EDMONTON – The Canadian aviation industry has been significantly impacted by the COIVD-19 pandemic and its continued effects. Most airlines were forced to make deep cuts to their network, staff, and fleet. However, one airline has taken the next step towards its goal of operating 50 aircraft within the next five years.
Ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) Flair Airlines (F8) announced on January 27, 2021, that it would begin taking delivery of 13 Boeing 737-8’s in early 2021. These aircraft will fly alongside the current fleet of three Boeing 737-800NG that was acquired by F8 in 2019.
With the growth of its fleet, F8 was able to announce mid-pandemic the expansion of their service to popular travel destinations of Montreal, Kitchener, Halifax, St John, Thunder Bay, Charlottetown, and Ottawa along with the reintroduction of service to Abbotsford and Victoria.
The delivery of their first MAX aircraft on May 26, 2021, F8 became the 4th operator of the aircraft within Canada leaving only Air Transat (TS) and Swoop (WO) as the major Canadian carriers to not operate the type. F8 will lease the aircraft from 777 Partners, which placed a firm order for 24 Boeing 737 MAX 8s with options for a further 60. 777 Partners is a Miami-based investment company that co-funds F8.
Airways has joined F8 on the occasion of the introduction of the Boeing 737-8 into its fleet. Flight 8445 is scheduled to depart Edmonton International Airport (YEG) today at 5:30 pm local time and arrive at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) just after 11 pm.
Supporting Future Growth
To support the growth of its new generation fleet, F8 signed an agreement with Lufthansa Technik (LH) that covers the repair and overhaul of components for the MAX 8s, including 24 current and future aircraft over 10 years. Component support of the 737-8 fleet will take place in Toronto and Calgary. This agreement is in addition to the current support provided by the company for their 737-800 fleet.
“Our efficient new aircraft will provide us the foundation to execute our ULCC business model.” Hopefully, these planes will enable us to keep fares low while expanding our service to meet travel demand,” President and Chief Executive Stephen Jones said.
Flair Airlines is Canada’s only independent ULCC, as WO, its main competition, is owned by WestJet (WJ). With its ambitious growth plan, F8 aims to make travel affordable and accessible for Canadians.
“I firmly believe that Canadian travelers deserve a better deal. It’s time for the Canadian public to benefit from true competition and the choice that passengers in every other region of the world enjoy,” said CEO Stephan Jones. In the current economic situation in Canada, this accessibility to a growing network and affordable fares makes F8 a key competitor for the future of domestic travel.
1050 MST (1650 GMT) – Aircraft Arrival
The aircraft arrived in as an empty positioning flight from Calgary earlier in the morning. The flight was captained by Flair VP of Business Transformation Matt Kunz. For the media the flight crew performed two low passes on runway 30 showing off the new refreshed livery, and the flyflair.com logo painted on the belly.
The flight then proceeded for a full stop landing on Runway 30. After exiting the runway the flight was greeted by Edmonton Airport Fire Department for a traditional water cannon salute.
1130 MST (1730 GMT) – Media Event
To mark the occasion members of the media were invited to one of the airport’s hangars to attend an event with Flair Airlines and Boeing executives. Participants were granted access to tour the interior and exterior of the aircraft and interview the special guests.
Airways had the chance to speak with Flair Airlines CEO Stephen Jones on the significance of the addition of the Boeing 737-8 to the Flair fleet, and how that drives them forward towards their “F50” (50 aircraft) goal.
Jones started by highlighting that “This max aircraft is really the platform we are going to build Canada’s first and only true ultra-low-cost carrier.”
Part of the reasoning for this choice stems from the increased fuel economy and the reliability of newer aircraft. One of the main factors for choosing the MAX came from the principle of “What the mission you are likely to fly and how does the aircraft fit that.” For fuel efficiency, the least expensive for the customer the 737-8 is the perfect aircraft to fit Flair’s mission.
Alongside Stephen Jones, F8’s CCO Garth Lund spoke to the importance of Flair’s ties to Alberta. Lund started by restating that “Albertas very important for us” in that it houses a maintenance base in Calgary, and their headquarters in Edmonton.
The choice for the inaugural flight to fly from Edmonton was chosen in order to involve all the staff who had been working so hard behind the scenes. Lund concluded by restating, “Alberta is very crucial for [Flair] going forward. It’s one of our biggest markets.”
Finally, Boeing VP of Commercial Marketing Darren Hulst reiterated the importance of why the 737-8 is the perfect aircraft for Flair’s ULCC model.
“It’s a perfect balance between ultra-efficient cost per seat and more capability to expand networks”. With improved fuel economy and greater range, the MAX is designed to be a “more efficient aircraft that can expand networks to further destinations.”
1630 MST (0030 GMT) – Gate Event and PreBoarding
Before boarding the flight CEO Stephen Jones, had some final remarks for all the passengers helping inaugurate this flight
Shortly after the ribbon cutting ceremony we began boarding being greeted by members of the Flair Airlines executive team as we headed down to the aircraft.
1730 – 2110 MST – Inaugural Flight
After the small gate event, we boarded the aircraft. Flair’s chose a warm leather interior complete with the Boeing Sky Interior, creating a warm welcoming boarding experience.
The 3-3 configuration is set up in a condensed seating environment with 189 seats. Some seats like the emergency exit rows and first-row bulkhead provide extra legroom for those desiring a little more stretch. The seat I chose for the flight was 4A which provided fantastic views of the engine and winglet.
The seat was comfortable and provided more than enough legroom for the average height traveler. There were no adjustable headrests but the seat back was plush and comfortable. The tray table was large and adjustable and provided enough room for my computer. In the seat back pocket was the safety card and an airsick bag. The new pocket had enough room to store a water bottle and assorted items.
Due to COVID-19, there was no onboard service available however as part of the inaugural flight goodie bags some light snacks and a water bottle were provided. Unfortunately, Flair’s In-flight entertainment wasn’t yet up and running but they have begun advertising it so expect it to be rolling out in the near future. The app is currently available for download on the app store.
Thankfully there was a nice view of the overcast surface as the sun began to set. The sky interior of the aircraft transitioned from a cool blue to a warm orange to match the sun beginning to drop below the horizon, which provided a change to the atmosphere on board.
Overall the flair crew was warm and welcoming and provided a great atmosphere for the flight. With the current COVID-19 restrictions, Flair did an exceptional job of making all passengers feel welcome while providing safe service.
Featured image: Flair Airlines 737-8. Photo: Liam Funnell/Airways