Flair Airlines unveils its first Boeing 737 MAX

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WATCH: Flair Airlines rolled out its first Boeing 737 MAX on Thursday before flying the first passenger flight from Edmonton to Toronto. As Michael King reports, industry experts say the expansion is well timed. – Jun 10, 2021

The latest addition to Flair Airline’s fleet was unveiled on Thursday, with the Alberta-based carrier flying its first-ever passenger flight with a Boeing 737 MAX.

The flight took off from Edmonton after a low-altitude flyby and water cannon salute to mark the occasion.

The aircraft is just the first of 13 MAXs on order for Flair, with a second already delivered and the rest expected by the end of 2021.

“It’s a very exciting milestone for the company today,” said Flair Airlines CEO Stephen Jones. “This is the platform with which we’re going to build a true independent ultra low-cost carrier.”

Read more: Edmonton-based Flair Airlines adds 13 Boeing 737 Max planes to fleet

The fleet expansion comes just months after the airline nearly doubled its route network by adding eight new destinations including Ottawa, Halifax and Victoria.

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Jones said it is Flair’s time to start taking a larger share of Canada’s travel market.

“We believe that fares in Canada have been too high for too long,” said Jones. “So we want liberate Canadians to travel more and actually stimulate the demand.”

Airline industry analyst Rick Erickson said the rapid growth makes sense with travel starting to build back up to pre-pandemic levels.

“There are gates open and there are terminal facilities available to get your airplanes in,” said Erickson. “If we don’t have some reset with the pandemic, I think there’s an opportunity here that we’ve not seen before.”

Passenger experience

Erickson, who has flown on the MAX with a different airline, says the new narrow-body offering from Boeing is a step up from previous 737 models.

“It’s quiet and very powerful with bigger windows. There’s more plastic in terms of the airplane (construction) so the humidity levels inside were higher,” said Erickson. “I thought the whole thing was quite comfortable.”

Read more: 3 Canadian 737 MAX jets grounded after Boeing warns of possible electrical issue

But as with anything on the lower end of the price range, there are some compromises.

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Flair has ordered a higher-density version of the MAX, with about 15 more seats than WestJet and Air Canada. Erikson warns travellers to fully understand what they’re paying for and what they’re not.

“If you’re going to go ultra-low cost, make sure you read the fine print with a very close eye,” said Erickson. “Everything you want in terms of comfort, convenience or flexibility, you will pay extra for.”

MAX confidence

The Boeing 737 MAX was grounded worldwide for nearly two years following two deadly crashes.

Transport Canada lifted its grounding order for the aircraft in January after approving design changes to the plane and requiring pilots to undergo additional training.

Read more: Canada OKs troubled Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets to resume service this week

But since then, an unrelated issue forced more than 100 MAX aircraft to undergo mandatory maintenance.

The new problem involved the electrical grounding – or connections designed to maintain safety in the event of a surge of voltage – inside a backup power control system.

Click to play video: 'Will travellers be able to trust flying on Boeing 737 MAX?' Will travellers be able to trust flying on Boeing 737 MAX?
Will travellers be able to trust flying on Boeing 737 MAX? – Jan 21, 2021

Darren Hulst, Boeing’s vice president of corporate marketing, said that issue may have caused some slight delays but there’s no ongoing concern.

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“These airplanes have now been delivered and we continue to work with Flair for continued deliveries in the near future,” said Hulst.

Erickson said he sees zero issue with the safety of the MAX.

“There were some issues with the airplane and I believe those all have been resolved,” said Erickson. “I have no safety issues whatsoever with the aircraft and I don’t think really anybody else in Canada should.”

At least one other MAX has been delivered to Calgary with most of the remaining orders expected to arrive by the end of 2021.

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