’s hard to ignore the significant cost savings.
Ready for Takeoff
With its sights set towards the next five to 10 years, Scott has established a “dynamic” executive team that will move the company forward. “We have routes people want to fly, a way to sell tickets, and the right aircrafts. The next thing is to have people who can see forward and use best-in practise techniques and the entrepreneurial spirit of winning against all challenges to get us there.”
Scott says consultants have consistently said that there is an almost unprecedented level of excitement within the ranks of Flair, and a pent-up enthusiasm from a group who wants to move the company in the same direction.
Flair is now looking at scalability and innovation to continue to offer an improved customer experience, and new ways to make customers happy, including a piloted program allowing customers to order food and drink at their leisure, directly from their smartphone. It may seem simplistic, but it takes into consideration times when a customer may have worked or slept through the initial offering, or be hesitant to ask the steward to go out of the way. This app, a first of its kind in Canada, is part of Flair’s customer-centric approach. “The reception of the program was very positive and we hope to deploy it on all of our flights very soon,” says Scott.
“There is a movement in Canada now. We brought low airfares here and I think Canadians are saying we are going to support this airline because without them, we will go back to the dark decade of no ULCCs.”