Flair Airlines has scaled back its growth forecast for flights from the Region of Waterloo International Airport.
An expected jump of 30 per cent over 2022’s numbers by the end of the summer is now 15 per cent. At a press conference last week, Flair also announced it is suspending its route between YFK and Edmonton.
Following some turbulence that included the seizure by creditors last month of four of the company’s 22 jetliners, Flair says its operations are returning to normal.
“Some of the growth we actually had originally planned for Kitchener-Waterloo in 2023 will not all be coming through. … We will be making some adjustments to our spring summer schedule as a result of the events a few weeks ago. Kitchener-Waterloo is a really critical key market for Flair,” said chief commercial officer Garth Lund at an online announcement March 31.
While the airline will launch routes to Abbotsford, BC, this summer and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in the winter, it will have fewer aircraft stationed at the regional airport than originally planned. Flair’s goal was three jets based at YKF by the end of June and 30 aircraft nationwide by the end of 2023. However, according to CEO Stephen Jones, plans for a third YKF-based aircraft have been delayed due to Airborne Capital’s seizure, while the total number of planes it will have to end the year will only be 21.
Jones said it is unlikely the airline will get the seized aircraft back.
“We would love to have them back, but the lessors have made their own sort of decisions. You saw the nature of the activity that went on. It’s a very difficult conversation, but we would love to have the aircraft back,” Jones said.
“They are now in the possession of the lessor, so it’s the lessor’s decision.”
Jones said the airline is still committed to Waterloo Region despite slowing growth plans.
“We are the only airline in Kitchener-Waterloo of any consequence, and we believe in it. It’s an investment for us and that we’re having to work together with the region to develop the markets and I’m not going to say it’s an easy journey, but we are committed to it. So we’ve had to cut our cloth to fit the circumstances, and they’re unfortunate circumstances. We’ve had to make adjustments across the entire network, not just to Kitchener-Waterloo, but I think our presence speaks for itself,” he said.
Flair also presented a report by the travel consulting firm InterVISTAS, which made several claims about the airline’s economic impact on Waterloo Region.
The report found the airline’s operations at YKF resulted in 188 full-time employees across the country at the end of 2022, including airport staff and third-party contractors. A further 226 tourism jobs were created in Waterloo Region. The report also claimed a total of $36.3 million in GDP contribution and $83.7 million in economic output.