Flair Airlines CEO says spring flight cuts not a reflection of finances

Flair Airlines is putting up fewer flights domestically in Canada this spring, but the low-cost carrier’s CEO says it’s part of a broader push for the airline to fly into more sunny destinations.

The Edmonton-based low-cost airline is flying roughly 600 fewer flights in March, April and May compared with the same months in 2023, according to data provided to Global News by Cirium, an aviation analytics company.

That means fewer domestic flights departing from the carrier’s major hubs, including Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.

Specifics of the reduced schedule were first reported by The Globe and Mail on Friday. Global News requested comment from Flair Airlines about the reported cuts on Friday, but did not receive a response until after publishing.

Flair Airlines provided a statement from CEO Stephen Jones to Global News on Friday afternoon, largely pushing back against suggestions that the spring flight schedule had been recently changed.

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Click to play video: 'Flair Airlines CEO seeks to reassure prospective passengers'

Flair Airlines CEO seeks to reassure prospective passengers

In fact, Flair set its spring schedule in August 2023, according to the statement, “reflecting a network tailored to meet the wants and needs of Canadian travellers.”

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That includes increasing Flair’s flight capacity to warm-weather destinations such as Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean with more than 20 new winter sun routes, Jones said.

That’s a pivot for Flair from 2023, when it flew a “predominantly domestic network,” he said.

A statement from Eric Tanner, the airline’s vice-president of revenue management and network planning, sent to Global News on Wednesday confirmed Flair was reducing number of flights for the spring compared to last year.

He said there is a “broader context” to Flair’s changes, however, noting that the airline’s “available seat miles” were up four per cent year over year, expanding the carrier’s overall capacity from 2023.

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Tanner said that was driven by Flair flying longer trips on average compared with last year. These flights are less affected by the “considerable airport costs” that come with landing in Canada, he said.

Flair’s reduced schedule comes as rival low-cost carrier Lynx Air announced last month it would shutter operations as it seeks creditor protection. Jones said in his statement that the spring flight schedule has not been reduced due to the closure of Lynx.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton-based Flair Airlines owes more than $67M in taxes'

Edmonton-based Flair Airlines owes more than $67M in taxes

Flair is also facing financial challenges as it owes the federal government some $67.2 million in unpaid taxes, prompting Ottawa to obtain a seizure order for property. The airline has a deal with the Canada Revenue Agency to pay the owed taxes, according to the company’s CEO, who says the order will not impact the carrier’s operations.

Jones’ statement on Friday pushed back on claims in the Globe and Mail article that flight reductions were made due to financial challenges, calling such assertions “simply false.”

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“I acknowledge the skepticism surrounding Ultra-Low-Cost Carriers (ULCCs) in Canada, given the market dominance of large carriers and the challenges faced by newcomers,” Jones said in his statement.

“However, I firmly believe that it is misplaced, and I want to assure all Canadians that Flair Airlines is steadfast in our confidence that the ULCC model has potential to thrive in Canada. We are here to stay, resilient and determined to continue serving the needs of Canadian travellers.”

– with files from Global News’ Adam Toy and Tomasia DaSilva and The Canadian Press

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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