Editor’s note: This story previously said Garth Lund is Flair Airlines’ CEO, but has been updated to identify him as the company’s chief commercial officer (CCO).
Flair Airlines, an independent low-cost carrier based out of Edmonton, has announced flights from five Canadian airports to Tucson, Arizona starting next winter — including three in Alberta.
According to Flair Airlines chief commercial officer Garth Lund, the Edmonton International Airport and Fort McMurray International Airport will see twice-weekly service.
The Lethbridge Airport, the Prince George Airport in northern B.C. and the Windsor International Airport in Ontario will have one flight per week.
The service to the Tucson International Airport will begin in late November and early December, and run into March 2023.
“What’s really exciting about this is — aside from Edmonton — most of these cities don’t right now have non-stop affordable service to the sun,” Lund said during a Tuesday news conference.
Currently, the Lethbridge Airport only has one major carrier: WestJet became the sole airline servicing YQL after Air Canada dropped its routes in March 2020.
“This new announcement today really is the impetus for international travel,” said Lisa Trent, the director of corporate, customer, and commercial services at the Lethbridge Airport.
The city has been garnering feedback about preferred airline destinations from people who live in and around Lethbridge through the My YQL survey.
“Over 80 per cent of the respondents actually identified (United States) sun destinations, with Arizona being a top identified destination,” Trent continued.
“So we’re truly listening to the people and we want to continue to invite feedback from the community to inform how we think about future expansion.”
“Lethbridge has relatively limited air connectivity, and most people are needing to connect somewhere. So I think this is a great option for people.”
Tucson is one of the southern state’s largest cities. Lund said while it might not be as well-known as some other more-established southern U.S. travel destinations like Phoenix and Palm Springs, the airline is looking to help change that.
“The sunshine, the resorts, the golf, the hiking, you know it has so many great things to offer,” he said. “As long as we work with Visit Tucson to get that message out to prospective visitors, I think it will be very popular.
“I’ve been here the past few days (and) it’s a really nice place to come and visit.”
Lethbridge Mayor Blaine Hyggen said he sees the partnership taking off.
“The City of Lethbridge has been proactively investing in our airport to position us for an opportunity just like this and we are thrilled to welcome Flair Airlines to our community,” Hyggen said in a statement.
“I’m excited for this new partnership and I’m certain this will be a hot ticket for all southern Albertans.”
According to the city, one-way direct flight from Lethbridge to Tucson is expected to cost about $125.
When it comes to demand for the routes, Lund said the airline is offering an attractive schedule, adding Flair’s lower cost operational business model will allow it to offer lower fares and stimulate interest.
Rick Erickson, an independent aviation analyst based out of Calgary, applauds Flair for this step and believes there’s lots of potential going forward.
“Obviously Flair will watch what demand the Lethbridge market is capable of creating. Who knows? Maybe Phoenix might make some sense at some point, possibly Las Vegas. Palm Springs is also another spot where a lot of Albertans (have) winter homes.
“I think this could be the start of something very promising for the Lethbridge market.”
In December 2021, the airline announced 30 new planes would hit the sky in less than two years’ time to reach its goal of having a fleet of 50 by 2025.
— With files from Taz Dhaliwal and Jessika Guse, Global News