'Big Air will say anything to make you pay more. But there's hope because there's Flair”

  • National Newswatch

WestJet's recent op-ed showed that the Big Air Carriers really will do and say anything to make sure that Canadians continue to pay some of the highest airfares in the world.Rather than advocating for more competition and helping to drive innovation in a sector of the economy in dire need of a shake-up, they attacked a competitor, Flair Airlines. Rather than talking about how they could help make things a little easier for people following two long pandemic years, they took a position that would limit Canadian's travel options and, if they had their way, would hurt working people from coast to coast in places like Kitchener, Thunder Bay, Saint John, Deer Lake and Edmonton at a time when a lot of folks are having a tough time making ends meet.The Big Air Carriers like WestJet simply don't want competition and, just like any member of a Duopoly, they try to buy up what they can't compete with –raising the eyebrow of the regulator as to whether it's good for the country. Or when offered the same opportunity as Flair to fly out of the wonderful Waterloo Region airport, they decline and then complain about fairness -- even the airport has called them out for not even bothering to respond to a request for proposals for more service.Or, when push comes to shove, they try to steamroll Ultra Low-Cost Carriers like Flair Airlines because Canadians saving money and having more options is a threat to their high-price status quo. In fact, just a few years ago, the Federal Court of Canada ordered executives at WestJet Airlines Ltd. to testify under oath in a predatory pricing investigation into its budget subsidiary, Swoop.Anyone who dares disrupt the Big Air status quo feels WestJet's anti-competitive wrath. After Ultra Low Cost Carrier JetsGo eventually left the Canadian market, WestJet CEO Clive Beddoe celebrated in their 2004 annual report, saying: “We view the departure of Jetsgo from the market as being extremely positive for the airline industry and WestJet in particular. Jetsgo's presence in the market as an irrational competitor put considerable downward pressure on yields, which are now being restored to more economic levels”. In plain English – anyone who makes things more affordable for Canadians is bad news for WestJet.This Big Air mindset that puts profits first and Canadians last, is the problem. It's why you pay $800 for a two-hour domestic flight. It's why Canada ranks 100th out of 140 countries in airfare cost competitiveness and why you pay more than twice the price Americans do for similar-distance domestic flights.But we know there's hope because there's Flair Airlines. And we aren't going anywhere.More competition from carriers like Flair makes airfares across the industry less expensive --- that's a fact[1]. Our own number crunching has shown that our fares are 59% lower than the market average on the routes that we fly, breaking down the cost barriers that have kept too many Canadians grounded.When it comes to the impact of Flair in local communities like Waterloo Region -- where WestJet has been fast asleep since 2007 with one, single flight per day, and having gone 15 years without expanding their service. With just two planes Flair have generated more than 100 new jobs and by adding a third aircraft and service to Deer Lake, Charlottetown, and Saint John in June we'll be adding another 50 new direct jobs to the region, including customer service agents, ground handlers, cabin crews, and maintenance staff as well as all the indirect employment that comes from a growing economy.Our presence in Kitchener is also helping to revitalize a previously sleepy local airport, leading to a $44 million expansion and an estimated one million passengers expected to fly out of YKF by 2023 and it's a story that's repeating in many other markets where Flair flies.More competition from carriers like Flair is a good thing for the country, but don't just take my word for it, Canadians agree. A recent Nanos poll found eight in ten Canadians (82 per cent) agree or somewhat agree that discount airlines play an important role in the Canadian air travel industry. And more than four in five Canadians say that having a competitive airline industry to help our economic recovery is an important or somewhat important contributor to Canada's national interest[2].We have big plans for Flair in the coming weeks, months, and years to come. And while we've faced some turbulence along the way, we're thankful for the support of so many of our customers, employees, and hardworking people across this country who believe in our mission.Together, we can make the dream of showing up to your office with a suitcase and a plane ticket for an affordable, after-work, long-weekend jaunt to another city, or country a reality. We can help more people see all that this wonderful country has to offer. But we can only do this by breaking Big Air's stranglehold and fostering a thriving, competitive and innovative airline industry that delivers affordable airfares and greater choice for Canadians.Stephen Jones, CEO Flair Airlines.[1] Conference Board of Canada, 2018[2] Nanos, May 2020, Conducted for Flair Airlines.