As former low-cost carrier WestJet prepares to upgrade their fleet and purchase new, far-reaching planes to expand their network into Europe and possibly beyond, a door has opened in the Canadian air travel market for a replacement no-frills carrier or two. WestJet’s initial strategy of being the budget alternative to the nation’s flagship airline has quickly morphed in to direct competition and ticket prices more in-line with Air Canada’s, leaving their low-cost model successfully behind.
While charter airlines Air Transat, Sunwing and even Air Canada’s discount carrier rouge shuttle the holiday market to The Caribbean, Mexico and operate limited seasonal domestic routes, Air Canada and WestJet (including WestJet’s regional Encore) are currently basking in owning up to 85% of Canada’s domestic market with Porter Airlines’ puddle jumping service making up the remaining 15%. This lack of competition in Canadian skies has driven domestic fares up and has left travellers disgruntled and more than ready to pay less. Enter Vancouver based Jetlines and their soon to be rival, Calgary’s super-marketable Jet Naked.
Both companies are aiming for a spring 2015 launch and see an opportunity that has been explored before but both are determined to stick with their ultra-low-cost model to make it work. Start-up, flash-in-the-pan charter airlines are nothing new to Canadians, some still bitter at how quickly and easily they seemed to have unraveled in the past. JetsGo, Canada 3000 and CanJet may have left a bad taste in the mouths of those affected by sudden shutdowns and overnight bankruptcies leaving travellers stranded abroad in some cases and scrambling for alternative modes of travel in others but the prospect of saving up to 40% on current Air Canada and WestJet domestic airfares also makes people forgive and forget fast.
Neither Jetlines nor Jet Naked have released details on exact routes or the exact cost of tickets but both promise a reliable, safe and cheap travel experience for Canadians feeling strapped by the cost of flying Air Canada and WestJet. Jetlines plan to operate Airbus A319 aircraft and use some of Canada’s secondary airports to cut landing fees. They plan to focus on the west coast and their no bells or whistles service will also come with a more streamlined staff on board, further cutting their operating costs.
Alternatively, Jet Naked will use Boeing B737’s and operate in a very similar fashion to keep costs low, looking at U.S. based Spirit and Frontier Airlines as examples of successful start-up models. Budget airfares will cover only the cost of the seat with everything from carry-on and checked baggage to meals and entertainment costing an optional extra. Both carriers have also not ruled out U.S. destinations and possibly even select holiday spots in the sun in their future and that future, if you ask my wallet, couldn’t come fast enough.