NewLeaf takes flight; new low cost travel company finally hits the sky
WINNIPEG — The first flights by Winnipeg-based NewLeaf Travel have been applauded as a success by passengers.
The first flight to land came from Hamilton, Ont. and despite leaving a few minutes late due to severe weather, arrived on time.
“The crew was fantastic,” said Caroline Newton, as she arrived at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. “Very professional. Everybody was really delightful. It was wonderful.”
The flight from Kelowna, B.C. that was scheduled to land minutes later, was delayed by roughly an hour.
“The flight this morning was due to the overwhelming number of people on there,” said CEO Jim Young. “It’s our first day of operations so just getting everyone on there and boarded.”
It was a rough start for NewLeaf. The company has faced an uphill battle since it launched in January.
But a week after the company started selling tickets, it hit some turbulence over whether it needed a licence to operate. NewLeaf suspended ticket sales and refunded flights it had scheduled for February as it awaited a ruling from the Canadian Transportation Agency.
“The journey to get here hasn’t been without challenges, but today is proof that we are a dedicated group of individuals who are committed to providing Canadians with a good deal,” said Young.
In June, the Federal Court of Appeal agreed to hear an appeal by an air passenger rights advocate regarding whether the CTA has the authority to permit NewLeaf to operate without a licence.
The court likely won’t hear the appeal until at least the fall.
“From what we understand from the court, they are still proceeding with the appeal and we will be respsonding to it with our attornies,” said Young.
While the tickets may be cheaper than if you book with another airline, the add-ons can be costly, especially if you don’t pre-purchase them at home.
“There were a lot of just little added fees,” said Jacqueline Mignot. “For doing the checked bag it was $30. I usually only take carry on (luggage) but it would have been $40 to do it as a carry-on. So that was a little bit disappointing.”
It’s part of the reason the company has said it is able to keep fares low.
NewLeaf charges for carry-on bags. If you pre-pay for your carry-on from home it will cost $31.50. However, if you need to make a last minute check-in at the gate for that carry-on bag it will set you back $80.
Passengers first checked piece of luggage starts at $26.25 online but jumps to $40 if you check it when you first arrive at the airport. If you wait until you get to the gate it will set you back $70.
Despite the cost of add-ons many passengers said the discount deal, which can often be half the price of the competition, was worth it.
“It was so much cheaper,” said Steven Sovran, who was travelling with his family of four. “It really makes everything affordable. It means these two kids can really get to know their grandparents here in Winnipeg.”
While the first flights took off Monday, the company said it is already looking at expanding into more cities and adding sun destinations by the end of the year.
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