07 DEC 2017: In June of this year, US House Speaker Paul Ryan said of President Trump, "The President's new at this. He's new to government - I'm not saying it's an acceptable excuse. It's just my observation." Well, having read this week of Flair's surprising decision to eliminate carry-on baggage fees "with immediate effect" one has to wonder if the same "new to this" excuse should be extended to the Kelowna-based carrier, as they are certainly doing a great 'babe in the woods' impression.  

Flair spokesperson Julie Rempel stated, "That (the carry-on fee) was one of the main complaints that we had from passengers because it was an unfamiliar fee to a lot of them, so we just made the decision to remove it," she then added that, "A one-month trial will likely be extended indefinitely because of strong passenger demand."

Flair's vice president, Commercial Operations, Chris Lapointe also chimed in with, "We have listened very closely to the input from our passengers. … Removing the carry on baggage fee is something that we are excited to do as an airline. We know how important this is to the travelling public."

Hello! Is there anybody there? Strong passenger demand is something that leads to adding more capacity: It should not be confused with strong demands from passengers.

Most passengers would love to see the return of 'free' beverages and food - "Bring back the Wardair filet mignon!" But as with 'free' checked baggage, the cornerstone of successful ULCC models such as Spirit and Ryanair is that none of these things are free, they are costs that drive fares up. Any passengers that want to eat 'free' cake and have low fares too, for the most part, are plum out of luck.

So, while for some reason scrapping carry-on fees may be "exciting" for Flair's management it could be a short-lived buzz. When they lose that revenue source along with a big chunk of their checked baggage fees - the bags that will now be carried on board - the excitement may quickly be tempered by the realization that fares will have to increase.

But wait a minute: Maybe the whole thing is a cruel hoax - or dare we say, "fake news"?

Checking Flair's "new website", which hands down wins an award for the smallest logo ever - what's with the mouse-type guys? - those carry-on fees, that were allegedly being dropped two days ago, are still there! And what a mind-blowing hodgepodge they are!

Paying online at time of booking for a carry-on bag will (or perhaps 'would have') cost $31.50 to $34.50.

At check in, it's $42

…and at the gate it leaps to - not $80 to $90 -but $84 to $92.

Interestingly however, as per the checked baggage menu (which also has downright weird fees like $36.75 to $40.25), should a passenger manage to finagle a checked-size bag as far as the gate, the fee there of $73.50 to $80.50 is/was less than a piece of carry-on. One can imagine the fun arguments this will provoke with gate agents when passengers claim they were intending to gate-check it so the lesser fee should apply!

Surely a simple to understand flat-rate carry on fee of say $30, as opposed to $31.50 to $34.50 and a flat-rate checked fee of $25 per bag, would have done the job and provided an incentive to check bags rather than try and squeeze them on board.

But a tour through the Flair website  is replete with fun surprises. Check out the 'Schedule' tab and one could easily believe the airline will not be around after December 31st as everything seems to terminate on that date.

Click through to any of the 'Schedule For' destinations and you'll find … well I really don't know what! It gives a random list of flight numbers but serves no real purpose. Headings include, 'Arive' (that's not a typo) and 'STA' - isn't that the same as "Scheduled Time of Arival"? All quite bizarre!

Miss Rempel was quoted as saying that, "Flair is redefining" the ultra low cost carrier model in Canada. There's (sic) no rules in the playbook at this moment and we're making our own and this is just one move towards that." Of course it's hard to 'redefine' something that's never really existed.

The whole New Leaf 'reseller of seats' extravaganza was already strange enough to have the average Canadian wondering what was going on. Now that Flair has assumed the reigns one would have hoped it could only get better but there's only one word for this kind of sloppy execution: Mister Trump likes to use it in his Tweets - SAD.

 

 

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David Tait

David Tait's insight and irrepressible humour give us an insider's take on the airlines and the industry in general. He doesn't pull his punches, and readers find his weekly columns thoughtful, informative, amusing and infuriating – regardless, David's views on our industry are always original. 

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