MIAMI — Winnipeg based Ultra-low-cost travel company, NewLeaf Travel Company Inc. carried out its inaugural revenue flight from Hamilton to Winnipeg (extending to Kelowna) on July 25th 2016.
Operating using a Flair Airlines Boeing 737-400, flight number FLE01 departed from John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport (YHM) to Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG). The route is the first of 11 of NewLeaf Travel’s non-stop, ultra-low-cost routes across Canada.
The list includes 11 Canadian cities: Halifax, Moncton, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Kelowna, Kamloops, Abbotsford and Victoria. Many of these are considered underserved destinations. Routes will be served initially two or three times a week.
Frequency will be considered on popular routes. The flights are operated using B737-400s in full Flair colors (with no NewLeaf markings). The aircraft are manned crewed by Flair pilots and cabin crew. Fares start as low as $79.00 (CDN).
The ramp up to operations was promising. On July 18, 2016 NewLeaf announced an expansion to its route map, with a new non-stop flight addition between Edmonton and Winnipeg which will run on Thursdays and Sundays beginning August 21, 2016 for a rate of $99 one-way all inclusive.
The new route expands service out of Edmonton, joining direct flights from YEG to Hamilton, Kamloops and Abbotsford. Just days before the launch the airline announced that it had completely sold out one of its Atlantic Canada flights.
According to NewLeaf Chief Executive Officer Jim Young. “Canadians have responded exceptionally well to our direct flights between destinations, and we are pleased to expand this service.”
NewLeaf Travel Company Inc. is a privately-held Canadian company headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba that provides leisure travellers with low fares and travel options that are unbundled and transparent.
They operate out of smaller airports with lower landing fees; flying a simple point-to-point network with minimal time between flights, NewLeaf offers customers à la carte purchase of options such as carry-on and checked baggage, priority boarding, and call center assistance for a fee.
Its travel options are unbundled and transparent. However it takes extra charges to a new level, beyond what the Canadian traveller is used to. And example is a carry on bag charge is $40 at the counter, or twice that at the gate.
NewLeaf experienced teething issues earlier in 2016 when it commenced selling tickets, and was quickly halted by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) when regulatory issues regarding operating certificates were put into question.
After the CTA clarified the situation, with NewLeaf deemed a reseller of air services and after refining the partnership arrangement with Flair Airlines, ticket sales were resumed on June 23, 2016. NewLeaf is a reseller of air services and is deemed not required to have its own Airline Operating Certificate.
Passengers are insured under the Flair Airlines AOC, since the aircraft and crew are operated by Flair, essentially an ACMI lease with NewLeaf, meaning Flair will provide the aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance.
“We will absolutely adhere to the CTA’s clarified rules for resellers, and have taken the past few months to review our practices to make sure we are in full compliance. We are glad that we took the extra time to plan our re-launch as we wanted to protect consumers and offer them long term business stability,” said Young. “It has taken a bit of time to get off the ground but we are excited to now bring to Canada the ultra-low cost business model that has proven successful around the world.”
Kelowna, BC based Flair Airlines Ltd. is a Canadian airline with operations based in Kelowna, Calgary and Hamilton. In business since 2003, It presently operates five Boeing 737-400s, all configured identically. Flair specializes in charter operations including sports team, vacation charter and government flights. It also operates a single Embraer E175 for charters.
In the ramp up to the launch of NewLeaf operations a demonstration flight was carried out for invited guests from Hamilton to Winnipeg as FLE1 on July 22. The inaugural Hamilton-Winnipeg flight was operated by C-FLHJ, Flair fleet number 405.
Launching with a relatively modest schedule, Plans are to carry out 42 flights scheduled the first week, ramping up to 62 in the second week with introduction of the fall schedule. Three Flair 737s will be implemented initially, with a fourth added in a month and a fifth in October.
The winter schedule will be introduced on January 8 (Flair’s entire fleet of five 737-400s). NewLeaf’s success could see more aircraft acquired to allow for expansion.
According to Dean Dacko, NewLeaf Travel’s Chief Commercial Officer: “We are so incredibly thrilled with how the Canadian traveling public has responded to out launch from coast to coast. Some of our most heavily booked flights are from Eastern Canada. Almost every flight coming through Hamilton this week is 95 percent full. This illustrates how Canadians have been anticipating an ultra low cost carrier for travel in the country. Three of our first Hamilton to Winnipeg flights are virtually sold out!”