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Monday,  May 20, 2024 8:06 AM 

Flair CEO wants some of Lynx’s aircraft to bolster growth plans


Flair CEO wants some of Lynx’s aircraft to bolster growth plans
Flair Airlines CEO Stephen Jones. (File photos/supplied)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The tentative Lynx-Flair merger deal didn’t happen, but now that there’s one less airline in Canada, some extra planes are up for grabs.  

On the heels of Lynx Air folding, Flair Airlines CEO Stephen Jones says that he wants to add some of the now-defunct airline’s planes to his fleet, according to an interview he did with the Canadian Press.

Lynx, which shut down in the early morning of Feb. 26, had nine Boeing 737 MAX 8s in service, with eight on order, plus 29 Boeing 737 MAX 8-200 on order, according to Cirium, an aviation analytics company.

Boeing 737 Max 8s are the same model that comprise most of Flair’s 20-aircraft fleet.

Jones says the planes would help bolster Flair’s growth plans, which have slowed this year for a variety of reasons, including a $67 million-dollar unpaid tax bill (which Flair says it is working on) and delays at Boeing, which is answering to U.S. regulators after a mid-flight blowout of a side panel on board an Alaska Airlines flight earlier this month that grounded 737 MAX 9 planes for weeks.

READ MOREOp-ed - Lynx failure isn’t just about the value of travel agents, but good travel agents

As of last fall, Flair’s plan was to grow its fleet to 26 Boeing 737 MAX jetliners in 2024, up from 20.

Jones said Boeing’s MAX program has faced delays, previously telling CP that planes that were supposed to arrive in spring won’t land at Flair until late fall.

Lynx’s now-available fleet of aircraft could get the ball rolling faster.

READ MORE: From “not surprised” to a “significant blow”: Agents, execs sound off on Lynx shutdown

"We would love to get access to those aircraft. Not all of them, but we'd love to get access to some at least,'' Jones told CP. “We're very interested in an open process.''

(Lynx Air)

In an Edmonton court, Jones sought to have Lynx include it among those companies that are allowed to bid on the insolvent airline's assets, CP reports.

The asset sale could lead to a “highly anti-competitive result'' if large airlines are allowed to bid while Flair, a low-cost carrier, is pushed out, according to an affidavit from Jones.

Plane talk

Calgary-based Lynx entered the Canadian market in April of 2022 with a promise to improve customer service and grow the low-cost model in Canada.

The carrier’s website listed 23 destinations, including most major Canadian cities and U.S. cities, such as Phoenix, San Francisco, Orlando and Tampa Bay.

The “ultra-affordable airline” shut down due to financial pressures associated with inflation, fuel costs, exchange rates and regulatory costs to “competitive tension” in the market, as Jim Sullivan, interim CEO of Lynx, explained in a company memo.

READ MORE: Lynx was banking on a deal with Flair to help pay off debt: report

Lynx was also drowning in $124.3 million in debt, and as a last resort, the airline was hoping the Flair transaction would go through so it could pay back its investors, as previously reported.  

In addition, the carrier owed $25.6 million in unpaid taxes to the federal government and $47.8 million to trade creditors, according to court documents.

The airline also owes another $4.1 million to the Toronto and Montreal airports and $4.5 million to Delta Air Lines for aircraft maintenance and warehousing, CP reports.

Court filings show Lynx has $600 million in liabilities and $429 million in assets.

Last month, Judge John Gill granted Lynx protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, which allows firms to restructure their finances and pay off lenders – usually for pennies on the dollar.

Meanwhile, some industry experts are questioning if whether Flair is actually able to make a serious bid on Lynx’s planes as market demand weakens and as inflation rises.  

“As much as Jones has got a lot of bravado that he's showing, he hasn't got the financials to support it,'' John Gradek, a lecturer at McGill University's aviation management program, told CP.


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