NewLeaf cancels 'sun' service from Hamilton, refunds 3,000 tickets
NewLeaf cancels its planned Hamilton-to-Melbourne, Florida, flights
Anthony Russello plans to take his kids, ages 11 and 7, to Florida at the end of next month. The family was planning to fly down from Hamilton on one of Canada's upstart low-cost air travel companies, NewLeaf.
But their daydreams of warmth and sun were chilled Tuesday when Russello got an email from NewLeaf: The company has cancelled its flights south.
Now, Russello's family will be buckling up for a 2,000-km road trip instead. They already have hotels and park tickets booked. And the announcement came after it was too late to look for after-Christmas deals from other airlines, Russello said.
"At this present time, it looks like we'll have to adjust everything in order to drive down," he said. The kids "will have to endure the drive," he said.
Russello is among 3,000 tickets being cancelled and refunded by NewLeaf this week.
'Very unfortunate decision'
The cancellation of the Hamilton-to-Melbourne, Florida flights came simultaneously with NewLeaf's cancelling its Alberta routes to Mesa, Arizona, near Phoenix. The company had announced its new "sun" service in November.
"We had to make this very unfortunate decision because we are so committed to offering domestic service domestically for the long haul," said NewLeaf spokesperson Julie Rempel.
"We didn't think we could remain competitive."
Flights booked through NewLeaf are operated by Flair Airlines, a licensed Canadian company with pilots flying Boeing 737-400 passenger jets. The company's first flight took off from Hamilton's John C. Munro airport in July.
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NewLeaf blamed Westjet for jumping on the same route a short time later.
"When we made that announcement within eight hours of that, another airline laid service on top of us," Rempel said. "The same schedule, same time, to an airport that had never been served by them before. The competition was pretty intense right off the bat."
'We're pretty unhappy about this'
Rempel said losing the Arizona flights affected the way the company had planned to disperse planes to its Florida route.
"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 to CBC Calgary.
When asked at what point Westjet decided to start flying into Mesa and why, Stewart declined to comment further.
Rempel said NewLeaf is just "postponing" the service to Arizona and Florida.
"It was an extremely unhappy day that we had to do this," she said. "There's not one person here that wanted to do this, wanted to make these calls or send the refund notices."
Whatever the reason, Russello is frustrated and said he feels NewLeaf "can't be trusted" for trips booked in advance.
"We're pretty unhappy about this," he said. "We'll never book anything through them again, and neither will our friends and family."