Discount company NewLeaf Travel says ‘sorry Alberta’ and cancels Arizona, Florida flights

Click to play video: 'Families say NewLeaf ticket refunds are not enough' Families say NewLeaf ticket refunds are not enough
WATCH ABOVE: Calgary families want more compensation after discount flyer NewLeaf pulls the plug on sun destination flights to Phoenix. Gary Bobrovitz reports – Jan 4, 2017

Impacted passengers say ticket refunds for cancelled flights aren’t good enough after Winnipeg-based discount travel company NewLeaf announced in a Facebook post Tuesday it will cancel its planned flight service to Phoenix-Mesa in 2017.

READ MORE: ‘Ultra low fare’ travel company NewLeaf launches flights from YYC Saturday

Two groups of Calgarians said Wednesday their February Family Day holiday trips to Phoenix are now in shambles after NewLeaf abruptly dropped the service.

“Now to re-book on those days that we were planning to go (over Family Day) is about triple the cost,” Lindsay Flynn said. "And we can’t afford to spend that much money.” 
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She was planning to fly to Phoenix with her two children next month.

Another Calgary family who was flying with NewLeaf said they lost money with other travel-related expenses.

“We are out about $4,000 with the rental for the property and car rental–just that alone,” said Stephanie Fitzgerald.

NewLeaf is calling the cancellations a case of “the big guy squishing the little guy.”

“We didn’t necessarily expect to receive such strong competition on  a route that was never served before and within hours of our announcement … that airport [Mesa] had been contacted by WestJet to put service in,” director of marketing and communications Julie Rempel told Global News.

“Despite all our efforts, in order to make it profitable, we just felt at this time we couldn’t turn that corner.”

The post attributed to Jim Young said “when an airline in Canada found out that NewLeaf was servicing Phoenix-Mesa they too decided to follow our schedule” and lowered its fares.

“We are very sorry, Alberta, but we cannot offer service to Phoenix-Mesa this year,” reads the post.

“This is a classic case of the big guy squishing the little guy so that the big guy can profit more…We sincerely hope and in fact challenge the other airlines to keep the fares low for you so that you can still travel south for the winter.”

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The statement says the planned winter Florida route from Hamilton, Ont. will also be postponed.

Watch: A new Edmonton to Phoenix route has been cut and an upstart airline says it’s because it’s being muscled out of the market. Vinesh Pratap explains.

Click to play video: 'NewLeaf feels muscled out of airline market' NewLeaf feels muscled out of airline market
NewLeaf feels muscled out of airline market – Jan 4, 2017

READ MORE: NewLeaf lawsuit – Feds dismiss appeal that airline needs independent air licence

WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart told Global News the Greater Phoenix area is “a very competitive market served by numerous airlines with WestJet included among them.”

“The airline business is more challenging than it seems and this airline appears to be blaming one airline for their woes in a particular market without providing the travelling public the full story.”

READ MORE: Discount travel company NewLeaf frustrates passengers stuck on New Year’s Eve

NewLeaf said it’s in the process of refunding customers their tickets, but can’t cover additional travel-related expenses.

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“We wouldn’t be offering additional compensation for travel not booked through NewLeaf,” Rempel said, adding that while customers may be upset, the company has been “overwhelmed” by support from the public.

“This wasn’t an easy day for us and it wasn’t an easy decision for us but in order to…be in business for the long haul, we needed and wanted to make these decisions that smartly affect the longevity of NewLeaf.

“Our motto is to continue to get people to their destinations affordably, so when we had to do this… it just is not happy day.”

Watch below from Nov. 2016: Are new low-cost airlines charting a new course towards cheaper fares in Canada? As Reid Fiest reports, the entry of NewLeaf Travel is showing some fares are decreasing.

Click to play video: 'New low-cost airlines making a mark in Canadian air travel' New low-cost airlines making a mark in Canadian air travel
New low-cost airlines making a mark in Canadian air travel – Nov 22, 2016

With files from Gary Bobrovitz

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published Jan. 3 and updated with comments from affected passengers Jan. 4.

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