The newest discount air carrier is now in flight at the Regina Airport.
NewLeaf touched down shortly before noon on Thursday, as it wheeled across the runway through an arch of water sprayed by two airport fire trucks on either side. The landing marks the beginning of the company’s new direct twice weekly flights to and from Kelowna.
Yellow and blue balloons and sprinkled donuts served as decoration at the departing gate, greeting the passengers who were on the very first flight from the Queen City to the Okanagan through NewLeaf.
“I figured I’d give a new airline a shot. It’s so expensive to fly to Kelowna with WestJet so I figure I’d try NewLeaf. [It’s] inexpensive. We’ll see how it goes,” said flyer Tate Byers.
Airport CEO Dick Graham made a toast to NewLeaf CEO Jim Young to officially welcome the company.
“The first few months are always tough on an airline. It really depends on how busy they can keep the aircraft,” Graham outlined. “We’re working very hard to make sure that passengers know all the options, not just the current airlines that we have serving us but the new ones.”
Young said the plane from Kelowna was at about 40 per cent capacity, while the direct flight back was sitting above 70 per cent. He’s confident their low-cost mantra will make NewLeaf a viable competitor to other, bigger airlines.
“We believe we have lower costs and this really is a cost game,” he said.
Flights from Regina to Kelowna start as low as $89.
NewLeaf first announced its intentions in January. The company’s plan ambitiously targeted February for the service to start. That was delayed because of a review of the licensing system by the Canadian Transportation Agency. At that time, the low-cost carrier’s plan included three flights out of Regina: Kelowna, Abbortsford, and Hamilton. However, Young explained that had to be reduced partly because of the availability of aircraft and crews.
Graham looks at the sole route to Kelowna as a test of sorts.
“We’ve got to be successful on this route and that positions us well then to be working with NewLeaf to fill new routes,” he explained.
Young is confident those new routes will come.
“As we move into the fall season and then into the winter you’ll see us adding more destinations as we go.”
He’s hinting that could be more Canadian destinations, both east and west, along with a few sun destinations. Young isn’t say where exactly because he said he doesn’t want to tip off competition.