Canadian aviation aficionados were struck with a bit of bad news this week, when it was revealed that the maiden voyage for Canada Jetlines, a new ultra low-cost carrier, is delayed from August 15 to August 29, 2022.
While this is disappointing, I’m not surprised. Canadian regulators have had their hands more than full this summer with delays and chaos at airports, including Canada Jetlines’s new home base of Toronto Pearson.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into this news, as well as the potential ambitions of another erstwhile disruptor in the Canadian airline landscape.
Maiden Flight of Canada Jetlines
The first flight of Canada Jetlines will now take place on August 29, 2022, pending the provision of their Air Operator Certificate (AOC).
While the airline’s promotional materials had previously stated an intended inaugural mid-August departure, this has been deemed to no longer be possible.
At present, the carrier only operates a single Airbus A320-200, which has previously been flown by Avianca and Pegasus Airlines. The lone aircraft was delivered in February of this year, following extensive refitting and refurbishment in the aviation hub of Shannon, Ireland.
While Jetlines had completed their necessary applications to the government to fly by July 8, the processing time has clearly taken longer than expected – which makes sense given the state of the airline industry at the moment.
As a customer, it’s important that any business responsible for taking me into the sky is properly vetted. Hopefully, all will go according to plan, and flights will actually be able to proceed as of August 29.
The initial routes will be launched from Jetlines’s home base of Toronto Pearson, servicing the mid-sized, but not always consistently-flown, Moncton and Winnipeg markets.
The carrier’s website also proposes a destination of Niagara Falls, which is exciting for would-be vacationers, but this is not yet a bookable location. As of now, there appears to be no set date for when Niagara Falls will be loaded into the schedule.
A Familiar Business Model
When it comes to operations, the structure of Jetlines’s business is one that many of us have become accustomed to in the wake of soaring fuel prices: an ultra low-cost carrier with no frills.
Onboard dining is sure to be from a menu that is just as short as it is uncomplicated, and most definitely won’t include caviar. I’m sure that Jetlines’s flight attendants are friendly and professional, but one can hardly expect an Emirates First Class level of pampering.
The airline offers a whopping four fare options, with its top offering resembling its full-fare cousins over at WestJet and Air Canada. The lower-tier fares resemble those of other ultra budget carriers.
Either way, these myriad classes are designed to do one thing very well: extract money from customers for nice-to-have extras, such as seat selection or flexibility in rebooking. This is the industry standard for low-cost carriers, so there aren’t any surprises here.
For my money, Jetlines’s main appeal will be in its lower-tier products. If you’re going to get a basic experience, you may as well pay a basic price.
When it comes to luggage, Jetlines’s policy has the mandatory upcharges when it comes to checked luggage. You’ll pay $50 for the first bag, $75 for the second, and much more for sports equipment or other oversized items.
Passengers will be able to check up to five bags, although no prices are listed for each bag past the second.
On the other hand, the airline is much more obtuse on its policy toward carry-on baggage or personal items. Jetlines’s baggage FAQ doesn’t have any notice of whether personal baggage will be permitted or not:
Many travellers, including me, have purchased small bags for the specific purpose of not being dinged additional fees when flying with ultra low-cost carriers, so this definitely needs to be made clear prior to takeoff.
Is Canadian Aviation Reaching Market Saturation?
There’s a Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of this budding enterprise: all of Jetlines’s competition is roaring into action in a post-pandemic world.
Just in the past year, I’ve written about the launch of Lynx Air, whose CEO has a fantastic record as a successful executive in the tight-margin world of low-budget aviation.
Lynx itself joined a rapidly-filling market. The airline scrambled to get its wings off the ground before other airlines, such as Flair, could complete its moves to expand its fleet and eat up more of the budget leisure traveller segment of the market.
On top of this, many other ultra low-cost carriers make a point of keeping their most desirable routes staffed to fly as often as possible. As an Edmontonian, I often hear horror (or horrifically amusing) stories of parties gone awry – all enabled by the direct Swoop flight to Sin City.
Heck, anyone based out of the larger Canadian cities of Montreal or Toronto can even book entire vacation packages that include flights with Sunwing at a meaningful discount over their full-fare competitors.
So, what does Canada Jetlines bring to the table that’s new?
Will they be able to capture the imagination of a loyal customer base, or will they be fighting over a more niche segment of the Canadian market with more established rivals?
Will their customer service be excellent, or will passengers be “served” by a bot?
Only time can answer these questions, but for now, the underlying differentiator seems to be Jetlines’s airport strategy.
Other ultra low-cost competitors tend to be headquartered in sizeable, secondary markets, such as Calgary, which is home to both Lynx Air and Swoop. While stationed in a smaller hub, these airlines provide transport to larger cities, including ones with busy hubs, such as Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.
Jetlines seems to not just be refurbishing its aircraft in Ireland, but its ideas, too. The carrier’s strategy closely follows that of Ryanair: offering ultra low-cost tickets by avoiding higher-traffic airports.
The savings that come from the lower fees and levels of congestion associated with these airports can then theoretically be passed onto customers.
However, even this model doesn’t seem novel. Lynx, for example, mostly services large cities, but also goes further afield to places such as Kelowna in British Columbia and St. John’s in Newfoundland.
I wish Jetlines luck, but this certainly seems to be a difficult position from which to launch, particularly with only a single aircraft in their fleet.
It will be interesting to watch the maiden voyage of Canada Jetlines, and I hope they will be able to launch on August 29.
Their choice to provide service to smaller locations, such as Moncton and Winnipeg, appears a bit strange on the surface, but it lines up with the company’s strategic vision of providing lower prices by servicing secondary markets.
Still, Canada Jetlines is up against quite a few competitors. In the past, the Canadian aviation industry has seen larger airlines eating up the smaller competitors, and it would be sad to see this cycle repeat yet again. May the odds be ever in the best carrier’s favour.