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Just 6 weeks after announcing P.E.I. flights, low-cost airline is grounded

Calgary-based low-cost airline Lynx Air announced up to three weekly flights from Charlottetown to Toronto and Calgary back in January, but announced this week it would cease operations next week after filing for creditor protection.   (Lynx Air - image credit)
Calgary-based low-cost airline Lynx Air announced up to three weekly flights from Charlottetown to Toronto and Calgary back in January, but announced this week it would cease operations next week after filing for creditor protection. (Lynx Air - image credit)

A low-cost airline that announced new flights out of P.E.I. just six weeks ago is shutting down before it even got started on the Island.

In early January, Lynx Air promised up to three weekly departures from Charlottetown Airport to Toronto and Calgary, with service slated to begin in May.

Late Thursday night, however, the airline said it would cease operations as of Feb. 26 after filing for creditor protection.

The news caught the Charlottetown Airport Authority by surprise, CEO Doug Newson told Island Morning's Mitch Cormier on Friday.

'It's starting to feel like an airport again,' says Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority.
'It's starting to feel like an airport again,' says Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority.

Charlottetown Airport Authority CEO Doug Newson says other carriers are already beginning to offer discounted flights for Islanders who need to cancel travel plans they had with Lynx. (Tony Davis/CBC)

"We had heard some talk in the last few weeks about a possible merger between Lynx and another low-cost carrier Flair. In terms of the announcement last night, we certainly didn't see that coming; it was a surprise to us," he said.

"If there's any good news for Charlottetown in particular, it's three months away from the start date, so we don't have passengers that are going to be stranded somewhere this week."

The Calgary-based Lynx Air launched less than two years ago with a promise to make air travel more affordable for Canadians.

The airline had announced flights from Charlottetown to Toronto starting at $59, taxes included, while a full trip to Calgary at a cost of $199.

The news about Lynx ceasing operations came as it announced it had sought and obtained an initial order for creditor protection from the Court of King's Bench of Alberta.

"Over the past year, Lynx Air has faced a number of significant headwinds including rising operating costs, high fuel prices, exchange rates, increasing airport charges and a difficult economic and regulatory environment," said the company in a news release.

"Despite substantial growth in the business, ongoing operational improvements, cost reductions and efforts to explore a sale or merger, the challenges facing the company's business have become too significant to overcome."

In one sense, they're a minor impact on our overall plan for the summer. — Doug Newson

The airline said it will cease operations at 12:01 a.m. MT on Monday, "with flights continuing to operate until that time."

The Charlottetown Airport Authority posted on social media that its "thoughts are with the passengers and employees impacted by Lynx's announcement," along with a link to the airline's website for assistance with bookings.

Newson said other carriers are already beginning to offer discounted flights for Islanders who need to cancel travel plans they had with Lynx. WestJet, for example, has said it will offer 25 per cent off flights on any route that was operated by Lynx between now and October, as long as travellers book in the next week.

Traffic levels at the airport have reach between 50 or 60 per cent of pre-pandemic traffic levels.
Traffic levels at the airport have reach between 50 or 60 per cent of pre-pandemic traffic levels.

Newson said the impact of Lynx Air shutting down should be minimal for Charlottetown Airport this summer, with other airlines planning to ramp up their schedules. (Jane Robertson/CBC )

As for the overall impact the shutdown will have on Charlottetown Airport in particular, Newson said it should be minimal with other airlines looking to increase their capacity this summer.

"When we did our budget back in November, we did not have Lynx in our budget. In one sense, they're a minor impact on our overall plan for the summer," he said.

"Let's wait and see how it all shakes out for this coming summer, but I think we will either be at or above the seat capacity that we had in 2023."