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Lynx Air Aims to Claw Out Its Piece of Canada’s Market

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Lynx Air is scheduled to take to the skies above Canada in April with its fleet of new Boeing 737 planes. (Photo courtesy of Lynx Air)

Canada’s airline industry has another contender for what could be considered the industry’s holy grail in this country: Low-cost flights with dependable service. Lynx Air is poised to debut on April 7 with a flight from its home base in Calgary to Vancouver and its inaugural Calgary-to-Toronto journey is scheduled for April 11.

Most one-way fares are less than $100, some flights from Vancouver to Toronto can be had for as little as $79 before taxes and fees. Base fares from Toronto to St. John’s, the Newfoundland and Labrador capital, start at $119.

Australian Merren McArthur is the Lynx Air CEO and she has a team of industry veterans around her who see massive potential to fill a need and build an underserved passenger demographic. Lynx notes that in Europe, where no-frills Ryanair has propelled to the top of the industry, ultra-low-cost carriers command 42% of the marketshare. In Canada, that number is just 12%.

In recent years, Flair and Swoop entered the Canadian market, but have had issues with delivering on comfort and service. McArthur is keenly aware that the challenge Lynx has is to make sure it breaks the stereotype of low-cost airlines in this country. Lynx is confident it has the operational efficiencies to deliver.

“We’re not here to take the marketshare from anyone else. We’re here to grow the market for people who wouldn’t ordinarily be travelling,” McArthur said at a gathering with travel media in Vancouver on Thursday.

Bringing European-Style Flights to Canada

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Calgary is the headquarters of Canada’s newest airline, Lynx Air. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

Lynx believes that many Canadians would fly more often if prices — especially for domestic airfares — weren’t so high. In Europe, flights can be eye-poppingly low. So much so Canadians could not be blamed if they actually thought they were on another planet, not an overseas continent. I will never forget the disbelief I carried when I flew one way from Valencia to Ibiza in 2017 for 11 euros (about $15). Prior to landing on the Spanish island, I wondered what the catch was: Were there hidden fees?; or some risk with the aircraft I wasn’t aware of? But it turned out there was nothing more than an offseason low fare for a flight that takes about as long as jetting from Calgary to Edmonton.

It’s the type of experience that’s foreign to Canada’s domestic travellers. The taxes and fees associated with Canadian airfares are among the highest in the world. According to the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Canada’s airfares include significantly more for airport improvement fees, security costs, and sales taxes than comparative airfares in the United States.

Lynx can’t avoid those costs, of course. So in some ways there’s only so much a low-cost airline can do for consumers. Still, Lynx is ambitious. It is launching with five Boeing 737 Max aircrafts that each hold 189 passengers. Heading into 2023, it anticipates adding more than 40 more planes as it aims to expand to international destinations, beginning with sun locations this winter.

As for which travellers will benefit the most from Lynx, it’s likely to be the solo flyer who packs light and can do without extras like in-flight entertainment. Lynx charges about $62.99 for a passenger’s first checked bag and $49.99 for an in-cabin carry-on bag (there is no charge for bringing personal items such as laptop cases or backpacks that can be stowed at your feet).

I was researching airfares for a trip from Vancouver to Toronto in June and to my surprise it turned out that Air Canada was a better deal for my family than Lynx. The reason is because I have 35K Elite Status with Air Canada’s Aeroplan loyalty program, which means I have multiple checked bags for free. With a toddler, the options for travelling light are diminished, which means Lynx isn’t likely to be the choice for families. But if I were travelling on my own for a short business trip, it would be an airline I consider.

No doubt for all the hundreds of thousands of Canadian travellers who want to explore the country and have the freedom to travel light, Lynx will be a welcome addition to the tourism landscape.

MORE ABOUT LYNX AIR

Website: www.flylynx.com

Destinations: British Columbia (Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna); Alberta (Calgary, Edmonton); Manitoba (Winnipeg); Ontario (Toronto, Hamilton); Nova Scotia (Halifax); and Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John’s).

Baggage Fees: One personal item is allowed for free. Additional baggage fees are based on the distance of your flight. The cost for bringing a carry-on bags, such as small rolling suitcases, ranges from $29.99-$67.79 each (fees are higher when paying at the airport vs. when pre-paying with your online booking). Checked luggage charges range from $39.99-$67.79 for your first bag.

Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.