Discount travel company NewLeaf has abruptly cancelled its newly announced flights from Calgary and Edmonton to Phoenix, Ariz., after it says WestJet muscled in on its new route. 

The flights, announced in November and meant to start this month, were supposed to fly into the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, which NewLeaf spokesperson Julie Rempel said wasn't served by any Canadian airline. 

"So we made that decision to go in there and within eight hours of our decision, an airline also chose to put service in to that airport as well, and also run flights basically matching the same schedule," said Rempel, who clarified that WestJet was the competitor in question.

"So, given the volume of service and the customer base, I guess at this point, given that NewLeaf is new to the marketplace, we just couldn't see that we'd be able to sustain it at this time."

WestJet announced their flights to the Mesa airport two days after the NewLeaf announcement. 

WestJet response

Rempel would not speculate on why WestJet, which already offered flights to the Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport, decided to mirror the NewLeaf's offerings, saying "you probably have to ask them that question."

WestJet said by email that the Phoenix area is a very competitive market.

"The airline business is more challenging than it seems and this airline appears to be blaming one airline for their woes in a particular market without providing the travelling public the full story," wrote WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart.

When asked at what point WestJet decided to start flying into Mesa and why, Stewart declined to comment further. 

Full refunds

Rempel said NewLeaf decided to focus on its other routes, but that it "absolutely" intends to provide flights to Phoenix in the future.

NewLeaf is providing full refunds to all customers who booked flights to Phoenix.

"It simply means that we're here to stay, actually, because we recognize that going in we would be taking probably a loss at this point, so we want to make sure that we're sustainable for the long term," said Rempel.  

The company plans to release a new flight schedule sometime this month. 

With files from Andrew Brown