Flair adds flights from Winnipeg to B.C., Ontario
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Flair Airlines has announced new destinations and route times from Winnipeg on the heels of the city airport’s busiest year since the pandemic.
Flair will fly twice weekly to both Victoria and Kelowna, B.C., beginning June 9 and 10, respectively. The flights start at $49 one-way.
As of June 11, Flair will take passengers from Winnipeg to London, Ont., twice weekly for a one-way minimum cost of $69.
“Some of these markets — Winnipeg to London, Winnipeg to Victoria — are some of the largest unserved markets in the country,” said Eric Tanner, Flair’s vice-president of revenue management and network planning.
The low-cost airline will add weekly flights: six to Toronto, five to Calgary and four to Vancouver. Once implemented, Flair will fly from Winnipeg to Toronto three times daily, and to Calgary and Vancouver daily.
Flair’s plans include 51 weekly flights out of Winnipeg this summer, up 75 per cent from its winter schedule.
“Winnipeg has a population base that’s really resonated with our low fares,” Tanner said.
The city has consistently been a top-performing market, he said.
Last September, Edmonton-based Flair called Winnipeg’s airport “high cost” during an expansion announcement. Winnipeg has one of the country’s highest airport improvement fees — $38 per passenger, which is tacked on to the ticket price — and it has affected Flair’s growth in the region, executives said.
Tanner said “market dynamics” partly led to Flair’s decision to add flights in the Winnipeg market.
Flair has routes connecting Winnipeg to Ottawa, Kitchener, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
“We see incredible two-way traffic of people coming to Winnipeg for tourism and to visit friends and relatives,” Tanner said. “That makes the market very successful for us.”
Further, Flair is in the midst of acquiring more planes. It currently has 19 Boeing 737 aircraft on its schedule, Tanner said.
“A handful” more will be added this summer, allowing for more flight paths, he added. The airline has plans for a fleet of 50 by the end of 2025.
Tanner is looking to Flair’s “biggest year in Winnipeg” yet.
“Coming out of the last three years, people are done putting off trips,” he said. “I think inflation or otherwise, people are ready to travel, so it’s just a question of which price point they want to travel at.”
Low-cost carriers such as Flair meet the needs of budget-conscious Canadians, he said.
Richardson International Airport more than doubled the number of travellers last year compared to 2021.
There were 3,031,113 passengers in 2022, a far cry from the 4.5 million visitors in 2019.
“(There are) more choices for travellers here in Manitoba… it really speaks volumes to the pent-up demand that we saw last year and continue to see,” said Nick Hays, president of the Winnipeg Airports Authority.
The WAA’s airport improvement fee hasn’t changed since early in the pandemic, when it jumped by more than 50 per cent.
“We’re very much still on the path to financial sustainability and financial recovery,” Hays said.
The WAA had to borrow at least $100 million during the pandemic.
It’s looking to add more routes, but a shortage of pilots in Canada and the U.S. is hindering progress, Hays said.
“(It’s) certainly been a headwind, particularly when it comes to our ability to restore those key U.S. routes that we had pre-pandemic,” he said.
Winnipeg has yet to re-establish a direct route to Chicago. Still, there’s been progress, including Wednesday’s announcement and WestJet’s direct flight to Los Angeles, which launched in October 2022, Hays noted.
“We will continue to work very, very hard as the airport authority to grow that connectivity,” he said.
Paul Boily welcomes Flair’s announcement. He was scheduled to take a Flair flight to B.C. on Wednesday and was “hoping (the flight is) not too bad.”
Flight cancellations and delays have dogged airlines in North America this winter.
Boily said he chooses the cheapest flights.
“Flying in the U.S. (is) way cheaper than Canada,” said Denis Bondarenko, who waited at the airport Wednesday.
The Calgary native would like to see consistently cheap and reliable flights. He avoids Flair because he’s concerned about delays.
Flair flies to at least 35 cities in North America. It launched as Flair Airlines in 2017, following a rebranding of privately owned company Flair Air.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.