Up in the air: Will Canada's newest air travel company take off?
There will be a third option if you’re flying home for the holidays
Canada's newest travel company NewLeaf is ready to take off on Saturday from Calgary to destinations like Hamilton, Halifax, Moncton and Abbotsford.
The travel broker uses a model similar to Ryanair and easyJet in Europe — only a seat and a seatbelt is offered with the base fare.
If you want to check a bag, bring a carry-on, choose your seat or board early you have to pay extra for that as none of the services are bundled.
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"There's 1.1 million people here and I think some of them are looking to be able to travel if the price is right and I hope that we brought the right price for them," said Jim Young, president and CEO of NewLeaf.
He says Canada is the only country that doesn't have a low cost carrier option and the goal is to force fares downward.
NewLeaf uses three Boeing 737 400 planes operated by Kelowna's Flair Air.
Young says timing the launch ahead of the busy holiday season was strategic, and by the end of the January he hopes to offer flights to Phoenix.
New player in town
However, some airline experts aren't sold on NewLeaf's business model.
"The problem as we see it, when you start offering fares like that, what do you do for an encore?" air transportation analyst Ken Beleshko told The Homestretch. "At some point you have to start making some money,"
He does expect the new company to shake up the industry though.
"I think the competitors will start matching those fares because the market share is a very closely guarded thing in the airline industry," he said.
Some air travelers are looking forward to the savings.
"It removes the barriers for people that would drive. It allows more people to go ahead and choose to fly," said Marcel Richard.
Bruce Lyle said he hopes to see prices drop across the board, as they have in Europe.
"It's a good opportunity and of course if they are offering discount fares, all the better."
David Egglishaw from the Cayman Islands says he hasn't had a good experience with similar low-cost carriers.
"I don't like them," he said. "I prefer to deal with a mainstream airline where you pay a price and know exactly what you're getting."
Egglishaw says his experience using discount airlines was very awkward.
"It's a lot of add-ons that might look cheap, but those add-ons end up being probably the same price if not more than a regular airline," he said.
"I always feel cheated as well by them."
Since launching in Winnipeg six months ago, Young says NewLeaf has carried 125,000 passengers on 1,000 flights.
They hope to add more flights to current destinations as well as expanding to new ones, ramping up for the summer, as Canada celebrates 150 years.