Flair tempers fleet expansion plans, targets 50 aircraft by 2027

Avatar for Ben ForrestBy Ben Forrest | November 1, 2023

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 40 seconds.

Flair Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8.
Flair Airlines operates a fleet of 20 Boeing 737 Max 8 (pictured) and 737-800 aircraft. Galen Burrows Photo

Flair Airlines has tempered expectations for growing its aircraft fleet, saying it no longer expects to have 50 airliners in service by 2025.

The Canadian ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) said it now expects to reach 50 aircraft by 2027, expanding the fleet in response to demand for ultra-low-cost travel.

“If we think about what the 50 goal was about, it was more of a statement of our ambition and the potential for the airline, and for the ULCC industry in Canada,” said Stephen Jones, CEO of Flair, speaking in a virtual news conference Nov. 1, 2023.

“It was always there to inspire people as to what the scale of this business can be, and we will get there. It’s just that it’ll be a year or two further out than what we expected. We’re very confident in the vision.”

Flair currently operates a fleet of 20 Boeing 737 Max 8 and 737-800 airliners, according to the Canadian Civil Aircraft Register. Jones identified the 50-by-2025 goal when he became CEO in 2020, as Flair jockeyed with several other contenders, including WestJet’s since-shuttered Swoop subsidiary.

As Skies previously reported, the “Flair 50” goal took a hit in March 2023, when four Flair-operated Boeing 737 aircraft were detained without notice.

At the time, New York-based Airborne Capital — the parent company of multiple aircraft lessors — claimed Flair was behind in payments and seized the aircraft, according to multiple reports.

Flair then filed a $50-million lawsuit with the Ontario Superior Court, alleging Airborne Capital and four other companies conspired to repossess the four Boeing 737 Max aircraft without warning, and despite assurances the overdue payments would arrive within days, according to reporting by the Canadian Press and the Globe and Mail.

As of March 15, the allegations had not been tested in court. Flair offered no update on the lawsuit in its Nov. 1 press conference, but Jones acknowledged Flair still leases two aircraft from Airborne Capital.

“We’re very comfortable with the situation we’ve got there,” said Jones. “The leases are all fully paid and up to date, and there’s no problem there at all.”

Flair reported a company-record 514,000 monthly passengers in August 2023, part of a successful summer-and-fall schedule that saw a total of 2.3 million passengers — 41 per cent more than in the same period last year.

The company also reported on-time performance of 67.5 per cent or higher from June through October, including 79.1 per cent in September. Load factor — the percentage of available seats sold — was 88 per cent or higher through this period, peaking at 93 per cent in August.

Flair plans to add new routes and expand existing ones in 2024, including three-times-weekly flights from Toronto to Quebec City and twice-weekly flights from Vancouver to Guadalajara, Mexico. The airline also plans to offer service to 44 sun destinations this winter.

“We are seeing very robust demand going into the winter season,” said Gareth Lund, chief commercial officer at Flair.

“I think we still see a lot of room to grow, particularly in the more price-sensitive leisure markets. Business travel for some of the premium carriers is probably taking longer to come back, but I think after the last few years, there is pent-up demand for travel, particularly to travel internationally … I think people are very keen to get down south again in the coming winter.”

With files from Dayna Fedy-MacDonald

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