Flair CEO confident the airline will not lose license as it works to reduce foreign influence

Avatar for Skies MagazineBy Skies Magazine | April 22, 2022

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 53 seconds.

Flair Airlines CEO, Stephen Jones, addressed reporters on April 21 to confirm that the airline has overhauled its board of directors and is working to refinance debt to reduce foreign influence, following the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA’s) preliminary ruling that Flair may not be Canadian controlled. Jones emphasized that the airline is here to stay.

Flair Boeing 737 Max 8. Galen Burrows Photo

Earlier this year, the CTA raised concerns that too much of Flair’s operations are controlled by American interests. In April 2019, Miami-based 777 Partners LLC — which leases Flair’s 737 Max 8 aircraft — took a 25 percent interest in the carrier. In addition to this, the CTA found in its preliminary review that 777 Partners has more than half of Flair’s board seats.

But as defined in the Canada Transportation Act, a domestic airline must be incorporated in Canada and at least 51 per cent of voting interests must be owned and controlled by Canadians to achieve an operating license.

Jones has been insistent that Flair is, indeed, a Canadian airline, stating recently: “Flair Airlines is a Canadian airline and is controlled by Canadians both in law and in fact.”

Flair has until May 3 to submit a formal response to the CTA’s preliminary review, at which time the CTA will determine next steps. Earlier this month, the airline requested an 18-month extension to rework its finances; the request is being considered by Transport Canada, and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra will make the final call.

Nonetheless, Jones said he’s confident the airline will meet the May 3 deadline, and said there is “zero chance” it will lose its license on that date.

He wants to assure customers that they can “continue to book . . . with confidence.”

Jones added: “We are responding to the concerns that the CTA have made. We’ve dealt with most of them already.”

The airline has expanded its board from five seats to nine — seven of which are now held by Canadian members. As well, three director positions were previously set aside for 777 Partners; that number has now decreased to two.

Flair also adjusted parts of its shareholders agreement to emphasize Canadian control of the board and other governance powers at the airline.

Earlier this week, company shareholders voted to approve these governance changes, which Jones said are effective immediately.

He added that 777 Partners is supportive of the changes made to the agreement.

Once Flair responds to the CTA’s review, the agency said there is no specific timeline to come to a decision.

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