Kelowna's Flair Airlines buys out NewLeaf

Kelowna's Flair Airlines is bringing its discount airline business with NewLeaf Travel under one roof.

The company announced this morning that Flair is buying up all of NewLeaf's assets, and merging the two parts of the business into one.

Flair's VP of Commercial Operations Chris Lapointe says this was always the plan.

"We've always had a plan at some point in time, in the future, to bring the two companies together and become Canada's next national airline," he said.

"So all we're really doing is just folding the people, and the processes, and the technology into Flair, and continuing on."

He says current NewLeaf staff were offered positions at Flair, and that about 85% of them are making the move from Winnipeg to Kelowna.

Lapointe says the company hopes to increase the fleet from to seven planes later this year, and are looking for all opportunities to expand service.

"Currently we're only operating five aircraft, the intention is to expand the fleet, expand the route structure, and expand to different destinations," he said.

"We've planned this winter to bring in some winter destinations down south, both in the US and hopefully into the Carribbean, we're just finalizing some of those discussions now."

Passengers hoping to access the new service out of Kelowna won't be so lucky though.

After NewLeaf's maiden flight was made between Kelowna and Winnipeg last July, Kelowna was quietly eliminated from service at the end of last fall.

Lapointe says that's not expected to change for awhile.

"The plan is definitely to add Kelowna - it's a great location. The challenges are it's a very well-served market right now, with WestJet and Air Canada, and it's not a large market in the scheme of things," he said.

"You look at Abbotsford which is tapping into the Vancouver market, and there's millions of people. And Hamilton is tapping into the Toronto market, which is millions of people. It's (Kelowna's) a great market, but it's just not quite large enough yet."

He says next summer would be the earliest possible time for service to expand to Kelowna.

NewLeaf claims that because of its business model, airfares in markets it serves have gone down 23%.