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Canadian airline industry calls on Ottawa to reject Flair exemption

At stake is the low-cost airline’s ability to fly into Canada

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Members of the Canadian airline industry are calling on the federal government to deny Flair Airlines Ltd. temporary exemption from the Canadian ownership requirement.

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“If granted, this unprecedented request would allow Flair to continue to operate outside the confines of existing Canadian law, setting a troubling precedent while threatening consumer confidence in the sector, at a time when the voyage works hard to provide a solid and long-lasting service. the future of air travel for Canadians,” the National Airlines Council of Canada and the Air Transport Association of Canada said in a joint statement.

Together, the two groups represent Canada’s major airlines — Air Canada Inc., WestJet Airlines Ltd., Transat AT Inc. — small cargo carriers and suppliers to the aviation industry.

Flair is facing an investigation by the Canadian Transportation Agency to find out if it meets Canadian ownership requirements. Under the Act, at least 51% of a corporation’s voting shares must be Canadian, and no more than 25% of the voting shares may be held by a single non-Canadian corporation or person.

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At issue is Miami-based 777 Partners, which owns a 25% stake in Flair, leases its planes to the airline and has members on its board of directors.

Edmonton-based Flair, who has until May 3 to respond to the agency’s preliminary findings or possibly have his license suspended, has applied for an 18-month exemption to deal with the issue.

But aviation industry groups argue Canada’s Screening Act is important to ensure airlines are committed to the country and won’t raise the stakes and leave passengers stranded, especially at a time where airlines are trying to restore traveler confidence after the pandemic.

“Allowing Flair’s operations to continue outside of long-standing and clear laws would set a dangerous precedent for aviation, business and, most importantly, Canadian consumers,” the statement said.

“National control and ownership is not just ‘a benefit’, it is a necessary foundation of the system, and it must be defended. It ensures that there is fundamental fairness and protects against a diluted or foreign-owned business harming the competitiveness of the entire industry.

The possibility that Flair could have his license suspended has worried Canadians who have booked tickets on the airline on social media for their flights.

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The two groups calling on the government to reject Flair’s exemption say their member airlines are prepared to “mitigate the impacts on travelers and workers” if the airline is forced to close.