HAMILTON — Remember those Greyhound Air ads from the mid-1990s? NewLeaf CEO Jim Young does. And he’s not looking to take the same tack.
The infamous ads showed a greyhound ‘marking its territory’, as it were, on the wheel of a plane. The airline was vocally anti-travel agent. It launched in 1996 and few in the retail industry were sad to see it go just months later.
Twenty years later NewLeaf is the latest upstart to take to the skies. Flights are scheduled to begin Feb. 12, operating from Hamilton, Abbotsford, Winnipeg, Halifax, Kelowna, Regina and Saskatoon. Prices start at $89.
Modelling itself after ultra-low-cost carriers like Ryanair and Spirit Airlines in the U.S., NewLeaf is taking ancillaries to new heights with just about everything charged as an add-on fee. “Your fare gets you the two essentials: a seat and a seatbelt. The rest is up to you,” says the company’s newly launched website, at flynewleaf.ca.
Like most ultra-low-cost carriers NewLeaf is also focused on selling direct to the consumer. A booking fee will be charged on all channels except when tickets are purchased at the airport counter, or on the website.
NewLeaf isn’t anti-travel agent, said Young. “If we’re anti-anything, we’re anti-GDS,” he said. Agents can book the airline directly for their clients, he added. “We’re anti-cost. We have to have the lowest operation costs we possibly can.”
On top of the base fare, NewLeaf’s add-ons include priority boarding, seat selection, boarding pass print-outs and luggage fees (with seven categories of fee for luggage; there’s no charge for one personal item stowed under the seat). An exit row seat costs an extra $30 when booked at the airport and $25 when booked on the website. For $20 passengers can change their reservation once or postpone their trip (each way, per passenger), with the TravelFLEX option. No-shows forfeit their fare.
NewLeaf is also using smaller airports to cut costs. Flights are with Flair Airlines which operates B737-400s. According to reports, NewLeaf is looking to build a fleet of 15 aircraft over the next few years in a bid for expansion across North American and into sun destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.