Flair adds flights from Ottawa to southern U.S.

Flair airliner

Ottawa snowbirds will have more choice when looking to fly to the sunny south this winter.

Canadian budget carrier Flair Airlines said Thursday it will begin flying from Ottawa to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Las Vegas and Orlando at the end of October.

The move is part of the airline’s plan to start serving six U.S. leisure destinations that also include Palm Springs, Calif., Hollywood and Phoenix. Flair said one-way fares will start at between $79 and $109.

Flair executives suggest that their tiny airline can undercut big Canadian and American carriers on price. Swoop, a low-cost carrier owned by Canada's WestJet, is trying that approach too.

Flair officials said they will fly to the U.S. from eight Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

The airline is led by a former executive of Hungary's Wizz Air. It flew charters before converting to a mix of low fares and lots of fees, similar to U.S. carriers Spirit and Allegiant. Flair tried flying to the U.S. once before, but ended that service in 2019.

Flair has five Boeing 737 Max jets and three older 737s, with eight more Max planes on order.

Flair originally planned to start flying into Ottawa last summer with routes connecting Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and Toronto to the capital, but those plans were put on hold due to the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the airline announced it planned to add twice-weekly flights between Ottawa and Kelowna, B.C., to its growing list of routes that are slated to resume this summer.

The news comes as the Ottawa airport struggles to recover from a dramatic decline in passenger volumes during the pandemic.

While the number of flights serving YOW has picked up in recent weeks, air traffic is still down more than 70 per cent compared with pre-COVID levels. 

As a result, the airport – which relies on improvement fees charged to passengers as well as terminal and landing fees, concession revenues and parking fees for most of its revenues – racked up a net loss of $51.2 million in 2020 and expects to incur an even bigger deficit this year.

– With files from the Canadian Press