Flair Airlines is entering the U.S. market, part of an ambitious five-year expansion plan for the low-cost carrier.
The Edmonton-based airline announced Thursday it will launch service from Canada to six U.S. vacation destinations on Oct. 31. The new destinations are Fort Lauderdale; Orlando; Phoenix; Hollywood-Burbank, Calif.; Palm Springs, Calif.; and Las Vegas.
Flair Airlines currently operates in 20 Canadian cities and is aiming to take market share from mainline carriers Air Canada and WestJet Airlines along with discount rival Swoop by offering unbundled, bare-bones fares to budget-conscious travellers. The new U.S. routes will start between C$79 and $109 one-way, Flair chief executive Stephen Jones told reporters.
Despite a near-collapse in travel demand in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, privately held Flair has been in aggressive expansion mode this year. The airline has eight planes in this fleet, up from just three in May. Jones said the carrier is set to acquire three new Boeing 737 Max 8 jets this fall, and wants to grow to 50 aircraft within the next five years.
“The growth of Flair is undeniable now,” Jones said, adding the company is betting on a quick rebound in travel demand as public health restrictions begin to ease across Canada this summer and into the fall.
“July itself is a transition month. But as we look forward into our future bookings, August, September and October are showing real strength,” he said.
Flair will offer its new U.S. routes out of Halifax, Montreal, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Abbotsford, B.C.
A report released by RBC Economics earlier this week said there are signs domestic spending on hotels, restaurants, and travel is increasing as vaccinations accelerate and COVID-19 case counts plummet. However, the report said international travel and business travel will be slower to bounce back, meaning the Canadian tourism industry likely won’t recover fully from the pandemic until 2022.
Rivals Air Canada and WestJet have also been bulking up their route offerings in anticipation of loosened public health restrictions and increased travel demand. Calgary-based WestJet launched 11 new non-stop routes to Western Canadian tourist destinations this summer, while Montreal-based Air Canada announced it will launch new Hawaii routes this winter. Both airlines have also begun reinstating some of their existing routes that were suspended due to COVID-19.
Regional carrier Porter Airlines has said it will resume operations in September, after an 18-month shutdown.
—Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press