The chief executive of Canadian ultra-low-cost carrier Flair Airlines has accused a major unnamed rival of working with a U.S.-based hedge fund to have four of its leased Boeing 737MAX aircraft grounded and seized without warning.
The four jets were suddenly repossessed on Saturday in a dispute over a missed $1 million lease payment, forcing upstart budget airline Flair to cancel a slew of flights that left 1,900 passengers stranded.
Flair Airlines admits that it was several days behind the leasing payment but said the funds were now on the way to Airborne Capital which took the highly unusual step of seizing its aircraft so quickly.
While the leased Boeing 737MAX jets remain grounded, Flair has managed to restore its schedule by reactivating some stored planes it had on standby for the busy summer rush.
The airline’s chief executive Stephen Jones has since hit out at both Airborne Capital and an unnamed Canadian competitor who he has accused of working with one another to disrupt Flair’s presence in the market.
“We have come in and upset the cozy duopoly, and as a consequence, people want us out of business,” Jones told CTV News.
“We do believe there were negotiations going on behind the scenes between one of the majors and the lessor to, you know, hurt Flair by offering above-market rates for the aircraft we have been leasing.”
“There are airlines out there that don’t want Flair to exist, and it doesn’t surprise me. We are a challenger to the status quo,” Jones continued.
Air Canada has denied speaking to any aircraft lessors about the matter, while Westjet did not respond to a request for comment from CTV.
Jones did not name the airline that he believed may have approached Airborne Capital or provide any evidence to back up his claims.
In a statement, Flair said it was “committed to service for our passengers and are proud to have returned to normal operations across our network”.
“There were no cancellations yesterday and the airline has brought four additional planes into service today. We do not anticipate any further disruptions to our route map,” the statement continued.
“Flair is committed to providing affordable airfare for Canadians. We know our presence results in lower fares, for all. Flair will fly and we will thrive. We will continue to deliver the lowest fares on offer to Canadians.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.