Flair Airlines pulling out of Abbotsford as competition with Swoop takes off - InfoNews

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Flair Airlines pulling out of Abbotsford as competition with Swoop takes off

The tail section of a Flair Airlines plane is seen in this undated handout photo.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Flair Airlines
February 12, 2020 - 10:30 AM

Flair Airlines Ltd. is pulling out of the airport in Abbotsford, B.C., due to a lack of passengers and intense competition from rival budget carrier Swoop.

Flair CEO Jim Scott cites an intense focus on the Abbotsford-Edmonton route by its competitor, a subsidiary of WestJet Airlines Ltd., that has resulted in a glut of cheap tickets.

"We just can't compete with $3 airfares in the market — and not just a few of them, but tens of thousands of tickets," Scott said.

"Either we're going to be confined to very few routes or the government's got to step in and show that anti-dumping and predatory pricing has meaning in Canada," he said in a phone interview.

Flair operates 12 flights between the two cities each week, but plans to stop in June. Swoop, Flair's only competitor along the route, operates 16 flights per week in winter and 24 flights per week in summer.

Flair said no passengers will face cancellations as a result of the Abbotsford pullout, which will also end flights between the Lower Mainland city and Kelowna, B.C., Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto.

Swoop unveiled a so-called loonie sale last month, offering up to 100,000 seats for a base fare of $1 before taxes and fees. The sale disproportionately targets Edmonton-to-Abbotsford, which Swoop points out is its highest-frequency route.

More than one-quarter of the seats under the loonie deal are on the route.

Swoop did not immediately respond to questions Wednesday.

Last year Flair opted to leave Hamilton for Toronto's Pearson International Airport, just months after Swoop landed at the smaller airport.

In 2018, the Competition Bureau launched an ongoing predatory pricing investigation into Swoop and WestJet over allegations the two carriers used anti-competitive practices to crowd out Flair from at least three routes.

Predatory pricing occurs when a company offers services below "avoidable costs" to hobble a competitor, along with an expectation to recoup losses through future price hikes, according to Competition Bureau guidelines.

Edmonton-based Flair plans to use its two freshly freed-up planes to add new flights to Ottawa, Saint John, N.B., Charlottetown and Halifax.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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