This has nothing to do with Leblanc. It is KF all the way.
See press clipping from Vancouver Sun:
Kelowna Flightcraft is back in the airline business as part of a new charter carrier operating from Eastern Canada to sunshine destinations, the company announced Wednesday.
The Kelowna-based cargo carrier, will operate one of its Boeing 727s out of Montreal, beginning Feb. 21 with flights to Mexico, Cuba, Florida and the Dominican Republic.
Within a year, the new company, Vacances Air Columbus, jointly owned with Montreal travel agency Neo Tours, likely will add aircraft and expand operations to Vancouver, Kelowna Flightcraft president and CEO Barry Lapointe said.
"We are hoping by next year to be three or four aircraft, which is a good number," Lapointe said in an interview. "We are a B.C. company and B.C. is always going to figure in our plans."
Kelowna Flightcraft will supply the aircraft, flight crews and maintenance facilities. Neo-Tours will provide the passengers.
It is similar to the deal Kelowna Flightcraft made with Greyhound of Canada to operate Greyhound Air, a charter carrier launched with great fanfare in 1996, but which folded 15 months later.
Lapointe said Greyhound was a good airline and could have been "a major force in Canadian transportation," but went out of business when Greyhound's parent, Greyhound Canada Transportation Corp., was taken over by Laidlaw Inc., which he said "had no appetite for the airline business."
Lapointe believes conditions are right for a new Canadian charter carrier because of the demise last year of Canada 3000 and the downsizing of Montreal-based Air Transat, which have left a gap in the market.
He said Kelowna Flightcraft, which has 850 employees and revenue last year of $120 million, has invested $8 million in Vacances Air Columbus from its other operations. The new carrier enters the market debt-free, he added.
"We will start with one aircraft and go from there and if we think there's other opportunities, we will look at them," he said. "I am not in it for the ego, but only if it makes sense and is profitable. That's going to be the driving force."
He said the new company is operating from Montreal first because Quebec was hardest hit when Canada 3000 went under.
Kelowna Flightcraft's core business is operating and maintaining cargo aircraft for Purolator. It has a fleet of 35 aircraft, including three passenger jets. Most of its operations are at night, which means it has equipment available during the day.
"People say, 'Isn't this a bad time to start an airline?' We think it's a good time. There's a lot of people available. There's a big drop in capacity. We have zero debt and no baggage and [aircraft] leases are not out of sight. Also, we have bases in every major city in Canada.
Industry analyst Peter Paul de Souza confirmed there is a void in the Canadian charter market since Canada 3000 ceased operations.
"There's a pent-up demand forÝholidays to sun destinations, particularly at this time of the year," he said. "Kelowna Flightcraft has a good reputation in the industry and they know the business. Starting cautiously, with one aircraft, seems to be the way to go."
Vancouver travel agent Scott Clute of Global Travel said he is impressed that the confidence exists to start an airline in the current business environment, but heÝcautioned there may be consumer reluctance to a newcomer starting so soon after Canada 3000 went under.
"With one aircraft, it is not going to be force in the market," he said. "People are still smarting from what happened to Canada 3000."
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