Flair beefing up fleet to 30 planes by mid 2023 amid rapid budget airline expansion
December 15, 2021 By The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Flair Airlines plans to expand its fleet to 30 aircraft by mid-2023, more than double the current size as it strives for a 50-plane fleet within five years.
The ultra-low-cost carrier says it will lease an additional 14 new Boeing 737 Max jetliners in the next year and a half while raising its employee tally to 1,000 from the current 600.
The new planes would come on top of the dozen now on hand as well as the four already slated for arrival next year.
Flair says the fleet, which was effectively down to one plane last April, will see 20 aircraft flying to Canadian cities ranging from Victoria to St. John’s, N.L., by summer.
The budget airline, which also flies to U.S. cities and as of February to Mexico, is growing rapidly in a sector of renewed competition despite pandemic headwinds.
Ultra-low-cost carrier Lynx — formerly Enerjet — announced last month it will launch commercial routes next year while WestJet budget subsidiary Swoop continues to bulk up, unveiling nine new routes out of Edmonton in November.
“Imitation is the greatest form of flattery,” said Flair CEO Stephen Jones.
“I think that they recognize what we recognize, which is the Canadian market needs good, strong, ultra-low-cost competition. So we will just focus on playing our game. And if they eventually start flying, we’ll deal with it at the time,” he said of Lynx.
Canada’s airline regulator says it continues to monitor financial arrangements between Flair and U.S. private equity firm 777 Partners, which is leasing the airline its new planes. The Miami-based company holds a 25 per cent stake in the carrier.
The foreign ownership ceiling on domestic airlines is 49 per cent, raised from 25 per cent by the Liberal government in 2018.
“In assessing whether an airline is in fact controlled by Canadians, the CTA considers a number of factors, including any implications that may arise from the leasing of assets from non-Canadians,” the Canadian Transportation Agency said in an email.
Flair has 58 per cent Canadian ownership, Jones said.
“I’m very comfortable that Flair Airlines is fully compliant,” he told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.