Business

NewLeaf to offer flights to 12 Canadian cities starting July 25

NewLeaf Travel, the Winnipeg-based discount travel company that launched in January and then abruptly put its operations on hold, says it will start flying on July 25.

Canadian company launched in January, went on hold in February, now has federal approvals

NewLeaf launched to much fanfare in January, but has yet to offer any flights to Canadians. (NewLeaf)

NewLeaf Travel, the Winnipeg-based discount travel company that launched in January and then abruptly put its operations on hold, says it will start flying on July 25.

The company initially offered rock-bottom tickets between seven smaller Canadian airports such as Hamilton, Abbotsford, B.C., Halifax and Saskatoon. It said it planned to sell tickets on flights set to take off this past February, a few weeks after the original launch date of Jan. 6, 2016. 

But shortly after launch, the company cancelled its scheduled flights and refunded tickets, amid a Canadian Transportation Agency review of the operating licences for indirect air service carriers such as NewLeaf.

NewLeaf's original business plan was to be a ticket reseller, offering seats on charter flights operated by Kelowna-based Flair Air and its subcontractor Enerjet, which owns the planes and operates the actual flights.

That got NewLeaf around CTA rules that would require the company to hold its own operating licence as an airline.

The CTA signed off on NewLeaf's business model in March, and now the company says it is ready for takeoff. So starting now the company is now selling tickets for flights starting July 25 between 12 Canadian cities:

  • Halifax.
  • Moncton, N.B.
  • Hamilton.
  • Winnipeg.
  • Regina.
  • Saskatoon.
  • Edmonton.
  • Kelowna, B.C.
  • Kamloops, B.C.
  • ​Fort St. John, B.C.
  • Abbotsford, B.C.
  • Victoria.

NewLeaf is advertising flights for as low at $79 one way, including all taxes and fees. There will be extra fees for things like checked bags and in-flight purchases of food and entertainment.

The company says it's been cleared for takeoff, but there is still one major overhang on the company's prospects, however: an appeal of the CTA's recent decision to grant the company permission to sell tickets.

Airline consumer advocate Gabor Lukacs sought leave to appeal that ruling, a request that was granted by three judges on the Federal Court of Appeal. Lukacs contends that the company should not be going ahead with its business while that pending appeal could ground the flights for which the company is selling tickets.

Lukacs says one of his concerns is that NewLeaf is acting like an airline, but isn't bound by the same rules and regulations as airlines are in areas such as ticket refund policies.

"I'm not doing this for the fun of it I'm doing it because I'm concerned that NewLeaf is going to cause further harm and disruption to the passengers beyond what they did in January when they sold tickets and then after 12 days just cancelled those tickets," he said in an interview.

For its part, the company says it is on solid ground. "We're selling a ticket on Flair Airlines," said Dean Dacko, NewLeaf's chief commercial officer. "Flair is 100 per cent licensed. All the protection, the insurance, the coverage that every licensed airline has to have to operate, they have. They have the exact same sense of assurance they have with Air Canada, WestJet, anyone that is licensed."

NewLeaf chief executive Jim Young says the company has been cleared for takeoff, and is eager to get to work. "We're certainly not going to wait around for a single individual to decide whether or not we can fly," he said at a launch event at Winnipeg's airport on Thursday.

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