It’s been a long 18 COVID months, but things are looking up. After a slow start, vaccinations are going into arms at a globe leading rate, and more and more are fully vaccinated: including me. Time to think travel.
While helping a friend find cheap flights, I came upon a deal I could not ignore. $49 ($40 US) one-way fares on the short hop from Toronto-Pearson (YYZ) to Ottawa (YOW) on Flair Airlines, a small but rapidly expanding Canadian ULCC. For years they flew 737-400s mostly on charters but have recently—led by an ex-Wizz Air executive—moved to buy a baker’s dozen 737-8 Maxes, one of which I would be flying on.
Before I continue: If you are looking for a review of in-flight IFE you can stop reading now. Other than the window there wasn’t any. While they have plans to use LiFE in the Air’s wireless IFE, it was not in service on my flight. Saying that, if you are interested in the rest of Flair, feel free to read on.
IT Challenges detract from a simple, effective service
Flair is a true ULCC—everything costs extra, other than the base fare to access the plane —including carry on. Given I was on a day trip, I just went with my personal item, but I did buy a seat assignment just so I could get a view.
The IT Challenges Begin
Check-in was via their mobile site and went mostly smoothly. Disappointingly I was unable to change my seat assignment when checking in; 27A was going to be my seat.
There was also no way to save my boarding pass on my phone—just as a printable PDF. In the end I was able to get the app to display the pass, but only by keeping the app open on the check-in screen. This not-quite-ready-for-prime-time IT feel from Air Black Box would become a theme.
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Got to the airport with way too much time on my hands (thanks COVID affected weekend train schedules!) but time to see if I could change my seat in an airport kiosk. Well, Flair doesn’t use the common check in kiosks at YYZ, and their counters were directing folks to use their app to check in.
So, 27A it is.
Quickly through security to get a coffee and down the empty concourse to where my flight is leaving. The crowd of 30 or so indicates an empty 737 this morning. The plane is late but eventually arrives with the two gate agents indicating we should leave just a few minutes behind schedule as the load is light. Folks are off the plane quickly and the grooming (done by the flight attendants I assume) takes just minutes, and we are ready to board.
Let’s Go Fly! Eventually…
It took more than 30 minutes to board 30 or so passengers.
With two agents.
Each passenger steps up and passes their ID and boarding pass to the first gate agent (ID is checked in Canada by the airline at the gate not at security by CATSA). Then pull down your mask “bit further please” to confirm ID.
Then inexplicably your ID is passed to the other agent who writes something and crosses off something else on a piece of paper, then passed back to the first agent then to you.
Then your boarding pass is scanned. Then scanned again. “Seat 27A, right?” Scanned again. Typing typing typing. Phone is passed back with a friendly “Have a good flight!”
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Michael O’Leary would be having an aneurism if he was watching this. Don’t even try to compare this to a Japanese domestic trunk route. This airline’s IT is not ready for prime time.
Eventually we are all boarded and on our way.
The plane itself? The flight? Yawn. A bog standard 737-8 MAX. Grey seats. OK enough standard legroom. Gasper vents. New plane smell. C-FFBC may have been built nearly two years ago but was delivered just last month. Four young flight attendants do a manual demo—recorded audio en français—but that is about all we see of them. No service at all “due to COVID” and the 44-minute flight is bumpy, so the seatbelt sign stays on the whole flight. No visit to the tiny MAX toilets.
Would I fly them again? Sure, if the price and schedule with the extras I need is competitive. We need more competition in Canada, and I hope they stick around for a bit.
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J. Dunn says
Just had great flights Waterloo Ont. Airport direct to Victoria B.C. in Sept/21, 2 wks.apart to tour the area and see Family too.
Paid extra for seat with more legroom and my checked luggage.
On time, friendly staff. Flights almost filled both times, orderly embarkation and the opposite. . No frills, no food or drink to purchase or receive on board.
No wifi in flight movies or music, would still happily fly again with Flair Air anytime. FAB price, great Pilots and crew and new airplanes are a Win/Win for me and my Husband. Thank you Flair Air!
Never fly with them again Flair Airline. Terrible service, delayed, scam company they did cancellation few days before departure with no refund and they ask to rebook on coming days. What about my reservation with other flight should I cancel? Everything mixed up and no care about your plan, no answers on phone, chatting with automatic messages. Cheap company means cheap be AWARE!
I haven’t actually made it on the plane yet but have a trip out west in Oct. Ottawa-Vancouver-Edmonton back to Ottawa. I had to get n contact with customer service regarding my profile information. After a few back and forth, they sent my itineraries. I noticed no itinerary on the Edmonton -Ottawa flight. The agent then informed me flight cancelled, he offered to rebook for me. When I asked for date before booking he came back and stated no flights at all. They have gladly given me a refund. Although this flight wasn’t until Oct 25, my question is when would I have been notified. When I asked if I would be notified if other flights were cancelled, the response was “I hope so”. So paranoia has set in and I check every day if flights are still on. I hope their notification to customers gets better, since alternate flights would obviously need to be booked. I am still looking forward to the rest of my experience with Flair.
Brian Bukowski says
IT issues seem to be the issue with Flair. A friend flew them recently YOW – YYZ with their 18 month old kid. By law, they are to be seated together. Upon checkin, they were rows apart! There is no way for Flair to manage this outside of “at the gate” (the call centre wanted to charge them for the seats).
Check in was unable to help at YOW.
At least the gate handled it correctly and with no fuss.
I’ve flown a couple times with Flair on the Edmonton to Kitchener route. Their rates are great but you do make a few sacrifices with them.
The recliner seats are disabled. The few extra millimeters of comfort you hope to enjoy once that seatbelt light goes off will not be had.
There are no charger plug ins. Make sure your devices are fully charged before boarding.
There were no snacks or beverages for sale on the plane. Make sure you have your purse or backpack supplied with a little nosh if you want to make sure you have something to fight that mid air stomach growling. Cups of water will be provided but anything else will need to be purchased once you get through security.
As mentioned in the article, your ability to select your seat is only available when you make your purchase or pay before checking in. The IT doesn’t allow you to pick your spot when you check in like most airlines. So if sitting with your traveling companions is important, pay the few extra bucks when you book. My experience with Flair has had me “randomly” placed in centre seats every flight so far. Unfortunately for Flair, my flights were about 1/3 full and once at cruising altitude, I was able to move to my own row of seats to try and get comfortable in with their “no recliner” seats.
For the money $69.99, one way, YEG to YKF, you will be a happier flyer if you are prepared with a charged phone, laptop or tablet with something downloaded and something to munch or sip on.
Definitely hope to see Flair sticking around giving the frugal flyer options for future flights.
Tamara Johnson says
Just flew Flair this past weekend Kitchener/Waterloo to Winnipeg return. I installed the app on my phone to easily access my itinerary, sadly it did no show. When I left I reciev3d an email indicating that I could check in 24 hrs prior but sadly did not recieve the same email for my return.
Like the article said there is no service due to covid (however I did fly westjet early September and they did beverage and pretzel service). So I recommend bring an empty thermos and once you get through security purchase your hot beverage and empty it in the thermos for your flight.
The flight crew were pleasant when you saw them before the flight and after the flight. During the flight they stayed up where the galley is with the curtain drawn the entire time. Their seat belt check for landing was very quick and I wanted to point this out because a family was sitting across the aisle from me and while we were decending the mother was trying to make phone calls on her cell and her 8 yr old (guessing) was sitting so far forward almost off the seat playing with her infant brother during landing.
For an inexpensive getaway they fit the bill. I do love that the offer service out of the smaller airports.
We had a trip from Kitchener Waterloo to Victoria BC on October 2nd and returned on the 16th .Both flights were ahead of schedule by 30 minutes and for the price we were very happy.
Raymond Moffat says
I was booked on Westjet to LAS for a 1pm flight. Just happen to wake up at 3:00 am with an email stating it was cancelled and would be rescheduled another day.
Quick thinking I checked the flight and notice Flair was leaving at 6:30 am and the price was just $97.00. Booked three hours and half hours before flight. Got to airport two hours before. Got on plane and there was only 16 people. Got ten seats to myself and we left early and arrived at my destination early. Way to go Flair. My new to go to airline.
If there are only 16 people on the regular this may not be your (or anyone else’s) go-to airline soon.
Just flew Kitchener to Vancouver. Got Timmies beforehand, as the cabin service was paid only – coffee/tea is $3 a cup. Extra legroom seats are well worth it. Entertainment is via your own screen – they have a few movies you can stream for free, but assume you’re on your own. Easy boarding, on-time departure, arrived 20 mins early. For $380 roundtrip to Vancouver (including extra legroom) I’m totally happy with this.