The next airline hoping to pose a threat to the country’s Air Canada-WestJet duopoly has landed its inaugural flight.
Canada Jetlines’ first flight departed from Toronto Pearson International Airport Thursday morning and arrived in Calgary International Airport to speeches and a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The new startup airline, headquartered in Mississauga, Ont., is offering service between Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and Calgary International Airport twice weekly.
Canada Jetlines bills itself as an “all-Canadian, value-focused leisure carrier.” While Toronto-Calgary is its only scheduled route right now, the company’s chief commercial offer, Duncan Bureau, said the airline plans to serve the leisure market both domestically and trans border with flights to the Caribbean and the Americas.
The airline currently has one Airbus A320 and a second to join in December, with plans to expand the fleet to 15 Airbus A320s by 2025 at a rate of five aircraft per year, said Bureau.
Canada Jetlines is the country’s newest, but not first, airline to emerge in the wake of the pandemic.
Edmonton-based Flair Airlines has been aggressively expanding in the last year and a half, and now serves 36 airports with 85 routes and a fleet of 18 aircraft.
Calgary-based Lynx, formerly known as Enerjet, launched last spring and said at the time it hoped to operate nearly 90 flights a week on nine routes by June, all within Canada.
WestJet also operates its own subsidiary low-fare airline, Swoop, which launched in 2018 and offers service to destinations in Canada, the US, Mexico and the Caribbean.
While these competitors operate under a low-cost, no-frills model, Canada Jetlines aims to differentiate itself with service to the premium leisure market, said Bureau.
He added that he is critical of the business model being used by so-called low-cost carriers like Flair and Lynx.
“If you’re charging fares at rates that are lower than the cost of parking your car at the airport, the economics just don’t work and it’s not sustainable,” Bureau said.
Canada Jetlines plans to offer a premium experience to customers that includes departure times that fit the preference of the consumer over the pilot and 174 seats instead of the standard 180 to provide increased comfort, said Bureau.
On its website, Canada Jetlines is advertising introductory fares starting at $99 for one-way trips between Calgary and Toronto for a limited time.
To compare, Flair offers one-way trips from Calgary to Toronto for $49, the same route starts at $99 on Lynx and you can fly from Edmonton to Toronto for $59 with Swoop, according to the companies’ websites.
The pandemic’s ravaging of the mainstream airline industry is making it possible for startup airlines to obtain parked and inactive planes at a good price, said Rick Erickson, an independent aviation analyst based in Calgary.
Such is the case for Canada Jetlines, as the pandemic paved the way for the airline to hire available talent and acquire aircraft at a low cost.
“I think the ones who survive are going to be the ones who have the deepest pockets. It generally takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months for new airlines to start turning a profit, so with all of these new players coming onto the market, the question is ‘who has the deepest pockets and who has the best business plan?'” said Erikson.
Bureau said Canada Jetlines plans to offer service in the US within the next three months although any official offerings and dates have yet to be announced.
Canada Jetlines is an independent airline that is publicly traded on the NEO Exchange.
—Amanda Stephenson and Caitlin Yardley, The Canadian Press