Travelers at the Regina International Airport seem to be optimistic about a new no-frills, discount airline that promises to connect directly to three Canadian cities.
Winnipeg-based NewLeaf Travel will start offering flights out of seven airports across Canada in the next few months including: Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Hamilton and Halifax. Starting in February, people in Regina can book direct flights to Kelowna and Hamilton once a week and the airline will be adding a flight to Abbotsford in March.
“I think any kind of discount when you’re flying especially within Canada would be great,” said Megan Almasi.
With prices as ranging as low as $89 to $149, Almasi says it would be nice to see some other airlines lower their prices in response to the competition.
“It’s really hard to fly within Canada, it’s really expensive usually so it would be nice if it does push down some of the prices,” she said.
The catch of the no-frills airline is that passengers will be charged extra fees for checked bags, larger carry-on bags and refreshments.
Chuck Girten says it sounds cheap, but not when you add on all the extra fees.
“Then it’s not such a good bargain. I fly a lot in the U.S. on those economy airlines, and it’s not a very good bargain,” he said.
Other passengers don’t mind the no-frills option.
“I fly Southwest all the time, it’s my favourite airline, so yeah, I like the no-frills, I’m pretty self-sufficient,” said Randy Inskeep, after checking in to catch a flight out of Regina.
Maurice Jago is also encouraged to hear about more direct flights out of the Queen City.
“I understand this new airline (it’s) no frills, you pay for your bags and so on and food, and that’s great,” he commented. “I think the thing is, between the smaller centres, to get there quickly and cheaply is a great idea.”
He’s not sure the competition will drive down prices on other airlines at all, but does hope it will stimulate better service.
“It’s pretty frustrating when you want to fly places like Toronto, and nine times out of 10 you have to fly west before you can go back east,” he said. “It’s good to see this new airline is going to go right from Regina to Hamilton, I think that will be a big help.”
Dick Graham is the CEO of Regina Airport Authority (RAA) and he says work is always ongoing to provide better direct service to more destinations with new and existing airlines.
“We’re quite confident there’s going to be more airlines and more opportunities and more destinations in the coming years,” he said.
He says RAA is watching air travel patterns to see where Regina passengers want to go to work on improving direct flight service in the future.
Graham says the loss of United Airlines flights to Denver and Chicago was caused by a “perfect storm” of factors for that airline from the U.S. economy and weaker Canadian dollar.
“Yes they did depart, but we continue relations with them, we speak to them and we speak to many other airlines about trans-border flights,” Graham said.
He notes that RAA is always encouraging airlines to offer direct flights from Regina to sun destinations and other international locations, but it takes a lot of work and time.