Discount airlines are on the rise, can they all survive?

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Flair airline offers low-cost flights between Charlottetown and Toronto .

The airline industry in Canada is living through its glory days. The number of airlines has jumped in recent years. But in a vast country where the volume of passengers is low, can so many carriers coexist, or even survive? Is the commercial dispute that led to the cancellation of several flights at Flair last weekend a foretaste of what awaits travelers?

After long months grounded due to the pandemic, tourism is taking off again, bringing with it thousands of tourists eager for discovery. In the past 12 months alone, two low-cost carriers, Lynx Air and Canada Jetlines, have started offering scheduled domestic flights.

This is very exciting. I believe that this arrival of low-cost carriers is a transformation in Canada, says Merren McArthur, President and CEO of Lynx Air.

Lynx is not the only carrier to have adopted a model of air transport at very low prices. In the last five years, Swoop and Flair Airlines have also started offering flights in Canada.

Low cost flights are popular in Europe. Every day, companies like Ryanair and EasyJet operate hundreds of flights for only a few tens of euros. With a dense population and large cities aplenty, the European market for low cost flights has proven its relevance.

To survive, low-cost airlines reduce their operating costs by including almost nothing in the base price. Hand luggage, boarding pass, snack, seat selection: everything is charged to the passenger. Common practice in the industry, many carriers also prefer to lease new and fuel-efficient aircraft.

In the event of a payment default, however, it is the passengers who find themselves stuck.

In a written statement, Flair Airlines Chairman and CEO Stephen Jones notes that the company has brought four additional aircraft into service […] and does not anticipate any further disruption to our roadmap.

< p class="e-p">Despite everything, this model of discount transport could cause turbulence in a market like Canada.

We have already experienced this same increase in capacity in the past. We can think of Canada 3000, JetsGo. And that guarantees for me two things: the price war will continue, but also, it's almost a guarantee that there is someone who will fall on the side, explains John Gradek, lecturer in the aviation program at McGill University.

According to this expert, in addition to large companies like Air Canada and WestJet, only a few low-cost carriers can survive and at this time. The number of carriers is far too high, he believes.

Airlines remain optimistic, however, riding on Canadians' interest in travel after repeated lockdowns.

Lynx Air will offer flights between Fredericton and Calgary, with a stopover in Toronto, this summer.

We must adapt our business model to this around us, demographics and what the consumer wants. And that's what we are doing by adapting the Lynx model to the demand of Canadians , adds Merren McArthur.

John Gradek points out that the shortage of personnel also affects the transport industry air. These ambitious companies, which are multiplying aircraft purchases and new routes to serve, will also have to find pilots, flight attendants and technicians to maintain these aircraft.

Another big challenge for an evolving industry.

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