NewLeaf Travel makes inaugural flight out of Calgary
With Saturday afternoon’s flight destined for Hamilton, Canada’s new low-cost air travel provider has officially entered the Calgary market.
“We sell you a seat and a seatbelt, everything else you pay for” said NewLeaf Travel CEO Jim Young. “We’re letting you choose how much you want to pay to travel.”
NewLeaf Travel Company, based in Winnipeg, has been in operation for months but its routes had not involved the Calgary International Airport prior to this weekend.
Sarah Kopp and her dog Leah were among the passengers on the inaugural NewLeaf flight from Calgary to Hamilton.
“Prices are really great,” explained Kopp. “The fact it flies close to home was a big difference for us (instead of) flying to Toronto. It’s a half hour (drive) from where I live versus two hours.”
The company currently has flights scheduled from Calgary to Hamilton, Abbotsford, Halifax and Moncton and flights to Mesa/Phoenix, Arizona will be added in mid-January.
NewLeaf Travel is the latest addition to Canada’s air travel industry but aviation experts question whether it can compete with the established juggernauts of WestJet and Air Canada. The company does not own aircraft and has an agreement in place with Flair Airlines.
Rick Erickson, an independent aviation analyst based in Calgary, says the limited number of aircraft at the company’s disposal could prove problematic should any unexpected mechanical or weather issues occur.
“I am very enthused about the prospect of another airline in this country but I’m enough of a realist to believe this is going to be a challenge,” said Erickson. “They had better be very, very hopeful that they don’t have any aircraft problems because, I don’t think they have access to all five of the Flair Air airplanes, but they don’t have any backup.”
“If you only have one aircraft in Atlantic Canada and it’s broken, it’s going to be a real problem.”
According to Young, NewLeaf does have two extra planes on standby.
While the sustainability of NewLeaf’s business model has yet to be proven in Canada, passenger Mark Halls says booking with the flight provider resulted in significant savings.
“I got this flight out for $100,” said Halls. “If I was to fly with WestJet or Air Canada, it would be at least $300 to $400.”
NewLeaf Travel says it will announce its summer schedule early in 2017.
With files from CTV’s Ina Sidhu