Anyone planning to fly NewLeaf out of Saskatchewan is out of luck this fall.
The low-budget travel operator said it will be suspending flights out of Regina and Saskatoon in November and early December.
NewLeaf released its core schedule Thursday and excluded from its fall itinerary are four major cities – Regina, Saskatoon, Victoria and Kamloops B.C.
NewLeaf CEO and President Jim Young said the suspension is due to demand.
“That is one of our lowest periods of the year for leisure travel and so, as a result we don’t want to be flying expensive airplanes with only 30 people on them,” Young said.
He said they plan to resume flights in mid-December for the holidays.
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According to the University of Regina associate professor of economics, Jason Childs, the flip-flop in schedule may hurt the company’s credibility.
“It’s going to hurt their perceived reliability. If you’re looking to book a flight three months out, are you going to book on an airline that may or may not be flying in three months?” Childs said.
“One of the problems any startup like NewLeaf is going to have is uncertainty of passengers on their travel schedule and how reliable they’re going to be.”
However, Young said he disagrees. He said he thinks customers will continue to book with the travel operator.
“Economists don’t run airlines or travel companies or a combination of the two like we do. We’re taking a look at the actual raw figures, and the actual revenues and expenses against that,” Young explained.
“We think our plan will get customer support as of the overwhelming response we’ve received so far.”
The grounded service is another blow to travelers in Regina. Kunal Patel flies out of the city at least three times a year and said options are lacking.
“Not enough… We are short airlines and prices are going to be high. If there is more competition, then prices are going to be cheaper as well,” Patel said.
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It’s a thought echoed by Derek Stykalo who said it’s a trek to travel sometimes.
“We have a young family, two young kids so it’s always an extra bit of work to get through an extra airport so if there was a direct flight, it’s something we would look at,” Stykalo said.
Over the past three years, Regina has lost two major international airlines — grounding service to cities like Denver, Chicago, and Minneapolis.
Regina airport authority’s Dick Graham said it has been a challenge to navigate.
“A large part of my day is spent trying to address our trans-border needs. We’ve got 7,500 to 8,000 passengers a month that are looking to move trans-border,” he explained.
Graham maintains there is enough traffic to draw major airlines back. He said they continue their talks with the airlines.