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Flair Airlines, a Canadian ultra-low-cost airline, faced a major setback when four of its aircraft were seized by lessor Airborne Capital Ltd. The lessor took the unusual and aggressive step of seizing the aircraft due to Flair’s missing lease payments. Flair Airlines is calling this a commercial dispute, and has confirmed that the required payments have been made since.
Flair Airlines is Canada’s only independent Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC), headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta. Flair connects 20 Canadian cities with a fleet of Boeing 737 Max 8, and 737-800 aircraft. On Saturday morning two Flair aircraft were seized in Toronto, one in Edmonton, and one in Waterloo. The impact of the aircraft seizure on Flair’s passengers was significant, with the airline being forced to cancel numerous flights. Passengers were left stranded or forced to find alternative means of transportation, leading to frustration and inconvenience. Flair Airlines acknowledged the disruption, and confirmed that a dedicated team of support staff was working with impacted customers to rebook them on other Flair flights, or with other airlines at no additional cost.
With busy March break travel coming up, this could be several days of travel disruptions for passengers. Flair airlines also confirmed that they had three spare aircraft standing by, which will be deployed to airports impacted by this disruption. This media report presents a bleaker outlook of current woes at Flair – “..were approaching other airlines to take on the leases for the 11 Flair Boeing 737 passenger jets as recently as February”.
Today’s news comes in stark contrast to the flurry or new routes and Winter schedule announced by the Airline recently;
- New service from Ottawa and Calgary to Las Vegas
- Ottawa to Las Vegas (beginning October 13, 2x weekly)
- Calgary to Las Vegas (beginning October 30, 7x weekly)
- Two new routes to Mexico from Calgary with the addition of service to Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos.
- Toronto to Puerto Vallarta (beginning October 29, 4x weekly)
- Kitchener-Waterloo to Puerto Vallarta (beginning December 16, 3x weekly)
- Calgary to Phoenix (beginning October 30, 4x weekly)
This is a major PR nightmare for Flair ahead of a very busy March break travel season. Despite promises of a support team trying to rebook impacted passengers, the knock-on effect of 4 planes rendered out of service will be felt for several days. I find it unusual that a lessor would take the drastic step of seizing aircraft without doing due diligence. The first and last time I flew Flair airlines (5 hours from Ottawa to Vancouver, for $59), I was hopeful for the ULCC airline model in Canada, but the current missed payments speak to larger financial issues within a company that revels on rock-bottom pricing.