Flair Airlines

Business dispute nearly grounds Flair Airlines

A Flair Airlines Boeing 737-400 departs Vancouver International Airport in June (photo: Brett Ballah).

Flair Airlines came within hours of being forced to stop flying over a business dispute with one of Canada’s leading aerospace companies, court documents show.

In decision made public Wednesday, BC Supreme Court justice Paul Walker gave Flair 90 days to find a new flight dispatch service, after Kelowna’s KF Aerospace told the Edmonton-based discount carrier its contract would be terminated.

Flight dispatchers are essential to airline operations, providing everything from aviation weather to balance and load planning. They are a pilot’s eyes and ears on the ground. Many airlines perform this service in-house, but Flair has contracted the function out since before its days as a scheduled low-cost carrier.

In June, KF sent a letter demanding Flair pay more than $200,000 within five days, something the airline did. At the same time, KF advised the airline its maintenance contract would be terminated in 90 days.

And that’s how the two sides ended up in court. Flair asked for an emergency injunction, arguing KF hadn’t provided enough notice. Flair told the judge it would need three months to find a new dispatch provider – anything shorter would force the airline to ground planes until it could find a new contractor.

The airline said more than 15,000 passengers on 110 flights would be affected in the first week of a shutdown. On top of that, 120,000 people had already booked tickets for future flights. Between 200 and 300 employees would have been laid off. Within 10 days, the airline would be out of business.

“Flair Airlines has clearly established it will suffer irreparable harm if the Contract is terminated today,” wrote Walker.

The judge ruled in Flair’s favour, giving the airline 90 days to find a new dispatch provider. Until then, KF will remain the airline’s dispatcher. Flair has set aside $150,000 to pay those bills.