Flair Airlines is launching new routes to the United States, its first foray outside of Canada and part of the low-cost airline's aggressive growth strategy.
Flair, which bills itself as an ultra low-cost carrier, will begin flying to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Las Vegas starting this weekend. The airline will offer flights from Ottawa to Fort Lauderdale; Toronto to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale; and Toronto to Las Vegas.
“Flair’s launch of service to the US is an important milestone in our mission to make air travel affordable for everyone,” Flair Airlines' president and chief executive Stephen Jones said in a statement.
"We continue to change the way Canadians think about air travel as they discover the freedom and benefits our low fares provide in their travels."
Competition in Canada's airline market has been heating up in recent months, thanks in part to Flair Airlines. The carrier is in the midst of an rapid expansion plan that will see its fleet grow from 12 to 16 aircraft, allowing its schedule to grow by 33 per cent. The Edmonton-based airline said it aims to grow its fleet to 50 aircraft by 2050.
Flair began as a charter operator in 2004, but in 2017 transitioned into a ULCC, a no-frills airline that keeps base fares low while charging for extras, including seat selection and carry-on baggage. Throughout the pandemic, as larger airlines struggled and scaled back capacity, Flair has aggressively expanded and launched new routes on some of Canada's most crowded travel routes. Flair's domestic seat capacity in 2021 has grown 211 per cent when compared to 2020, according to National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen.
"In analyzing Flair’s domestic schedule this past summer, it is clear the company is not shying away from competing directly with Canada’s large incumbent airlines as it operated flights on some of Canada’s busiest routes including Toronto-Vancouver and Toronto-Calgary," Doerksen wrote in a note to clients earlier this month. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for smaller airlines like Flair to make gains in the Canadian market.
"A market share 'land grab' has already begun as evidenced by Flair’s aggressive capacity growth in Canada and significant new route announcements to sun destinations."
Flair also said on Thursday that it will offer twice weekly non-stop service between Winnipeg and Regina, and Winnipeg and Saskatoon. Fares on the routes will start at $49 one-way.
WestJet Airlines announced this week that it will ramp up its winter schedule, adding new routes as more Canadians get back to travelling. The Calgary-based airline announced Monday that it will be adding new domestic and international routes in December in the wake of increasing travel demand, bringing the total number of destinations it serves to 95.
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.