I recently had the chance to fly on Canada’s largest ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC), Flair Airlines. My trip took me on a short one and a half hour hop from Ottawa to Halifax.
Flair was founded in 2005 as Flair Air. For the first decade of its history, it operated as a charter airline, primarily flying a small fleet of Boeing 737-200 and Boeing 737-400 aircraft. In 2017, it got into the business of scheduled passenger service, rebranding itself as an ultra-low-cost carrier. Since then, it has expanded its operations and currently serves around 35 destinations throughout Canada, the United States and Mexico. Flair’s fleet today consists of Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets.
Like many ultra-low-cost carriers, Flair has a point-to-point network instead of connecting passengers through large hubs. It also attempts to fly to underserved secondary airports. While there are not many of these in Canada due to its smaller population, Flair flies to airports like Abbotsford International Airport near Vancouver and London International Airport and Windsor International Airport in southwestern Ontario.
Although I had wanted to try Flair for a while, the pandemic largely interrupted my plans to do so. I finally got the opportunity to try them recently.
Booking: A True ULCC Experience
Our one-way tickets were $79 Canadian dollars ($58 US dollars) each including tax. This is pretty low for a domestic flight in Canada, even of this length. Looking at the fare breakdown, the airport improvement fee Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport was actually more than the base fare.
The ULCC model tends to involve low base fares with fees for anything else. With Flair, the fare only includes the seat and a personal item that goes under the seat in front of you. After you select your flight, they immediately start selling you add-ons, like these bundles.
We paid $44 CAD for a carry-on item and $20 CAD each to select a seat. There were a few other add-ons available like trip protection, priority boarding and travel insurance.
At the Airport
Flair recommended that passengers arrive at the airport three hours prior to their flight. While Canadian airports were not immune to the long lines and staffing shortages faced by the aviation industry around the world, I was pretty confident that there was no need to arrive at Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport that early.
We ended up arriving approximately an hour and a half before our flight, which turned out to be more than enough time. With no checked bags and having checked in online, we bypassed the check-in area and breezed through security screening within around ten minutes.
The flight was leaving from Gate 28, which is located on the far eastern end of the terminal building. I arrived to find a very crowded gate area.
Unfortunately, the gate area also did not provide a very good view of the aircraft. This was the best photo I could get of our plane. Flair has a bold livery with an interesting mix of colors: mint green and black with purple accents. Our flight would be operated by a 4-year old Boeing 737 MAX 8, registered as C-FLDX.
A Simple Cabin & A Cloudy Departure
Boarding commenced as scheduled and we were soon on the plane. Flair’s Boeing 737 MAX 8s have 189 economy class seats, with a fairly standard 29-30 inches of pitch and a width of 17 inches. The seats were fairly basic, with a seatback pocket and tray table.
The carrier charges extra for seats with extra legroom, such as those in the emergency exit rows. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that since taking our flight, Flair now has even more seat pricing options. Not only do they charge more for extra legroom seats, but seats at the front of the aircraft are more expensive, and window seats in some parts of the aircraft are more expensive than their adjacent middle and aisle seats.
The overhead panel had individual air vents and reading lights as well as a flight attendant call button.
Boarding was completed on time and we soon began taxiing out, with the flight crew performing a manual safety demonstration due to the lack of any built-in screens on board. We soon took off into the cloudy Ottawa skies.
Flair Airlines Inflight Services and Amenities
As an ULCC, Flair naturally does not offer any sort of free food or drink. However, the airline does offer buy-on-board options. There was a menu alongside the safety card inside the seatback pocket. Scroll through the images below to see the entire menu.
Seatback contents and menu (Slideshow)
Flair also has a phone app that offers streaming inflight entertainment. The app has to be downloaded before departure as the airline does not offer an inflight internet connection (you connect to the WiFi to use the streaming entertainment but there is no option to connect to the internet).
I counted approximately 100 movies and five television shows with a few episodes each. The app also had some exercise guidance and an inflight map. Interestingly, there was a version of Canadian aviation YouTuber Alex Praglowski’s video about the history of Flair Airlines. While I had no problem playing the movies and shows, I was unable to play the Flair history video for some reason.
In addition to the movies and shows, there were also thirteen e-books, 20 comic books and 20 games. Buy-on-board options could also be viewed through the app. There were “Buy” buttons next to each items so presumably you can also make purchases on your phone as well.
Flair’s Boeing 737 MAX 8 has three lavatories: one at the front of the cabin and two at the rear. I visited one of the rear lavatories. While it was quite narrow, it appeared to be relatively clean.
Landing on a Sunny East Coast Morning
We soon began our descent towards the Canadian East Coast. The weather in Halifax was looking better than it was in Ottawa.
Once we touched down in Halifax, our aircraft had a short taxi to the gate, where we parked beside another Flair Airlines jet. After getting off the plane, I saw that it was scheduled to return to Ottawa in approximately 45 minutes.
I had a simple and straightforward flight on Flair. The experience I had exemplified the ultra low-cost carrier model: a cheap ticket, unbundled fares with add-on fees and no bells and whistles during the trip.
Flair has made the news in the past for leaving passengers stranded for days when flights get cancelled. This is an inevitable consequence with a smaller low-cost carrier with a limited fleet and less-than-daily frequencies on some routes. I booked our cheap fare knowing that I was traveling for leisure and that I would likely be able to buy a ticket on another flight on the day of travel if needed. That being said, our flight went without a hitch and I would definitely consider flying with Flair again in the future under similar circumstances.