An Airdrie resident is speaking out about her recent experience with Lynx Air after the Calgary-based discount airline announced it would be shutting down operations. 

A., who asked to remain anonymous said that when she and her family first chose Lynx Air to fly to Hamilton months ago, there were no issues whatsoever. And so when it came time to find an airline to book tickets for the family's Christmas vacation to Disneyland, she said that she chose Lynx Air because the airline's ticket prices fit into the family budget.

"Absolutely - the reason we chose them is because we could afford it," she said.

However, unlike their previous trip with Lynx Air, A., said that even before the family's February trip stateside, there were a series of hiccups in the late fall of last year.

"They switched our flights; we were supposed to leave at 4 p.m. and then we got an email saying we were switched to a flight to 8 a.m., which was a bit of a hiccup because we have dogs that have to go to a kennel, so, then we had to phone and ask if we could drop the dogs off a day early. We had to pay for an extra day of them being there."

Then came another email a week later in November, informing the family that their return flight had also changed.

"We were supposed to return on [February] 25th originally, and they moved it up 24 hours to the 26th in the evening," she added.

The family had to make arrangements to extend their rental car as well as another night at a hotel.

On Thursday, February 22, Lynx Air announced that they would be halting flight operations as of 12:01 a.m. Mountain Standard Time on Monday, February 26. 

"Tremendous work was put into the growth and expansion of Lynx Air over the past two years, offering Canadians a low-cost, seamless travel experience for Canadians. However, the compounding financial pressures associated with inflation, fuel costs, exchange rates, cost of capital, regulatory costs and competitive tension in the Canadian market have ultimately proven too steep a mountain for our organization to overcome," the organization stated in a release.

"Ceasing operations was a very difficult decision for Lynx to make. We worked tirelessly to find a solution to keep our operations going but encountered several challenges in allowing us to do just that. It became the only path we could take, we kept our passengers and staff in mind and knew the effects of this decision would touch many. The decision was made quickly to wind down operations while leaving enough time to get our crews and as many of our passengers as possible home."

It was also on that same day when A.'s husband received the email that their flight with Lynx Air was cancelled altogether. 

According to Lynx Air, customers whose flights were scheduled for Monday, February 26 onward, would receive notice of cancellation of their flight.

"Lynx Air will be in contact with you regarding the processing of a refund. Please note: Lynx Air’s contact centre will not be available to assist with refunds."

A. and her family were left in a position of scrambling to find a flight and get home. The family was finally able to find a return flight home, though A. said that in comparison, they paid approximately $1,600 for their round-trip tickets to Disneyland for four family members, while their ticket home via WestJet cost them alone $1,200. 

"I'm not upset with the employees, but the company as a whole; could you not have seen this coming and maybe told people they're not actually going to get home?"

A. added that her husband contacted their credit card company to ask for a refund, and is currently waiting back to hear about a reversal of charges.

However, despite her most recent experience with Lynx Air, A. said that if in the future she had to choose to fly, she said she would still choose a discount airline similar to Lynx Air.

While A. said that the news of Lynx Air halting operations was a complete shock, a former flight attendant of the airline, R., who asked to remain anonymous said that there were troubling rumours some months ago about the company's financial viability. 

Former Lynx Air employee speaks out

"I had a flight with my in-flight director and I was asking [them]nwhat the financial state of the airlines is. "She said the airline is not making any money right now. We're running on loans and borrowed money."

In an internal memo sent to employees, Chief Operation Officer (COO) Jim Sullivan noted that the company's passenger count grew by 187 per cent in 2023, and R. also noted that many of the flights he served on were full.

"I certainly noticed over the past 10 months that we [had] started carrying more passengers, but from a passenger perspective, if you see a whole plane you wouldn't normally think that this airline is super close to going under."

But, R. also noted that there had also been other signs that things were not going well for Lynx Air.

"We stopped doing layovers in Edmonton and Halifax, which we flight attendants thought was about trying to save money. Starting this fall, instead of eight-hour shifts or six-hour shifts, they started giving us 12-hour shifts or 18 hours," he said. "They were just cramming as much as they could do in one day; because what we thought was they were trying to do was to get flights up and going with more frequency so that we could generate more money."

There had also been rumours in early February about the potential merging of Lynx Air with Flair Airlines - another low-cost carrier; and so when R., was sent a company-wide email to join a Microsoft Teams call last week, he assumed it was about the potential merging of the two airlines.

"They sent that email an hour before the meeting. I joined the call and then they said they were going to shut down. My jaw hit my desk. I immediately started looking looking for new jobs," R. said.

While the company-wide meeting offered little details, other than executive management telling employees that the airline had no more capital and that investors had backed out, court documents shed some light on what led to the company's shuttering of its operations. 

According to an affidavit obtained by Discover Airdrie of Michael Woodward, the Interim Contractor Chief Financial Officer of Lynx Air since March of 2023, that was submitted to the Court of King's Bench in Calgary, the document outlines the organization's financial problems.

Several factors influenced the demise of the company, including the carrier's revenue performance being, 'highly sensitive to market fluctuations in jet fuel pricing and passenger demand, as well as evolving factors within Canada’s competitive aviation landscape.'

"In 2023 alone, fuel was between 50-100 per cent higher than projected in the Applicants’ original business plan. This resulted in fuel expenses of approximately $30,000,000 over the original business plan," the affidavit stated.

Other factors that were also enumerated on, included the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In large part due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions imposed in March of 2020 and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in March of 2019, Lynx Air’s first inaugural flight was delayed from the first quarter of 2019 until April of 2022. As such, the Applicants had to sustain administrative and operating costs without any significant revenue for three years beyond what had originally been planned."

The affidavit goes on to state that, 'Lynx Air is currently insolvent and has insufficient cash reserves to allow it to continue to fund its current ongoing operations. In addition, certain critical service suppliers have recently elected to take enforcement actions, which, if pursued, would jeopardize the Applicants’ ongoing operations, and would likely result in the Applicants’ operations being shut down in a chaotic and haphazard manner.'

"For these reasons, Lynx Air has decided that the only option available to it to preserve value in its assets is to urgently obtain protection under the [Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act] CCAA to give it reasonable time to wind down its business operations in an orderly fashion..."

The affidavit stated that as of December 31, 2023, the Applicants had total liabilities of approximately $599,857,000. 

Guidance for those impacted by Lynx Air's shutdown 

Recently, the Alberta Motor Association (AMA) announced that it launched an online tool for travellers during flight disruptions. According to the AMA, the next time Alberta air travellers face a flight disruption, a new online tool from the Alberta Motor Association (AMA) will connect them with immediate guidance on their rights.

"AMA’s promise has always been to protect travellers before, during and after their trip. This tool is another way we can be there for Albertans if things go wrong, and help make these situations more manageable,” said Jeff Kasbrick, Vice-President of Advocacy and Operations for AMA.

In its online guide, AMA does allude to Lynx Air shutting down, underlining that, 'government rules under the Air Passenger Rights Regulations don’t really offer protection for travellers when an airline company declares bankruptcy.'

"Travellers affected by the shutdown of Lynx Air are encouraged to contact their credit card company, travel agent or travel insurance provider, as soon as possible to see what they are eligible for. In the rules, the Air Passenger Rights Regulations say you may be owed a refund when your flight is cancelled, and you should have your cancelled flight rebooked – in the case of a small airline like Lynx, on the same carrier. The problem is that with Lynx in bankruptcy protection, there is no carrier to issue a refund or flights to be rebooked on."

According to the Canadian Transportation Agency, if you are affected by Lynx Air's cessation of air operations, you should try the following 

  • Passengers who are stranded or who have purchased a ticket for future travel with Lynx Air should contact their travel agent or transportation provider as soon as possible to see if it is possible to make alternative arrangements. If not, they may need to secure their own alternative travel arrangements.
  • For passengers that have outstanding complaints about Lynx Air filed with the CTA, or that wish to file a complaint against this air carrier: As a result of a court order by the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta on February 22, 2024, all proceedings, including complaints filed with the CTA, against Lynx Air are stayed and suspended pending further order of the Court.
  • Passengers who paid for their tickets by credit card should contact their credit card company to see what they are eligible for.
  • If travel insurance was purchased, passengers should contact the insurance company to see if their coverage includes such circumstances.
  • If passengers purchase their travel arrangements from a travel agent that is registered in Ontario, Quebec or British Columbia, they may be eligible for a refund from the provincial government authorities responsible for travel. Those authorities are the following:

According to a recent Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) survey, roughly six in ten Canadians say they or someone they know has experienced a flight disruption in the last two years.

At the end of 2023, Lynx Air employed approximately 500 employees, with the vast majority being employed in Alberta. 

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