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

EDMONTON – 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., resulting in a glut of cheap tickets.

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 says 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 earlier this 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.

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 is 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.

Flair says it will 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.

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