WINNIPEG — It was a turbulent start for low-cost airline NewLeaf, but the inaugural flights finally took off on Monday at Winnipeg’s James Richardson International Airport.
The Winnipeg-based company held a splashy launch in cities across the country in January, but couldn’t get off the ground after the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) conducted a review of its licensing requirements.
The first NewLeaf flight touched down in Winnipeg shortly after noon from Hamilton, Ontario.
Passenger Caroline Newton and her boyfriend were the first of about 150 passengers to step off the plane.
“It was fun. Everybody was charming, it was exciting and there were water cannons when we arrived,” Newton said.
She said the cost savings were about $200 each compared to competitor pricing.
NewLeaf won’t be operating the flights itself, rather relying on Kelowna-based Flair Air to fly three Boeing 737-400 passenger jets. NewLeaf acts as a ticket reseller to offer seats at discounted fares.
NewLeaf will service 11 destinations in its network, with additional cities to be added in the future. Early bookings were already sold out this week, with 16,000 passengers already purchasing tickets.
Company president and CEO Jim Young says NewLeaf plans to announce sunny destinations down south later this summer or early fall for the upcoming winter season.
“We’ve accomplished a lot, and walked through many hurdles in order to deliver an ultra-low-cost travel service,” he said.
NewLeaf recently introduced a direct Winnipeg to Edmonton route for $99, including all taxes and fees.
The CTA ruled in the airline’s favour in late March, however, an appeal to that decision by air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs remains before the courts.
The cake looks great! Thanks @YWGairport!!! #GoNewLeaf pic.twitter.com/GYLU0WhXp5
— NewLeaf Travel (@newleaftravel) July 25, 2016