Boeing

Flair bets big on Boeing 737 Max

Canadian ultra low-cost carrier Flair to add 13 Boeing 737 Max aircraft

This month, Transport Canada authorized the Max to return to service, after grounding the type for almost two years

Flair 737 Max
A Flair Boeing 737-800NG departs Vancouver International Airport January 21, 2021 (Brett Ballah).

Canadian ultra low cost carrier Flair is turning to the Boeing 737 Max as its aircraft of the future. The airline announced Wednesday it will add 13 Max 8 aircraft to the fleet starting early this year.

“We must do our part to ensure affordable air travel is available to all Canadians across Canada if travel and tourism are to return this year,” said Stephen Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer of Flair Airlines, in a statement. “Our efficient new aircraft will provide us the foundation to execute our ULCC business model.”

Flair currently has a fleet of three Boeing 737-800NG aircraft flying between Toronto and Vancouver, with stops in Edmonton or Calgary. It’s a bare-bones service the carrier adopted in December as traffic cratered due to the pandemic.

But the airline’s summer 2021 schedule suggests Flair will return to a half-dozen cities in Western Canada. If those plans pan out, the Max will be put to good use, and some airports will see a type they’ve never serviced before.

It’s an ambitious bet for a fledgeling ULCC in the midst of the worst crisis aviation has ever seen.

13 of 50

Flair’s Stephen Jones has set a target of 50 aircraft within five years. These 13 aircraft represent the first instalment towards reaching that goal.

The choice of aircraft is bound to raise a few eyebrows. The Max only returned to service in Canada this month after almost two years grounded after a pair of fatal crashes. In a scathing assessment published in the Globe and Mail, engineering professor Brian A. Barsky wrote, “The Boeing 737 Max has ill-positioned engines, situated too far forward on the wings, a design that causes unstable flight.”

Westjet Vice-President of Operations Scott Wilson refuted Barsky’s assessment. But for many members of the public, the damage is already done.

It is a technological leap for Flair, which only shed its ageing Boeing 737-400s last year. The Max is 14% more fuel efficient than older-generation 737s. Flair says that will allow it to have the lowest cost per seat mile of any Canadian airline.

“In advance of the new 737-8 aircraft joining our fleet of existing 737-800s, Flair’s team of pilots, maintenance professionals, flight attendants and safety officers will conduct extensive testing and training programs,” said Jones. “Our team continues to work tirelessly to ensure our processes and training help better our already impeccable safety standards. We look forward to working with Boeing and our regulators to ensure a smooth entry into service for this fantastic aircraft.”

The Flair 737 Max

Flair’s expansion plans come even as governments considered new restrictions on travel. The Prime Minister has advised Canadians to stay home during March Break. And the premier of Manitoba announced a new 14-day quarantine on anyone entering from out-of-province. Flair does not currently serve Winnipeg, though the summer schedule includes service to the Manitoba capital.

Flair is looking for airports who want to partner with it to bring ultra low-cost service to their communities. Rival Swoop employed a similar approach, and received dozens of submissions.

Flair will lease its aircraft from 777 Partners, the investment firm that already finances much of the airline’s operations. Flair will configure the Max with 189 seats, similar to its current 737 fleet.

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