The ULCC planned to launch by year’s end strives to challenge entrenched Canadian carriers by becoming the lowest cost carrier in the country.
As we’ve covered here at Kambr Media, the Canadian airspace makes for a unique commercial aviation market. According to Kristine Owram of Financial Post, “Canada is a notoriously difficult place to start an airline for many reasons, including its sparse population, high taxes and fees, and restrictions on foreign ownership.”
This has culminated in many failed attempts to establish a true ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC) in Canada. Jetsgo, Zoom Airlines and Greyhound Air are among a number of airlines that failed to crack the complex market.
But now comes a new era with a host of new entrants. The likes of Flair Airlines, Swoop and Jetlines are the newest challengers looking to upend the Canadian airspace. After sitting down with Swoop President Steven Greenway, and with a future interview scheduled for publication with Flair Airlines’ CEO Jim Scott (stay tuned), we rounded out our Canadian ULCC coverage by chatting with Jetlines CEO Javier Suarez. Suarez gives us his take on the Canadian aviation market and outlines the carrier’s plans.
Kambr Media: With yourself, Swoop and Flair, there are a lot of upstart airlines coming into the picture. What do you make of the Canadian (ultra) low-cost carrier market?
Javier Suarez: Jetlines will be Canada’s Lowest Fares Airline. We are ahead of the other two airlines in the sense that we are building an ULCC from scratch using those ingredients that make airlines successful. Flair is transitioning from being a charter airline to becoming a LCC. Swoop is an airline within an airline. If you look at similar airlines that tried this approach in North America, you will see that they did not succeed.
There are two airlines just entering the Canadian Domestic market with some sort of LCC approach. I am not worried as there is still a huge market opportunity, as we are nowhere near the level of LCC penetration that we see in other developed countries.
How do you differentiate yourself in this space?
We are going to be the absolute lowest cost operator in Canada. Our fares will be the lowest, and customers tired of paying really high fares will see great value in our proposition.
What do you think of the consolidation in the Canadian airspace with the (pending) Westjet and Air Transat deals?
Air Canada-Transat tie up will significantly reduce consumer options to both sun destinations and Europe. Air Canada is the largest Airline in Montreal with 55% of the total number of seats followed by Air Transat with 11% of the seats – Combined entity would control 66% of the seats in Montreal. This is terrible news for people in Quebec.
An airline like Jetlines is what the Canadian market needs to ensure Canadians have access to affordable fares in the long term.
How have you been preparing for your launch of commercial services?
We have a small but very talented commercial and e-commerce team with us lead by Jordi Porcel, our Chief Marketing, Sales & Customer Officer. We have also partnered with Marketing Agency Cossette and have our marketing launch plan ready to be executed as soon as the Canadian Authorities give us permission to start selling tickets.
What's your network strategy?
Last time Jetlines shared our network strategy, Westjet’s pink subsidiary cloned our Network. We are keeping it to ourselves for now.
What type of aircraft will you fly?
We have signed a lease agreement and the plan is for us to receive two Airbus320’s with 180 seats in November this year.
What's your distribution strategy? For instance, do you plan on going direct or working with a GDS?
Often LCCs try to generate all their sales through direct channels but they soon realize this is not enough we are working with other Online Travel Agencies, Metasearch Engines and aggregators so that they can sell our inventory.
Who is your target customer?
We are targeting price sensitive passengers mainly flying to visit friends and relatives as well as leisure travellers with or without their families. Additionally, we have no doubt that small and medium size companies, will chose to fly Jetlines as soon as we start serving the routes they need for their business.
You recently underwent a bold new rebrand. What was the strategy there?
To succeed, we need to be different and that means having a brand that communicates with Canadians differently. A brand they will talk about and recommend given the value added to them.
Jetlines was founded in 2013, but still has yet to fly. What have been the major hurdles to getting in the air?
The biggest barrier to getting a ULCC off the ground is the duopoly in Canada. We want to raise awareness of this so that the competition bureau can continue their work and level the playing field, so that we can increase competition and decrease fares in Canada.
Jetlines called out the lack of Canadian Airline Competition with the First-Ever Protest in the Sky last week. What was your goal?
Our goal was to rally Canadians, investors and the Competition Bureau around the idea of increased competition and decreased airfares.
This was the first-ever air protest of its kind that took place in the sky. Using four planes and 18 skydivers, 20 GoPros and lots of planning, an airborne protest was staged to call out the lack of Canadian airline competition. Like any other protest, we had our jumpers and myself holding up signs about the duopoly in Canada and the very high Canadian airfares that consumers are forced to pay. It’s also a call to the Competition Bureau to act quickly on their investigation over Westjet/Swoop predatory pricing.
Do you have any goals or targets set? What would a 2020 and beyond look like for Jetlines?
Our plan is to launch December 17th this year. In 2020, you should expect to see a very unique airline that is disrupting the market growing rapidly offering unprecedented fares in our markets.