It’s been freezing cold in Alberta these past few weeks, but the news coming out of my home province is red hot.
Another low-cost carrier has entered the fray, this time from the Western Canadian hub of Calgary. Calling itself Lynx Air after the robust wildcat of the same name, this newcomer is looking to compete in the same budget-oriented market space as Swoop and Flair.
As always, a new, cheaper option for airfare is enough to pique my interest, even though they are based out of the home of the hockey-team-which-shall-not-be-named. Now that they’ve announced their initial flight schedule, let’s take a closer look.
Destinations and Schedule
Lynx Air has announced that its prowling is over, and it will be pouncing into the Canadian domestic budget travel scene on April 7, 2022.
The initial schedule begins with daily flights between Calgary (YYC) and Vancouver (YVR), increasing to twice daily in May.
These will be joined by the following routes later in April:
- April 11: Calgary (YYC)–Toronto (YYZ), four times per week for the first week, followed by daily flights from April 18 onward
- April 15: Calgary (YYC)–Kelowna (YLW), twice per week (Monday and Friday)
- April 15: Vancouver (YVR)–Kelowna (YLW), twice per week (Monday and Friday)
- April 19: Calgary (YYC)–Winnipeg (YWG), twice per week (Tuesday and Saturday), followed by four times per week from May 5 (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday)
- April 19: Vancouver (YVR)–Winnipeg (YWG), twice per week (Tuesday and Saturday)
- April 28: Toronto (YYZ)–Vancouver (YVR), daily
For those of you who are weary about paying $200+ for short-haul domestic flights, don’t fret. Lynx Air’s new pricing is truly cut-throat – you can go from Toronto to Vancouver for under $100, assuming you’re only taking a laptop bag, of course.
Don’t believe me? Seeing is believing.
$79?! That’s pretty wild, even by the standards of the other ultra low cost carriers.
But, is that all there is to Lynx? What about the dreaded holiday surge pricing we’ve all come to know and despise?
A mere $69 from Calgary to Vancouver for one of the busiest long weekends in Canada – that’s even nuttier! I wonder if these fares are an early loss leader to gain market share, because they’re unprecedented by Canadian domestic standards.
À La Carte Extras
As much as I love paying less for flights, these airlines are ultimately a business. They have employees to keep on the payroll and investors who are expecting profits.
When you see the breakdown of taxes and fees above, you can see just how little money is actually going into Lynx’s pocketbook in the base fares. They need to make some money elsewhere, and where better than on human foibles, such as the need to bring our gadgets and clothing with us or the desire to board the darn plane already?
As with other budget airlines, Lynx Air expects you to only bring a small “personal item” with dimensions not exceeding 15cm × 33cm × 43cm (6” × 13” × 17”). That’s a small laptop or backpack at most, and barely enough for a change of clothes.
Want to bring on a carry-on item? That’ll be significantly more:
Paying in advance online will save you a bit of cash, but if you wait to check your luggage at the airport, that will take once again cost you extra.
It would be best in your interest to consider how much cargo you’re going to haul, because the checked bag fees are an ascending pyramid in their price structure:
These fees aren’t cheap, but neither are they awful. Still, it’s amusing to consider that your first checked bag might cost as much as your ticket itself.
Even more humorous to me, though, is that Lynx Air has taken the novel step of monetizing individual priority boarding for a fee:
I’ve seen this sold previously as part of a “package” upgrade with Flair Airlines, but never as a standalone option. I don’t know if sitting in a budget economy seat for an extra 15 minutes prior to takeoff is worth it to me, but to each their own.
Unfortunately, it looks like Lynx Air has taken a remarkable step in requiring all flights to be made through their own site. In addition, they have taken the even more drastic step of refusing to take American Express payments entirely.
I can only speculate, but the higher swipe fees Amex charges are probably not the deciding factor.
My theory is that American Express has a track record of supporting customers in chargeback situations when flights are delayed or cancelled, and this is something such a new airline can ill afford.
Lynx Air: Same Cat, New Coat
While Lynx Air will fly its maiden voyages with paying customers in April, it is not in fact a new company. Lynx is the next evolution of Enerjet, which opened its doors in 2006 and flew its first customers to the Alberta oil fields in 2008.
Prior to this rebrand, Enerjet’s business model was to transport workers to the oil sands our province is famous for. This presumably provided a great stream of revenue throughout the oil boom, and Enerjet was savvy enough to stay afloat even when the industry started facing slowdowns and difficulties a few years ago.
Many of my personal friends have been working in Fort McMurray and other sites that are in constant need of skilled labourers. Although the fossil fuel business is not as hot as it once was, it is certainly not finished.
So, why would Enerjet leave labour transportation?
As of yet, I still don’t know why Enerjet chose to pivot to carrying leisure travellers. I hope it’s because Lynx has found a way to affordably differentiate itself from other bare-bones outfits such as Flair Airlines up here in my adopted home of Edmonton.
The best area to do so will, of course, be with service.
What Can You Expect On Lynx Air?
For my aviation geeks out there, you can expect to fly Lynx’s first trips on their brand new Boeing 737-8 (aka Boeing 737 MAX 8) aircraft that have been commissioned specifically for the purpose of taking Lynx into the consumer travel market.
This aircraft has had its fair share of controversy, including being grounded for two years following multiple fatal crashes, but has since been approved to fly following extensive safety tests. As a narrow-body model, it’s also probably economic enough for Lynx to own or lease.
Lynx’s decision to lease or acquire 46 aircraft over the next seven years indicates that they are serious about rapidly becoming one of the larger passenger airlines in Canada, and one whose fleet will certainly outstrip their competition at Flair and, especially, Swoop.
In keeping with the theme of upscaling from Enerjet to a full-blown carrier, the airline has also put its selection of Merren McArthur as CEO front and centre.
Her resume at Virgin Australia as CEO of the cargo and regional divisions looks quite impressive, and again reflects Lynx Air’s ambition in making the ultra-low-cost model work. I’ll be rooting for her.
It’s clear that, for now, there is no real premium cabin offering with Lynx, which is to be expected. Similar to my experience on GOL Airlines in Brazil, I suspect Lynx wants to go for strength in numbers by flying planes at capacity and making money off of baggage fees, rather than sacrificing cabin space for a premium economy product.
There’s still no word on whether Lynx intends to branch into more Canadian or American cities, or even to Sun destinations. However, maybe it’s better that they try to find their wings while the Omicron variant continues to make international travel more uncertain.
In either event, as Lynx expands their route offerings, you can be sure we’ll keep you updated here at Prince of Travel.
Let’s Hope This Isn’t Another Jetsgo
Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention Jetsgo, who famously went bankrupt in 2006 and left thousands of passengers on the ground. The airline had great intentions, but its margins were so thin whilst its credit was so extended that its sudden shutdown was as inevitable as it was tragic.
Sadly, this isn’t a unique story in the history of Canadian aviation. Many other, and often respected, ultra low-cost carriers such as Skyservice, Canadian Airways, and Edmonton’s renowned Wardair, have all been driven into destitution by the extreme competition of the airline industry.
Lynx is set to compete here with its hub in Western Canada, where they’re going to have to overcome their direct competitors Swoop and Flair, and to a lesser extent, the awkwardly-somewhere-in-the-middle carrier WestJet.
Thus far, it doesn’t appear that Lynx Air is adding too much to differentiate itself from the competition, but I will be glad if I stand corrected.
For me, while the price seems very similar to the other budget airlines, the service across all Canadian aviation is often lagging. If Lynx Air can keep the spring in its proverbial step, I suspect they’ll be able to develop a loyal base.
It’s encouraging to see another Alberta-grown budget airline take flight. I’m wishing Lynx Air all the best in the days to come, and I’ll be looking forward to see how their initial launch throughout the rest of 2022 goes.
At the same time, opening a low-cost carrier in Canada has been an enterprise fraught with risk, as the examples of companies such as Jetsgo and Skyservice have shown us.
I hope to review Lynx in real-time with the more budget-minded travellers among you in the coming months. Watch out Calgary and British Columbia – I’ll be headed your ways!
Until then, try to stay warm in this coldest of seasons!