Jetsgo CEO has 'deep sorrow' for stranded passengers

Jetsgo CEO Michel Leblanc said he's sorry about the sudden shutdown of his airline, but said it couldn't be helped

Jetsgo founder and CEO Michel Leblanc said he's sorry that the travelling public got no notice of last week's abrupt shutdown of his airline, but said it couldn't be helped.

"When we had to make the tough choice of ceasing operations, that's because we couldn't ensure any more a reliable operation," he told Canadian Press in his first major interview since Jetsgo's collapse.

Leblanc said he regretted that thousands of passengers were stranded when he grounded the entire fleet early Friday morning.

"Very clearly, I have deep sorrow for the people whose plans at school break were shattered, but we didn't have any choice."

Leblanc said if Jetsgo had tried to file for bankruptcy protection first, Jetsgo staff might not have shown up for work, which he said would have risked safety.

"We – management and me personally – could just not ensure a safe and reliable operation," he told the news agency. "We thought the best way of approaching it was to cease operations at that point."

Leblanc also had harsh words for rival airline WestJet, accusing it of spying on his company's operations.

"What we didn't incorporate in our business plan is that we would be spied upon, that people would lie about us and gossip about us," he said at his office in Montreal.

In October, Jetsgo filed a $50-million lawsuit against WestJet, its CEO Clive Beddoe, and former vice-president Mark Hill. The suit alleged that "WestJet, Beddoe and Hill conspired together and determined to commence an unlawful campaign with the specific purpose of injuring Jetsgo, its business and reputation."

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Leblanc also criticized NAV Canada – the agency that operates air traffic control services at airports.

Leblanc denied that his airline was behind on its payments to NAV Canada. The agency had reportedly moved to seize some Jetsgo planes.

The Jetsgo founder said he's lost $7 million in the collapse of the airline, but said he hoped to salvage something, saying the company owns 15 Fokker 100 jets and has little debt.

But Leblanc had no time for the view that Jetsgo was responsible for much of its own financial difficulties because of its ultra-low fares.

Leblanc said whenever Jetsgo tried to raise its fares, WestJet and Air Canada responded by lowering their prices.

In court papers filed last Friday, Jetsgo said it had lost $55 million in the previous eight months.