Canadian low-cost carriers: comparing summer schedules

Flair Airlines released its latest summer schedule, Thursday, revealing new routes between Calgary and Vancouver and Toronto, and bringing into sharper relief the competition setting up between Canada’s two ultra low-cost airlines.

In its posted schedule, Flair plans 136 flights the week of July 1, to eight cities, all in Canada. That represents a decline from the airline’s launch in the summer of 2018, though as the airline adds larger Boeing 737-800 aircraft, capacity will be similar system-wide. Flair had announced plans to return to Victoria, British Columbia this summer, though the city has since been dropped.

“I think we maybe went at it a little too aggressively last summer,” said Flair Executive Chairman David Tait. Since then, “We’ve been steadily improving the quality and workforce in general.”

Rival Swoop, meanwhile, plans 222 flights in the same week, linking 12 cities in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Jamaica. Swoop has also tweaked its summer schedule since its announcement, dropping flights from Edmonton to Oakland, and adding service from Kelowna, British Columbia to Las Vegas.

Though they both fly Boeing 737s, neither airline was directly affected by the grounding of the 737 Max, though Flair has said the Max grounding has made it more difficult to find newer aircraft on the market.

BELOW: A map shows routes served by Flair (in green) and Swoop (in pink) for the week of July 1, 2019. Cities in blue are served by both airlines, cities in green only by Flair, and cities in pink, only by Swoop. Click on the map to see details.

Flair’s summer strategy has evolved since elements were first revealed in a tweet in January, with the airline adding services that by-pass its Edmonton hub, such as VancouverToronto and Calgary-Toronto, routes where Flair competes with Westjet and Air Canada, but not Swoop. The summer schedule also sees Canada’s largest city join Edmonton as the busiest Flair cities, each with 31 weekly departures.

Flair’s busiest route is between Edmonton and British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, with 14 flights split evenly between Vancouver and Abbotsford, followed by Edmonton-Toronto, with nine flights aboard 737-800 aircraft.

BELOW: A table shows Flair’s planned flights the week of July 1, 2019 (source: flyflair.com)
OriginDestinationWeekly departures (one way)
AbbotsfordCalgary4
AbbotsfordEdmonton7
CalgaryToronto6
CalgaryVancouver6
CalgaryWinnipeg5
EdmontonKelowna4
EdmontonToronto9
EdmontonVancouver7
EdmontonWinnipeg4
HalifaxToronto4
TorontoVancouver7
TorontoWinnipeg5

Larger Swoop, with its fleet of 737-800NG aircraft meanwhile, is concentrating its flying on three main hubs, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Edmonton and Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton will host the largest number of departures (53), and the greatest number of destinations (8). Edmonton serves as a Western crew base, with 49 departures this summer to five cities, while Abbotsford will host 41 departures to four cities.

The busiest route will be between Abbotsford and Edmonton, with 16 departures the week of July 1, followed by Edmonton-Hamilton, with double-daily flights. London, Ontario is the airline’s fastest-growing destination, with the addition of 19 weekly departures to three destinations.

Swoop steers clear of Calgary and Toronto, airports where parent company Westjet maintains large operations.

BELOW: A table shows Swoop’s planned flights the week of July 1, 2019 (source: flyswoop.com)
OriginDestinationWeekly departures (one way)
AbbotsfordEdmonton16
AbbotsfordHamilton12
AbbotsfordLas Vegas2
AbbotsfordLondon, Ontario7
EdmontonHamilton14
EdmontonLas Vegas7
EdmontonLondon, Ontario7
EdmontonWinnipeg5
HalifaxHamilton13
HalifaxLondon, Ontario5
HamiltonCancun1
HamiltonLas Vegas4
HamiltonMontego Bay1
HamiltonOrlando3
HamiltonWinnipeg5
KelownaLas Vegas2
KelownaWinnipeg3

Both airlines have announced plans to return to Halifax for the summer, giving them a presence on the East and West coasts. Halifax, which served more than 4.3 million passengers in 2018, officially opened a new passenger lounge area Thursday, offering a more and brighter seating area between gates 16 and 20.

A new passenger lounge area officially opened at Halifax Stanfield International Airport Thursday (Twitter: @HfxStanfield).
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