Calgary-based Lynx Air makes flights affordable for a new group of travellers

Ultra-low-cost airline said they're expanding the marketplace for air travel in Canada

Lynx Air CEO Merren McArthur holds up a model of the 737 Max 8 aircraft that the airline will be flying from the Calgary International Airport on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

For less than the price of a tank of gas, travellers can now fly to a number of Canada’s major cities.

That, in a nutshell, defines Calgary-based Lynx Air. No-frills, ultra-low-cost, but eminently accessible in a way that more pricey—and amenity inclusive—airline travel is not.

And the airline’s CEO makes no attempt to shy away from describing her airline as ultra-affordable, offering customers only the services they demand, and for a price. A model she said was highly successful in Europe and the US.

“We often talk about our transparent a la carte pricing model, which empowers passengers to pay only for what they want and nothing more,” said Merren McArthur, CEO of Lynx Air.

“At Lynx, we’re very transparent about what you pay for,” she said.

A base fare will get you a seat on a flight, and a small carry on bag. If customers want to bring larger luggage, that’s an additional fee. If customers want to move seats, that’s an additional fee. If customers want to use the airline’s call centre, instead of their website, that’s an additional fee.

And no, the airline doesn’t offer wi-fi, entertainment, or food for sale on board.

Low prices for travel

But for customers who want the basics, and only the basics, it means it is entirely possible to book a flight for $39, depending on the destination.

“That $39 is an honest fare that’s available today, and that will continue,” said McArthur.

“At the moment, there are probably people who just can’t afford to fly, or can’t fly as much as they would like to, but what we want to do is give them an accessible fare.”

According to Statistics Canada, the consumer price index for airline travel has dropped from peaks in August and December of last year, but remains higher than the start of the pandemic. The data shows that nationally, CPI has risen sharply in between the various waves of Covid-19 as demand returned.

Prices’ for Lynx’s planned inaugural flight to Toronto next week, according to Google’s flight comparison tool as of Friday, fall well below Air Canada and West Jet.

Last-minute booking can be done for $180 through Lynx, versus $664 for the other airlines. Waiting until the 21st to fly drops the price to $115, versus $405.

Value for money means less on board

McArthur has a clear vision for what Lynx Air believes is good value for customers, and what is not.

Good value is flying passengers to destinations on modern Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. Bad value is selling entertainment and food while they're on board.

And that comes down to a philosophy of delivering what the airline can do best, and cutting what it believes it cannot.

"Has any anyone ever heard anyone saying much they love airline food," asked McArthur rhetorically.

"So why pay for it?"

Customers won't be hearing the stock phase of "make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their fully upright and locked positions."

What customers get is a non-reclining seat, albeit comfortable, with a respectable amount of leg room in comparison to other economy class airlines.

The airline similarly believes that customers are best served by bringing their own entertainment. Less costly licensing fees for the airline, and customers can do what they were probably already doing anyway: Watching or reading their own choice on their own device.

Power-packs are recommended for longer journeys, as the lack of in-seat screens also means the lack of in-seat power.

And as far as food goes, Lynx Air wants to work with airport authorities and airport food service providers to give their customers discounts.

Tray tables are included for customers, but are smaller than what customers who have flown on other airlines might be used to. Functional for to-go snacks and smaller meals, but not a full-on three-course business class dinner.

Downstream economic benefits for Calgary, and other cities

Calgary International Airport CFO and vice president of commercial strategy Rob Palmer said that the authority will be working to coordinate with their food and beverage partners to make that process seamless for Lynx Air customers.

He said that would be an economic benefit to the airport. But more broadly, he also said the addition of a new airline would provide downstream economic benefits for Calgary.

"It's a tremendous catalyst event for the Calgary Airport Authority—new airlines don't start up every day, and the economic benefits new airlines brings to the airport, the surrounding city, the surrounding area is always tremendous."

The additional option for consumers, he said, would enhance Calgary as a tourism destination.

He also said that Lynx Air choosing to base out of the Calgary International Airport, and to have their headquarters in downtown Calgary, was a reflection of renewed business confidence within the city.

With an expected 34 network flights a week, the long-term economic benefits are projected in the millions.

Creating a new market group for travel

McArthur stressed that Lynx Air was unlikely to steal market share from other airlines, instead bringing in a new clientele base that is currently unserved by the marketplace. She said current pricing models at other airlines prevent people from flying, but at the same time, she wasn't interested in why other airlines price fares the way they current do.

"I don't really care why its too expensive, I just know it's too expensive," she said.

She said that their focus was simply on providing low-cost fares for a customer base that can't afford to fly. Or, fly as much as they would like.

Palmer said that the airport doesn't yet have estimates on how many passengers will be using Lynx Air out of the Calgary International Airport. Still, he said, the airport expects it to result in an increase in the overall number of passengers, but also bring in new passengers.

Tamara Vrooman, CEO of YVR, the Vancouver International Airport, echoed Palmer's sentiment.

"We know that people are in different situations coming out of the pandemic, and whether it's young families, or students, or independent business people that have got to make that first in person trip it's really important that we have a variety of choices to serve our community and passengers across the country," she said.

Flights being added weekly as airline starts up

The airline, as of Thursday, is flying seven times a week from Calgary to Vancouver. This is expected to ramp up to 14 times a week in late May.

Next week, there will be four flights a week to Toronto, followed by seven the week after, and then up to 12 at the end of June.

Routes to Halifax, Hamilton, Kelowna, St. John's, Winnipeg, and Victoria will all be starting by the end of June.

And thus far, the airline said they've had no problems attracting staff to fill those routes, despite a possible industry-wide pilot shortage in 2022 due to the return of demand for cabin staff.

"We've actually had no trouble attracting people to the airline, and I think it's because people really embrace our vision," she said.

The airline currently has 165 staff, and is expected to grow to 400 by the end of the year.

For more details, and current fare pricing, see flylynx.com.

Photos from the inaugural YYC and YVR flights

Lynx Air CEO Merren McArthur holds up a model of the 737 Max 8 aircraft that the airline will be flying from the Calgary International Airport on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Lynx Air CEO Merren McArthur speaks to the media prior to the airline's inaugural commercial flight at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Cupcakes for the inaugural Lynx Air flight on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
The departure board showed the inaugural Lynx Air flight to Vancouver at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
The ribbon is cut and a new dawn is started for ultra-low-cost carriers during the inaugural Lynx Air flight at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
The ribbon from the inaugural Lynx Air flight is cut up for souvenirs at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Paula Worthington takes a photo of the cabin crew for the inaugural Lynx Air flight along with CEO Merren McArthur at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
A member of the cabin crew from the inaugural Lynx Air flight from Calgary to Vancouver checks on passenger needs during the flight on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Lynx Air CEO Merren McArthur talks to passengers on the inaugural flight from Calgary to Vancouver on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Lynx Air 737 Max 8 airplane. YVR/VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Trevor Boudreau greets the passengers disembarking from the Inaugural Lynx Air flight at the Vancouver International Airport on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
The Vancouver International Airport gives a special send off to the inaugural Lynx Air flight from Vancouver to Calgary on Thursday, April 7, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

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