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Flair set for takeoff between Kamloops and Edmonton

The airline has adjusted its schedule and will now offer direct flights twice per week, beginning on June 18

A new direct route between Kamloops and Edmonton will need to soar to remain sustainable, but the opportunity for success is buckled in, according to the airline set to begin operating out of Kamloops Airport next month.

Flair Airlines, an Edmonton-based discount airline that began operating in 2005, will begin the service twice a week on June 18. It will be the first direct Kamloops to Edmonton flights since 2016, when WestJet Airlines cancelled the route after less than a year in service.

Eric Tanner, Flair Airlines’ vice-president of revenue management and network planning, was at Kamloops Airport on Wednesday (May 24), speaking to media about the upcoming launch of the service between the Tournament Capital and City of Champions.

“Every route needs to earn its way into our network,” Tanner said. “The airplanes can always be taken somewhere else, so you can never make promises on a route. That said, the fundamentals are here. This is a market that we know can work really well for us. Our job is to make sure customers know the flight’s there.”

Tanner said Flair’s low-cost business model depends on filling planes to capacity as the airline makes half of its revenue on ancillary purchases by customers. He described the company’s forecast passenger counts for a Kamloops to Edmonton flight as “good” and presales as “solid.”

“It’s always a little bit slower at the start of a route because you have to get traffic flowing in each direction,” Tanner said.

With no existing service between the two cities to draw data from, Tanner said Flair looked at statistics from Kamloops to Calgary flights, as well as its own service between Edmonton and Kelowna, noting the Okanagan city has a similar outdoors activities profile to Kamloops.

Tanner said Flair also looked into the number of people who may have connections between Kamloops and Edmonton, along with oil worker traffic.

Kamloops Airport managing director Ed Ratuski told KTW the airport sees about 100 passengers travelling each way daily between Kamloops and Edmonton via connecting flights.

“It is quite a substantial market to go unserved,” Ratuski said, noting the route looks promising in the winter months, when driving conditions are typically poor.

Asked if flights could be viable with planeloads of 75 or 50 per cent capacity, Tanner replied, “You never know,” adding Flair will monitor the service as it goes.

Flair Airlines uses Boeing 737 Max-8 planes that seat 189 passengers, aircraft that are much larger than the 75-seat Q400 planes West Jet and Air Canada fly in and out of the airport.

Ratuski said given the capacity of the planes Flair will use, the airport is looking at ways to increase the amount of space in the gate area of the terminal.

Tanner said Flair’s focus is on sustaining the Kamloops to Edmonton flight and determining if it can expand to become a daily flight, after which the airline could look to expand to other destinations from Kamloops.

Lisa White of Tourism Kamloops said the organization is excited about the launch of the direct Kamloops to Edmonton route.

“For us, it’s such a great target audience for leisure travel, meeting travel, corporate travel,” White said.

Tanner said he sees the Kamloops to Edmonton flights being utilized mostly by people looking to visit friends and family.

The days on which Flair will fly to and from Edmonton have changed from the original announcement earlier this year.

Flair will fly to and from Edmonton on Sundays and Wednesdays, beginning on June 18. In February, the airline announced it would operate flights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, beginning on June 15.

One-way fares range from $29 to $89 until Oct. 25. However, those fees do not include optional add-ons, such as choosing seats, checking bags, changing flights, priority boarding or airport check-in, all of which will cost extra.

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Flair says repossession of planes not impacting flights from Kamloops

Tanner said repossessed Flair planes and a lawsuit launched by the airline in response shouldn’t cause concern for air travellers.

In March, four Flair Airlines planes were seized by Airborne Capital for alleged missed lease payments worth millions of dollars, leading to 12 flights being cancelled. The airline has since sued the company for $50 million over the seizures.

Tanner told KTW those planes remain in storage with the lessor in Ontario and the case remains before the courts. However, he added, that will not impact the Kamloops to Edmonton route.

Flair still has 18 planes in service and plans to add two more this summer.

“It’s behind us. We’ve had to adjust our schedule, but the schedule’s being adjusted, so it has absolutely no impact on the Kamloops flights,” Tanner said.