The next airline looking to pose a threat to the Air Canada-WestJet duopoly will take its inaugural flight on Thursday.
Canada Jetlines, a new startup airline headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, is scheduled to fly twice weekly from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Calgary International Airport.
The airline said it will hold a ribbon-cutting party to mark the arrival of its maiden flight in Calgary Thursday morning.
Canada Jetlines calls itself an “all-Canadian, value-oriented leisure society.” While Toronto-Calgary is currently the only planned route, Duncan Bureau, the company’s main commercial offering, said the airline plans to serve the leisure market both domestically and cross-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 its fleet to 15 Airbus A320s by 2025 at a rate of five aircraft per year, the Bureau said.
Low-cost carriers on the rise
Canada Jetlines is Canada’s newest, but not the first, airline to emerge in the wake of the pandemic.
Edmonton-based Flair Airlines has grown aggressively over the past 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, all within Canada, by June.
WestJet also operates its own low-cost subsidiary, Swoop, which launched in 2018 and offers services to destinations in Canada, the US, Mexico and the Caribbean.
While these competitors operate under a low-cost, no-nonsense model, Canada Jetlines aims to differentiate itself by serving the premium leisure market, Bureau said.
He added that he is critical of the business model used by so-called low-cost carriers such as Flair and Lynx.
“If you charge rates at rates that are less than the cost of parking your car at the airport, the economy just won’t work and it won’t be sustainable,” Bureau said.
The deepest pockets
Canada Jetlines plans to offer customers a premium experience with departure times to suit consumer preference over the pilot and 174 seats instead of the standard 180 to provide greater comfort, Bureau said.
On its website, Canada Jetlines advertises for a limited time introductory fares starting at $99 for one-way trips between Calgary and Toronto.
In comparison, 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 devastation to the mainstream airline industry is making it possible for airline startups to get parked and idle 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 purchase aircraft at a low cost.
“I think the ones that survive will be the ones with the deepest pockets. It generally takes 18 to 24 months for new airlines to start making a profit, so with all these new players coming into the market, the question will be ‘ who has the deepest pockets and who has the best business plan?” Erikson said.
Bureau said Canada Jetlines plans to start offering service in the US within the next three months, although official offers and dates have yet to be announced.
Canada Jetlines is an independent airline publicly traded on the NEO Exchange.