Ultra-low-cost carrier Canada Jetlines is one step closer to taking off. The company announced its first flights will be based out of two hubs about an hour’s drive from Toronto, starting next summer.
President and CEO Stan Gadek said the airline has struck a deal with John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Ont. and is in active discussions with the Region of Waterloo International Airport. The company said it plans to offer flights across Canada, as well as non-stop service to the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean.
“Our target customers are people who want to save money,” Gadek told the Business News Network on Monday. “People ask me how low are those fares going to be? And I will tell you they will be the same as the cost of a pair of jeans.”
Canada Jetlines has yet to release more precise pricing information.
The planned launch will pit the company directly against WestJet Airlines. The larger Calgary-based carrier has pushed back its plans to launch its own ultra-low-cost offering to the middle of 2018 from the end of this year.
Gadek said Canada Jetlines aims to lure thrifty travelers by offering lower fares and providing such services as checked baggage, seat selection, and in-flight beverages on an a-la-carte basis.
“Canadians are overpaying for air travel and we intend to change that by offering customers the freedom to select the travel experience they want,” he said in a media release.
Canada Jetlines plans to operate Boeing 737-800NG aircraft, which will seat 189 passengers in an “all coach” configuration.
No-frills air travel has been a key focus for Canada’s aviation industry, but attempts to launch a successful discount alternative have faced major headwinds.
NewLeaf grabbed headlines last year, offering $99 fares from secondary airports such as Hamilton and Abbotsford, B.C. The company has since been acquired by Flair Air. Those $99 flights are no longer widely available. Enerjet, a small charter operation run by one of WestJet’s founders, has also struggled to gain significant market share.
Meanwhile, Canada’s largest carrier is shattering expectations on Bay Street with strong metrics across the board. Air Canada’s profits soared to $300 million for the quarter ending June 30, up from the $186 million a year ago, as traffic increased and costs dropped.
Gadek said he is confident his company’s focus on reining in costs will prove successful against larger rivals.
“We will have the lowest costs compared to any Canadian, or U.S. carriers for that matter, including the ultra-low cost carriers,” he said. “When you have the lowest costs, you can offer the lowest price point … at a point well below their breakeven point. So even if they fill up 100 per cent, they’ll be losing money.”