Jetlines takes to the skies to protest Canada’s airline duopoly

Who: Canada Jetlines and Cossette, with media buying by Cossette Media and PR from front + centre.

What: An online video protesting Canada’s lack of airline competition and high fares. The goal is to encourage Canadians, investors and the Competition Bureau to rally around the idea of increased competition and decreased airfares.

When & Where: The YouTube video debuted on July 24. It drives to a dedicated website where visitors can sign a petition urging the Competition Bureau to examine the Canadian airline duopoly.

Why: Jetlines CEO Javier Suarez claims that Canada is the only developed nation without a true ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC), with Air Canada and Westjet controlling 85% of the domestic market. Suarez says that five million Canadians cross over to the U.S. each year in order to fly on low-cost carriers.

How: Billed as “Canada’s first protest in the sky,” the 60-second video shows 18 skydivers (including Suarez) holding banners bearing slogans such as “End sky-high airfares,” “We deserve ultra-low airfares” and “Taking off in Canada is a rip-off.” The airline says that it is taking a stand “in the one place the duopoly thinks they own: the sky.”

What is Jetlines?: Billing itself as “Canada’s first true ultra low-cost carrier,” Jetlines is slated to debut in December. It plans to operate flights across Canada, and provide non-stop service from Canada to the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean.

It has been granted two slots at Vancouver International Airport it says will permit it to operate up to 10 flights per day, and more than 1,000 flights during its first winter season—from Dec. 17 to March 28. It has partnered with Latvia’s SmartLynx Airlines to secure two Airbus A320 aircraft.

Jetlines says that ULCC penetration is as high as 50% in larger European markets, 30% in the U.S. and more than 50% in Mexico. “Canada does not have a true ULCC platform, representing a significant market opportunity,” it states.

The airline successfully lobbied the Canadian government to raise foreign ownership restrictions on Canadian airlines from 25% to 49% in 2016, providing it with greater access to foreign capital for start-up costs.

According to the company’s fact sheet, the SmartLynx partnership will provide it with a minimum of $7.5 million in capital, cost efficiencies and support during the start-up period, while South Korean institutional investors will provide an additional minimum of $7 million in funding.

Jetlines has said that its fares will be anywhere from 30% to 40% lower than those offered by the country’s two biggest airlines.

In an interview with aviation data and analytics firm FlightGlobal last year, Suarez—previously VP of network planning, revenue management and e-commerce for the Mexican ultra-discount airline Viva Aerobus—said his airline will be inspired by the tech industry. “I’m looking into companies like Amazon and Uber,” he said.

Jetlines has pledged “disruptive” marketing and distribution, utilizing what it calls “next-generation dynamic pricing/promotion/package engines” that are not currently used by other Canadian carriers.

Chris Powell