Summer ends with no ultra-low-cost airline in Hamilton

As summer ends, Air Canada pushed its Rouge service back to May 2016, and none of the ultra-low-cost carriers who've flirted with Hamilton have set up shop yet.

NewLeaf, Canadian Jetlines have discussed Hamilton as an eastern hub

Jetlines says it will charge passengers extra fees for things like checking bags and booking seats in advance. (CBC)

Hamilton flyers are familiar with the feeling: 

An airline takes a look at the Hamilton airport, likes what it sees, and promises to start flying there. And soon! 

But as summer ends, none of the lower-cost airlines who've flirted with John C. Munro International Airport on Mount Hope have gotten up and running — certainly not up and flying.

We will definitely let you know when we're ready for takeoff.- Amie Seier, marketing manager, NewLeaf Travel Co.

The best flying news to come to Hamiltonians this summer was a new direct bus to take passengers straight to Toronto's Pearson International Airport. 

There's some solace. The airlines are saying the flights are delayed, not cancelled: 

Air Canada's promised Rouge service was pushed back to May 2016 after a crash in Halifax took a plane out of its fleet.

Winnipeg-based NewLeaf Travel Co. chief Jim Young told CBC Hamilton in April he'd launch Hamilton flights by this summer. That's not going to happen, said Amie Seier, recently named marketing manager for NewLeaf.

"We can assure you that we won't surprise you with a launch [by end of summer]," she said in an email last week. "As you can imagine, the undertaking of the startup of a travel business can be quite big. We're just in the process of building our team and the needed infrastructure to get ready to launch. We will definitely let you know when we're ready for take off."

Another ultra-low-cost carrier, Canadian Jetlines, is raising money and told the Hamilton Spectator it planned to launch in western Canada this summer with an expansion to Hamilton to later this year or early next. Jetlines president David Solloway did not return emails from CBC Hamilton over the past few months seeking more information. 

The business models are variations on a theme popular in Europe and the U.S.: Cutting costs by charging passengers a low fee for their seat and seatbelt, and charging à la carte fees for everything from onboard drinks and snacks to carry-on bags.

Meanwhile, the airport is being patient. 

"Strategically we see Hamilton International as an Airport well suited to an ultra-low cost carrier model, and would welcome New Leaf Travel Co. or any other low cost carrier to Hamilton Airport when looking to enter southern Ontario," airport marketing director Lauren Yaksich said in April. 

Tuesday, Yaksich directed timing questions to the airlines themselves. 

"Our discussions with the carriers are ongoing," she said.


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