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Watch: Flair Airlines addresses travel complaints and cheap YVR flight schedule

What to know about the changing Vancouver travel landscape.

As two major low-cost carriers drop out of the market, Canada's third-largest airline has ramped up service on some of its busiest routes. 

Flair Airlines held a press conference at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on June 14 to announce that it had increased flights across its network for the summer season by 35 per, year over year. The company has also leased two new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. 

The news comes following WestJet's recent decision to dissolve the Sunwing brand after it acquires the low-cost carrier later this year. Additionally, the airline will wind down operations with its budget brand, Swoop, starting this fall.

Given the narrower flight options and pricier tickets likely to result from the merger of former competitors, the latest move is "not good news” for consumers looking to head to warmer getaways, said John Gradek, who teaches at McGill University's aviation management program.

But Flair's top dog says the airline won't raise its prices -- even if the market becomes less competitive. 

Flair Airlines CEO Stephen Jones told V.I.A. that the ultra-low-cost carrier is "committed to bringing low fares as well as great service," noting that they should "come hand-in-hand." 

Jones also contends that Swoop was never "really a low-cost carrier" and believes it was created by WestJet as a strategy to "kill ultra-low-cost carriers." WestJet will not change its capacity but reallocate its formerly-pink Swoop aircraft into its existing network, meaning that there won't be a void to fill. 

Will Vancouver flights get cheaper through Flair's YVR expansion?

Locals looking for the holy grail of ultra-low-cost flight prices shouldn't hold their breath. 

While Flair won't jack up prices if competition eases up, the airline doesn't have a great deal of room for making prices cheaper, Jones noted. 

"You see flights as low as $9," he laughed. "So there's only so far you can go."

Prices won't drop but service on some of Canada's busiest routes will increase this summer. For example, travellers in the Lower Mainland can enjoy additional service on the YVR to the Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ) route.

When Flair first launched, the company focused on expanding its network across North America, connecting multiple cities to key urban centres across Canada. In its latest expansion, most of the additional service will increase frequency on busy routes, which will help travellers facing flight delays or cancellations. 

After the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) released its most recent data on the number of air travel complaints per 100 flights, the Canadian Press ran a story with a headline stating that Flair had the most complaints of any airline.

Jones characterized the story as "completely misleading," noting that the ranking is based on complaints per 100 flights rather than the total number of flights. While Flair had the highest number of complaints per 100 flights, at 15.3, other airlines had significantly more complaints overall. 

"So the actual numbers of complaints for Flair were 239, Sunwing had 894," he remarked, adding that Air Canada and WestJet, Canada's two largest airlines, had upwards of 3,200 complaints each in the same period.

Jones went on to comment on the circumstances the airline faced during the travel period, emphasizing how events like Canada's tumultuous 2022 summer travel season, the catastrophic winter storms over the holidays, and having four of its aircraft seized affected its operations.

Flair has also committed to releasing its monthly operational performance metrics, including "completion factor, on-time performance, load factor, passengers, and emissions," which is a first for a Canadian airline. 

Flair launches customer service team

While Flair has reported an overall improvement, many travellers have reported negative experiences, including several that say they were left stranded at the eleventh hour or had to turn to the media to receive compensation

By increasing the depth of its existing routes, the carrier will have more options available for travellers who face delays and cancellations. Larger airlines, such as Air Canada and WestJet, have numerous departures daily on popular routes, providing more flexibility for customers in these situations. 

The Flair Airlines Customer Service Team, a new, specialized team based in Montreal, will also offer "personalized support" to customers by gathering feedback from customers and addressing inquiries from the CTA.

Jones said most passengers have a positive experience with Flair but admitted that it "has not always met our customers' expectations." 

Moving forward, the airline plans to rectify its previous issues with the new customer service team and its expanding flight fleet. 

With files from the Canadian Press.