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.
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!”
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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