Canadian airline industry calls on Ottawa to deny Flair exemption

At stake is the low cost airline’s ability to fly in Canada

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Members of the Canadian airline industry are asking the federal government to approve Flair Airlines Ltd’s request. for a temporary exemption from the Canadian ownership requirement.

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“If granted, this unprecedented request would allow Flair to continue operating outside the boundaries of existing Canadian law, setting an alarming precedent while threatening consumer confidence in the industry at a time when the travel industry is working hard to strong and sustainable future for air travel for Canadians,” the National Airlines Council of Canada and the Air Transport Association of Canada said in a joint statement.

Together, the two groups represent Canada’s major airlines – Air Canada Inc., WestJet Airlines Ltd., Transat AT Inc. – smaller and freight carriers and suppliers from the aviation industry.

Flair faces an investigation by the Canadian Transport Agency into whether it meets Canadian ownership requirements. By law, at least 51 percent of a company’s voting interest must be Canadian and no more than 25 percent of the voting interest must be owned by any single non-Canadian company or individual.

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It concerns Miami-based 777 Partners, which has a 25 percent stake in Flair, leases the airline its aircraft and has members on its board.

Edmonton-based Flair, who has until May 3 to respond to the agency’s preliminary findings or potentially have his license revoked, has asked for an 18-month waiver to address the issue.

But the airline industry groups argue that Canada’s control law is important in ensuring that airlines are committed to the country and will not be slacking off and stranding passengers, especially at a time when airlines are trying to rebuild traveler confidence after the pandemic.

“If Flair continues to exist beyond the long-standing, clear laws would set a dangerous precedent for those in aviation, business and especially Canadian consumers,” the statement said.

“Domestic control and ownership is not just a nice to have, it is a necessary underpinning of the system and must be defended. It ensures fundamental fairness and protects against a diluted or foreign-owned company that hurts the competitiveness of the entire industry.”

The possibility that Flair could see its license revoked has caused Canadians who have booked tickets with the airline to raise concerns about their flights on social media.

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The two groups calling on the government to reject Flair’s waiver say their member airlines stand ready to “reduce the impact on travelers and employees” if the airline is forced to shut down.

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