Canada’s Flair Airlines is marking one year of scheduled service as an ultra low-cost airline, a year which has seen a massive transition, and the possibility of turbulent skies ahead.
Flair bills itself Canada’s only independent low-cost airline. In the past year, the company has moved its headquarters to Edmonton and built a hub in the Alberta capital, it has doubled the size of its fleet to 10 aircraft, and has more than doubled the size of its staff.
Flair says it has carried almost a million passengers in its first year. While Flair started as a domestic Canadian carrier, it has since added service to sun destinations in the southern United States, including Flair’s longest route from Edmonton to Miami, Florida.
“When we started the year, we were a domestic airline focused on giving Canadians a long-waited affordable travel option,” said Flair’s president and Chief Executive Officer Jim Scott in a statement. “Our growth into an international carrier has been met with tremendous support.”
While Flair says it has seen steady growth through the year, there have been challenges. In the fall, the company moved its main Eastern Canadian operations from Hamilton, Ontario to Toronto in the face of stiff competition from rival Swoop.
The company has also been involved in difficult negotiations with unionized flight attendants, who issued strike notice before Christmas, only to delay job action because of what they call unfair labour practices by Flair management.
Flair could also face more competition in 2019, with Canada Jetlines and Enerjet both testing the waters to launch a new low-cost carrier.
Still, Flair says it will continue expanding in the coming year, adding new planes and more capacity with larger Boeing 737-800NG joining the fleet.
Flair says the new aircraft will fly more people, farther, though the union representing flight attendants worries the company’s focus on reducing costs will mean that on new aircraft, there will only be one flight attendant for every 50 passengers.
Flair says it will announce new destinations in 2019, and hire more staff to accommodate the growth.