Flair leases 2 new 737 Max 8 aircraft, pushes target date to reach 50 planes

By Dayna Fedy-MacDonald | June 15, 2023

Estimated reading time 6 minutes, 41 seconds.

During a press conference held at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on June 14, Flair Airlines CEO Stephen Jones announced that the airline is leasing two new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from SMBC Aviation Capital, which is the world’s second largest aircraft leasing company.

Both aircraft are to enter service in time for the busy summer season, and will “fly Flair’s summer 2023 schedule and beyond,” noted Jones. With this latest addition to Flair’s fleet, Jones said the airline has a total of 20 aircraft that are leased – including two 737-800s and 18 Max 8s. Noteworthy is the fact that one of these aircraft is wet-leased from another operator.

The first of the two new Max 8s was delivered to Flair from Boeing Commercial Airplanes on June 13, and the second “will follow later this summer,” the airline stated.  

Flair Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8.
Flair Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8. Galen Burrows Photo

While Flair has had a goal of reaching 50 aircraft by 2025 ever since Jones stepped into the role of CEO in the fall of 2020, a recent dispute with the parent company of three of its aircraft lessors, Airborne Capital, set Flair back from that goal. On March 10, four of Flair’s Boeing 737 aircraft were detained without notice. Airborne Capital had claimed that Flair was behind in payments, which justified moving the aircraft.

Although Flair paid the lessors just days later, the aircraft were still seized. The airline believes that the lessors found a better deal to lease or sell the four seized aircraft to another company, and that it was all part of an orchestrated plan.

In order to reach its “Flair 50” target, the airline would need to acquire an additional 30 aircraft in less than two years. Jones said during Flair’s latest press conference that the 2025 target date is likely going to move to the 2026-2027 timeframe due to the “slight slowing of the growth this year.”

With a busy air travel season ahead, the two new aircraft are timely. The airline recently committed to releasing monthly operational performance metrics, including completion factor, on-time performance, load factor, passengers, and emissions. Jones said Canadians can feel confident flying with the airline “that has delivered the best on-time performance statistics of any airline for the last two months.”

In May 2023, Flair reported that 82.1 percent of flights arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time. That number was coupled with a load factor of 90 percent.

“We’ve got high load factors because our fares are incredibly attractive,” said Jones.

While on-time performance allows for maximum aircraft utilization — which results in lower costs — it also makes for a better customer experience. The latter is something Flair has placed emphasis on recently with the announcement of its new Specialist Customer Service Team in Montreal.

The airline is continuing to grow at a rapid pace, and Jones shared that the airline now employs more than 1,250 personnel.

“While planes are important, every single new plane represents some 50 new jobs,” he said. “On top of those 1,250 direct employees, we employ more than 2,000 indirect employees in airport ground handling, maintenance, and other support facilities.”

Jones also boasted about the fact that Flair offers “good paying jobs.” In Vancouver specifically, Flair’s activities resulted in 504 full-time employees across the country. “Those employees earned around $50 million in salary at an average salary of $100,000 each,” he shared.

Wages have been a long-time concern in the Canadian aviation industry, and even more so lately with the rising cost of living. WestJet pilots, for example, recently spent roughly nine months fighting for better wages — in addition to more flexible schedules and better job security. In May, the airline’s management reached an agreement with pilots, where WestJet pilots will earn 24 percent raises over four years.

However, as part of the deal, WestJet’s ultra-low-cost subsidiary, Swoop — one of Flair’s competitors — is to be integrated into WestJet’s mainline operation. As of October 28, 2023, Swoop will be no more.

Jones said “the changes that we’ve seen recently with WestJet and Swoop are not surprising at all. . . . Swoop was never created to enhance competition [in the Canadian airline industry]. Swoop’s role was to quell competition. It’s a typical bully tactic by the legacy airlines, and it’s patently failed and I think they’ve recognized that.”

He added: “Flair has sparked revolution, and that has sparked a lot of competition, which is great for customers.”

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