Ultra-low-cost carriers in Canada (ULCC) have finally arrived. Okay, they’ve been around (on and off) for quite a few years, but with WestJet’s recent announcement that their ULCC, Swoop is set to take off next summer, Canadians are excited about cheap airfare.
The reality is, Canadians feel like they pay way too much for flights. It’s not uncommon for flights from Toronto to Vancouver to cost more than Toronto to Europe. That’s right, at times, it’s cheaper to fly to Europe than it is to fly within Canada. If these new ultra-low-cost carriers offer competitive prices with good routes, then demand will be high. Let’s take a look at the ULCC carriers to see what they’re all about.
Who are the ultra-low-cost carriers in Canada?
There are currently 4 announced ultra-low-cost carriers in Canada, but only one has started to fly. It’s also worth noting that although Air Canada Rouge is not a ULCC, there’s a good chance that they’ll lower fares on similar routes to remain competitive. Here’s what we know about the ULCCs. Keep in mind that information is limited right now, so check back regularly as I’ll be updating this article often.
Formerly known as NewLeaf, Flair saw a lot of hype when it was first announced and has mostly delivered. Canadians were attracted by the ridiculous low promotional fares (one-way for $99), but those prices are no longer available. The fares are still pretty good, but calling themselves a ULCC might be a stretch.
Destinations flown: Abbotsford, Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Winnipeg
Destinations coming as of Dec. 15, 2017: Toronto Pearson, Vancouver, Kelowna
Besides the name, there’s not much information currently available about WestJet’s ULCC. Operations are set to start in June 2018, and there will be six Boeing 737-800 airplanes flying at the start. Although destinations have yet to be announced, Swoop has the most potential of all the ULCCs since there is already infrastructure in place from WestJet.
Destinations flown: TBD
FlyToo is a temporary placeholder name by parent company Enerjet. Enerjet is a charter airline but the founders have been trying to reimagine itself as a ULCC for a few years now. Government regulations via the Canadian Transport Agency was an issue, but it appears they have cleared that hurdle for now.
Destinations flown: TBD
Canada Jetlines, or simply Jetlines, will begin flights out of Hamilton and Waterloo as of June 1, 2018. Their promotional pricing will be aggressive with 1,000 tickets available at just $10 each. What makes Jetlines interesting is that they already plan to fly to the U.S. in the future.
Destinations flown in 2018: Hamilton, Waterloo, Halifax, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver
Planned future destinations: St. John’s, Las Vegas, Orlando, Montreal, Tampa, Ft. Myers, Ft. Lauderdale, Cancun.
How much do ultra-low-cost carriers cost?
Like all airlines, prices vary depending on season, route, and demand. To help keep costs down, ultra-low-cost carriers will try to operate out of smaller airports where there are fewer taxes. ULCCs operate with more seats compared to traditional flights since it helps reduce operational costs. This is good for consumers since it helps lower fares, but it also means less legroom. In addition, depending on the airline, you’ll likely have to pay for the following extras:
- Carry-on baggage
- Checked baggage
- Seat selection
- Advanced boarding
- Onboard entertainment
When you add up all the extras, prices clearly go up, but there are still opportunities to save. A quick search shows that a return flight in late November on Flair from Hamilton to Edmonton will cost you about $420 which includes baggage. A similar flight on Air Canada from Toronto to Edmonton is closer to $600. That’s a savings of $180!
Of course, that money saved is only worth it if you can get to Hamilton’s airport in a decent amount of time or at a low cost. Your time is valuable, so spending an extra hour to travel to a smaller airport may not be worth the money saved. Read my guide on how to find cheap flights for more money saving tips.
There’s no doubt that ultra-low-cost flights in Canada are something Canadians should be excited about, but as you’ve probably already figured out, convenience may be an issue. If fares truly are ultra-low, then there’s a good chance that ULCCs will do well. That being said, I’m not sure there’s a market to sustain four ULCCs who are coming online around the same time. Regardless, this is an exciting time for Canadian travellers.