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Flair Airlines offering only one route from Halifax this winter

3 min read
A passenger plane takes flight
caption Flair Airlines is shifting its focus to flying Canadians South of the border but has no plans to connect Halifax with any southern destinations.
Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines has suspended almost all routes to and from Halifax this winter, leaving many Haligonians without an affordable air travel option for the holidays.

Flair, Canada’s only independent ultra-low-cost carrier, will continue to offer one route between Halifax and Toronto during the winter months, but has stopped flying to numerous other Canadian cities, including Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Quebec City and Windsor. Some of those routes will be returning in early May, but others have been completely discontinued.

Brad Wright lives in Halifax and flies regularly to Kitchener-Waterloo to visit family. He won’t be making it there for the holidays this year because, without Flair, he and his wife can’t afford to fly to Kitchener-Waterloo, and he doesn’t want his family to drive farther to pick them up at a different airport.

“I have a 92-year-old mother-in-law that is bound and determined she’s going to come and pick us up,” said Wright. “So, Kitchener, I can kind of live with that one, but if we’ve got to go to Hamilton or Toronto, no way.”

Wright said he will continue to fly with Flair when flights to Kitchener-Waterloo resume in the spring, but that he’s “very disappointed” with the company. He emphasized that every Flair flight he’s been on has been full, so he doesn’t understand why the route was suspended.

Halifax not included in flights to sun destinations

Garth Lund, Flair’s chief commercial officer, explained in a news conference that Flair is shifting its focus to southern destinations and the decision to cut domestic routes was strictly economic.

“Ultimately as a business, we are looking to make money, so where there isn’t enough demand to make a route economic to operate, those are the routes which tend to be on the chopping board,” said Lund.

Flair is flying to 44 sun destinations this winter from various Canadian cities, but not Halifax. According to Lund, there is “nothing concrete” in terms of plans to connect Halifax to those southern destinations.

“It may be that in the future we do add more capacity to Halifax in the winter, but to southern destinations. So perhaps something we would look at for next year or beyond that,” he added.

However, for Wright, even if Flair were to add routes between Halifax and some vacation destinations, it wouldn’t make up for the loss of domestic service.

“You started off saying you’re a Canadian company and you say you’re going to be flying Canadians everywhere. Then stay with Canada,” said Wright, adding that Flair “hasn’t really built up a good rapport here in Canada yet.”

Brent Cassidy is another frequent flyer with Flair. He lives in Ottawa but flies multiple times a year to Halifax to visit his high school friends and his parents, who are in their 80s. This Christmas, he’s booked a flight with Air Canada, which cost hundreds of dollars more than what he typically pays with Flair.

“For me, visiting so often to go see my parents was the fact that it was so cheap,” he said. “So, there will simply have to be less frequent trips home over the next few months at least.”

Disappointment

Cassidy said he’s “been very lucky” to have saved so much money already with Flair and he wishes the flights between Ottawa and Halifax would continue, but he understands that the company makes more money flying “sunseekers” in the winter.

“Disappointed? Yes. Angry or upset? No. And I don’t think it has anything to do with trustworthiness. I think it’s just a matter of numbers. It’s finances. They have to do what they have to do,” he said.

Flair’s decision to shift focus to the southern destination market comes as more Canadians are interested in vacationing after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Lorn Sheehan, a Dalhousie University professor whose research focuses on tourism and destination management.

“In 2023, most people have probably visited their friends and relatives that they hadn’t seen for a few years because of the pandemic,” said Sheehan. “And now, speaking as a Canadian, I think those warmer destinations are going to become more popular.”

Sheehan had a few recommendations for those who cannot easily afford to travel by air this holiday season: first, to wait until mid-January for cheaper fares.

“If you can get away from work and your schedule permits, or if you’re retired perhaps and don’t have to work, then that’s a great time to get away at an affordable price,” he said.

He also recommended taking red-eye flights or flights with multiple stops, taking the bus or train, using ride-sharing services or taking advantage of last-minute deals for flights to save money.

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