The head of ultra-low-cost carrier Flair Airlines is forecasting stronger demand for domestic trips this year as “affordable travel” becomes a more realistic option for Canadians.
CEO Stephen Jones told reporters at a virtual news conference on Thursday that travellers are becoming more “spontaneous” in their travel plans.
“In 2022, we saw quite a lot of domestic travel as we started coming out of COVID. Last year, it really flipped and there was a lot of people going, ‘Okay, finally I’m going to go overseas again,’ so there was a lot of international travel,” he said. But he added that 2024 will likely be another year of “strong” domestic travel.
“People are getting used to travelling cheaply … people are travelling more often, they’re booking later, they’re taking shorter trips. The average length of stay used to be eight or nine days, it’s now something like four days,” Jones said.
“They’re getting used to the fact that affordable travel can be something that they can reasonably expect in their lives, whereas previously it felt like Canadians had kind of given up on the hope of affordable travel, and that was something that other parts of the world could enjoy, but we could never enjoy it. Well, I think we’ve changed that.”
Jones was speaking to reporters as part of a 2023-year-in-review news conference, in which he said Flair Airlines flew more than 4.5 million passengers last year – 1.5 million more than the year before.
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He attributed that number largely to the cost to fly with Flair.
“We’re seeing it in the data. We’re seeing that people are travelling more often. We’re seeing that people are booking much closer to the date of travel … and do it twice, three times a year,” he said.
“The spontaneity of travel and the frequency of travel is really increasing as a consequence of the way that we have made travel affordable to everyone.”
The travel industry rebounded last year after a crippling 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic when much of the sector suffered due to public health restrictions.
Statistics Canada’s latest National Travel Survey indicated that in the second quarter of 2023, Canadian residents took 70.2 million domestic trips, up by 5.2 million from the second quarter of 2022 and 4.7 per cent more than in the same quarter in 2019.
Domestic travel accounted for 89.6 per cent of all travel by Canadian residents in the second quarter, surpassing the proportion seen in the same quarter of 2019 (87.1 per cent). In comparison, this proportion was 92 per cent from April to June 2022.
Canadian residents spent $17.7 billion on domestic travel in the second quarter of 2023, up 2.6 per cent from the second quarter of 2022 and up 29 per cent from the same period in 2019.
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