NewLeaf says WestJet competition forced cancellation of Phoenix routes

NewLeaf says WestJet competition forced cancellation of Phoenix routes

WINNIPEG — Discount air carrier NewLeaf Travel says it is cancelling plans to offer flights between Alberta and the Phoenix-Mesa airport in Arizona this year because another airline copied the idea.

Jim Young, President and CEO of the Winnipeg-based company, made the announcement Tuesday on the company’s Facebook page.

He said within hours of NewLeaf announcing the Arizona route, another airline “lowered its fares and offered service to an airport it had previously ignored for over a decade.”

He called it “a classic case of the big guy squishing the little guy so that the big guy can profit more.”

He said NewLeaf will also be postponing its service to Florida from Hamilton, ON.

WestJet announced back in November that it would begin flights between Calgary and Edmonton and the Phoenix-Mesa airport on Jan. 19.

“The airline business is more challenging than it seems and this airline appears to be blaming one airline for their woes in a particular market without providing the travelling public the full story,” WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said in a statement Tuesday.

Young said NewLeaf is in the process of issuing refunds to customers.

“We sincerely hope and in fact challenge the other airlines to keep the fares low for you so that you can still travel south for the winter,” he said in the Facebook post.

“Understandably, you are upset, and so are we as it was the last thing we had hoped to do. But I will be honest and state that because we are so committed to being here for the long run we must focus our efforts on our Canadian destinations.”

Last month, a federal court ruled that passengers who lose luggage or encounter cancelled flights while flying with NewLeaf Travel need to take it up with the flight operator Flair Airlines, not the discount ticket reseller.

In a decision on Dec. 15, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a motion by passenger advocate Gabor Lukacs, who had argued that consumers’ rights were unprotected because NewLeaf is permitted to operate without an air license from the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The three-judge panel disagreed, ruling that travellers are still protected because the flights are run by Kelowna, B.C.,-based Flair Airlines, which is licensed under the CTA.