Flair removes baggage fees for December-booked flights, flies ahead of competition

As airlines rake in ancillaries, Flair opts to drop its baggage fees – for now

KELOWNA — Knowing how December can be an expensive month for shoppers and travellers alike, Flair Airlines has announced that it is waiving baggage fees for all flights booked this month.

Effective immediately, the $30 carry-on baggage fee will be removed from all flights booked in December, a move that the airline says is “reinventing domestic air travel in Canada”.

“We have listened very closely to the input from our passengers. Removing the carry-on baggage fee is something that we are excited to do as an airline. We know how important this is to the travelling public,” said Chris Lapointe, Vice President Commercial Operations.

Flair allows for one small personal item and now one carry-on bag per person. Standard luggage sizes apply. Passengers will be required to pay for checked bags.

“We want our passengers to have a positive experience with us, and if that requires us removing this fee, then we are delighted to respond,” added Lapointe.

Spokeswoman Julie Rempel added that the one-month trial will likely be extended “indefinitely” due to strong passenger demand.

“That was one of the main complaints that we had from passengers because it was an unfamiliar fee to a lot of them, so we just made the decision to remove it,” she said in an interview. “We’re just looking at it from a customer’s perspective and redefining how we look at ULCCs. There’s no rules in the playbook at this moment and we’re making our own, and this is just one move towards that.”

Discount airlines keep fares low by charging a series of ancillary fees including baggage, seat selection, use of credit cards and food purchases. Some of the world’s largest airlines of this type earn as much as 46% of their revenues from extra fees.

WestJet said it still plans to charge carry-on fees on its low-cost Swoop subsidiary that is scheduled to launch service next summer.

Even with fees, Swoop is aiming to cut fares to around 30- to 40% lower than average full-service carriers, said spokeswoman Lauren Stewart.

“The choice to pay for extras such as carry-on allows the price-sensitive traveller to make choices on what they value to keep the fare as low as possible,” she said in an email.

Swoop has yet to announce initial destinations or fees.

Canada Jetlines CEO and director Stan Gadek said it charges for carry-on fees but charges an ultra-low base fare.

So-called ancillary fees are generating increasing revenues for airlines around the world.

They are expected to generate US$82.2 billion this year, a 22% increase in one year, compared to US$22.6 billion in 2010, according to IdeaWorksCompany, a U.S. research company that tracks airline revenue.

Air Canada ranked 10th in the world in collecting ancillary fees, bringing in US$1.179 billion in 2016. That equalled 10.4% of its total revenues. Part of those fees come from its travel subsidiary Rouge and 45% come from its frequent flyer program, said IdeaWorks.

European ultra low-cost carriers Ryanair and Easyjet were 6th and 7th on the list at nearly US$2 billion and US$1.355 billion, respectively.

IdeaWorks said WestJet collected US$302.2 million in fees last year.

Air Canada passengers paid US$26.29 per person in ancillary fees, the 15th most of any carrier.

That was well behind leader Spirit Airlines at US$49.89 but ahead of Ryanair and Easyjet. WestJet received US$13.77 per passenger.


With files from The Canadian Press

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