Flying Flair Airlines? Hold on a minute, what?
The reality of travel hacking is that you often must pick your battles. You cannot be flying Business Class everywhere in the world.
Recently, I was traveling to an event hosted by Anshul in Calgary. I checked airfare pricing; Air Canada and WestJet were coming to $500 round trip. For a 1hr flight, that was too much money to spend for an evening with some great people.
Flair on the other hand, wanted about $80 round trip, on the same dates, as long as I flew out from Abbotsford. That was two main advantages of this flight:
- Fly Flair Airlines for the first time, and,
- Experience what it is like departing from Abbotsford Airport.
I also had the option of flying out from Vancouver, however, Vancouver was charging a higher airport tax. For my return flight, it was significantly cheaper to fly into Abbotsford. I decided to do Abbotsford both ways to get the complete flying experience from a smaller airport.
In this report, I will walk through flying on an Ultra Low Cost Carrier. Hopefully, this will give you the opportunity to evaluate whether Flair is a viable alternative during your travel plans. Especially in my scenario, where flying Flair Airlines was the only way to make this trip work within my budgetary constraints.
Booking My Trip with Flair Airlines
A big part of booking Flair Airlines is their ancillary fees. When purchasing my ticket, I was allowed to purchase many additional services.
There are some things that happen when you are spoilt with points; the thought of sitting in a cramped limited legroom seat can be terrifying. Hence, I spent an extra $50 to purchase an extra legroom seating for myself on both flights.
The flights as booked are shown below:
Online check-in while is common for most passengers, is something I only do in very specific circumstances:
- If I am traveling without a check-in bag, or,
- If I am traveling in Economy Class and I know there will be a priority check-in area for passengers who have done online check-in
Hence, I am not always used to checking in online and still prefer to hold a paper boarding pass. With Flair, however, there is a cost to doing an airport check-in, $25 to be exact. This small fee was enough for me to do an online check-in prior to reaching the airport.
You will typically find me traveling with a roller-bag and a laptop bag. However, Flair charges money for a roller bag, and I decided to just continue with my laptop bag.
Traveling To Abbotsford Airport
My home is mid-way between Abbotsford and Vancouver airport. Although it is slightly closer to Vancouver, it was not too drastic, and I was excited to be flying out of Abbotsford for the first time.
My flight scheduled departure time was 7.10am. Having never driven to the airport, I thought it would be safe to be at the airport by 5.30am, providing sufficient time and leeway for any issues. To reach at 5.30am, I opted to leave home at 4.45am.
Although I left at 4.45am for the airport (with a ride from my parents), I took a quick peak at the weather and I realized I was awfully under-prepared for the relatively cold temperatures. I opted to return home, knowing I had a sufficient buffer zone. Going back to the home, meant I only got to the airport at 6am. Typically, that is more than sufficient time to cross security… or so I thought.
Security at Abbotsford Airport
Typically, at smaller airports (my only experience is at Victoria), they allow Nexus card holders to skip the queue and proceed to the front of the security. The CATSA staff at Abbotsford politely told me that Nexus is not available, and everyone stands at the regular line.
The line was quite short, maybe 10 people, however, as I was standing in line, I noticed I had the keys to my home.
I called up my parents, and nobody would pick up my phone.
I thought, it’s okay, they have a spare key to the home, so I have nothing to be worried about.
Shortly after crossing security, they called me back, except, they let me know, not only do I have the main keys, I also have the spare keys.
By this time, it was 6.15am, and the flight was going to start boarding in 10 minutes. But I had no choice, I left the secure area and stood outside waiting for my parents to pick up the keys from me.
I waited for about 5 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity, knowing that I do not have much time prior to my flight departure. I ran back to security, and right in front of my eyes I saw the queue for security go from ten people to more than 25 people.
Another, uh oh.
I calculated that at 90 seconds per person, I would reach the gate at 7am. Since my flight was departing at 7.10am, there was a realistic possibility that I would be denied boarding. I asked my parents to stay close to the airport, just in case I miss my flight, I can always head home and catch up on some sleep.
Boarding my flight; the first time I would be flying Flair Airlines
I cleared security at 6.55am. One of the biggest perks of Abbotsford airport is, I could see the entire boarding terminal immediately after clearing security. I had no idea which gate my flight departed from, but I only saw one flight boarding at that time. I ran to the gate, hoping it would be my flight on Flair Airlines. Luckily, there were no issues and I made my fligt with plenty of time to spare.
During boarding, I was quite surprised how helpful, cheerful and the overall attitude of the crew on an early Saturday morning. They even helped passengers with their bags, putting them up in the overhead compartments.
First impressions: extremely good.
With boarding complete, I got comfortable in my seat.
Flying Flair Airlines: The Seat
I was very glad to have the entire row to myself. This was likely the result of flying Flair. I can never imagine flying Air Canada with an empty row for myself, much less the emergency exit row. That’s because at time of check-in, Air Canada will assign all extra legroom seats to their Aeroplan members. And Flair of course, has no loyalty program, so the only way to pay for the emergency exit seating is to pay for the seat.
I also experienced the tablet holder for the first time. Finding myself in Business Class on most flights, I won’t deny it, this was a novelty for me, and I spent a good 10 minutes playing with the tablet holder.
For a short flight, there was no service to write about. I was not sure what to expect flying Flair, but I was confident that they would even charge for water. I am happy to report back, water was free on Flair Airlines.
For a short one-hour flight, it was extremely uneventful. Everything was punctual, service was incredible for an ultra low cost carrier, and ultimately, the savings of nearly $500 to fly Flair was absolutely worth it.
Would I do it again? That’s a million dollars question. Unfortunately, there are some concerns for me when flying Flair, after all, this came on the news around my flight: Flair Airlines making financial changes after airplane repossessions.
My perspective is, ultimately Flair is a great airline. However, I would not be purchasing tickets far out in the future. If travel is within the next month, then I’d be happy to book Flair if the discount and savings are significant, as was the case for my flight to Calgary in March.