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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. They have added several new routes in 2021, including connections to/from my home airport of Ottawa (YOW), with very attractive fares across the network. I decided to experience a ULCC in Canada by taking a trip from Ottawa to Vancouver (~5 hour flight across the country), for $59! And in doing so, I have learnt some invaluable life lessons, because I was just that ill-prepared for my Flair flight.
Review: Flair Airlines from Ottawa (YOW) to Vancouver (YVR)
At $59 one-way, there is no argument that this was the best cash rate I have seen for the route. May I point out that the base fare for my ticket was $17.09. My $59 fare included a personal item, and a seat to seat on. Everything else, from printing boarding pass (at airport) to carry on bag was an additional charge, pretty standard for the ULCC model.
As flight day approached, I was equal measures excited and nervous for my first ever ULCC experience. I was able to check-in to my flight online and save a digital copy of my boarding pass. I was auto-assigned 9C an aisle seat, on the Boeing 737-8 with a 3-3 cabin layout.
A quick word on the Flair livery – I love it! The colours are fun, chic and look great on the 737’s.
As I settled into the seating area near my gate, I noticed most people were in comfortable athleisure clothing, and carried neck pillows. Sign of experienced ULCC flyers? Carry-on bags ($59+tax add on) were tagged by Flair staff at the time of check-in and boarding. As for me, I was travelling just with a laptop backpack which met the requirements of a personal item.
Upon boarding, I “settled” into 9C, with both seats beside me occupied. I am only 5’8, and my knees almost touched the front seat, shoulders stacked with my seat mates. As I offered up the last inch of elbow room on the seat divider, my friendly neighbour informed me that the seats do not recline. Yay (?) since it meant the person in front of me wont collapse their seat on my knees, but also that I was sitting up straighter than a buddhist monk in deep meditation. 5 hours to go.
Fortunately for me, as the ‘boarding complete‘ announcement rang in, I jumped up a couple of rows to occupy an empty one – poor man’s business class if you will. Man spreading never felt better.
Shortly before take off, the crew announced that the flight was Wi-Fi enabled, and passengers will be able to use the Flair app with said Wi-Fi. That’s right, the Wi-Fi only worked on the Flair app. Slightly panicked, I started searching for power outlets, if I had to use my laptop for 5 hours. You guessed it, no power outlets in seats either. Luckily I had just enough juice in my devices to last me the duration of the flight, but not enough content downloaded to keep me entertained.
The Flair app, just like their website, was minimalist and efficient. The tabs suggested that I would be able to watch some movies/videos, play games, use an in app menu to order food, and even browse some maps to keep myself busy. While no blockbusters, the ‘Watch’ section mostly consisted of videos from the National Film Board of Canada.
The Menu section consisted of exactly 7 food items (Pringles and Kit Kat should not be termed as food), and an exhaustive list of drink options for purchase. Unfortunately, Flair’s food service was still suspended due to COVID-19.
Yet again, people around me seemed better equipped to manage this flight, personal devices with downloaded content, packed lunches, snacks, and water! How out of place could I be, I didn’t have water on me for a 5 hour flight. After 3 hours of feeling stupid, I mustered the courage and walked to the back of the flight to request some water. The flight crew were extremely polite, and poured me a cup. So they do have water on flight, just don’t go around offering it.
And just like that, we landed in YVR, and I had paid only $59 CAD for it. The minimalist interaction with crew, on time service, and incredible pricing, is what defines the Flair experience.
This is a good time to remind readers that my experience on Flair could have been far superior, if only I was better prepared for my flight. A quick recap of my inconveniences, and lessons I learnt on this Flair flight;
- Seats do not recline – Bring a neck pillow, and/or use it for lumbar support
- No power outlets – Make sure your devices are fully charged before boarding
- Wi-Fi only works on Flair App – Download your favourite shows, movies, and podcasts in advance
- No food (or water) service onboard – this is only temporary restriction. Bring snacks, pack a sandwich and a bottle of water – Flair encourages it!
Will I fly Flair again? The answer is YES! While it wont be my first pick for a 5 hour journey, I will not hesitate in recommending and flying the 1-2 hour flights. The cash fares are just that good, take a look at these amazing prices to the US or even domestic destinations in Canada.
Title Image Credit: Flair Airlines