Canada new low cost airline prepares to take flight, Vancoucer

Christmas doesn't always mean a traditional tree and turkey at home. Instead, thousands of Vancouverites spend their holidays basking in the sun or visiting family and friends across the globe.

Traditionally the cost to travel out of YVR during the holidays has been high, but if all goes according to plan by Christmas 2014 travellers might have a choice when it comes to Western Canada and tropical destinations.

A group of aviation experts hopes to launch an "ultra, low-cost" commercial carrier out of Vancouver International Airport by next fall.

Jetlines will follow the same "à la carte" model used by low-cost discount airlines such as Ryanair, which services much of Europe and the U.K., and Allegiant Air, which flies out of Bellingham and Seattle.

Aviation veteran David Solloway said the group began work on the project more than a year ago. Canada Jetlines Ltd. is made up of Solloway, Jim Scott, president of AirCore Aviation, and Dix Lawson, who has a master's degree in project management.

The group completed a feasibility study with assistance from InterVISTAS Consulting Group and aircraft manufacturer Air Bus.

"It's a very detailed plan," said Solloway. "And what we discovered through our research is that every year five million Canadians cross the border into the U.S. to get low airfares."

He explained the key is "unbundling" services, such as the purchase of food, beverages and carry-on and checked baggage. It's the same model used by Allegiant, founded in 1997 in Fresno, Calif.

In 2000, the airline filed for bankruptcy, but shortly after was restructured as a low-cost airline. According to Allegiant its approach is a popular model and the airline has shown a profit each quarter since 2003, despite industry challenges.

An Internet search Monday morning showed a last-minute Allegiant flight from Bellingham to Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 23 returning Jan. 8, was $763 including tax, the cost to check a bag both ways and seat selection.

Beverages, including water, typically free on most carriers must also be purchased, as is food. The lowest rate for an Air Canada flight from YVR, also leaving Dec. 23 for Hawaii, returning Jan. 6, was $1,820.28 tax included.

Solloway said the first goal of Jetlines Canada is to offer affordable flights to areas west of Winnipeg, which he says are underserved, expensive to travel to, or have no service.

"I had to travel to Prince George once at the last minute and it cost $800," said Solloway.

"We're proposing a one-way flight to Prince George for $72, plus between $35 to $37 in taxes and airport fees."

Vanessa Griffiths, executive director of the B.C. Aviation Council, agrees flights within the province are expensive. "So there's room for competition," said Griffiths.

"And I'm always in support of giving customers an option."

Griffiths confirmed Canadian carriers are losing many customers to airlines south of the border.

"So as long as they pay fair wages, I'm definitely in support," said Griffiths. "I'm excited to hear about this expansion."

Solloway said there's an 11-item criteria used to determine if there's room in a market for a new airline, including whether a low cost airline is already servicing a region, if there's a pool of talent and if the right planes are available.

"If you can tick off six of those items it's considered a good thing," said Solloway. "We can tick off all 11."


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