Six-month-old NewLeaf Travel Co. Inc. will drop flights to two more cities this summer, bringing its total number of destinations down to five while increasing frequency on its remaining routes.

The low-cost travel company will drop Kelowna, B.C., and Moncton, N.B., from its summer schedule, which runs from May 1 to Oct. 30. The charter service that operates NewLeaf’s flights, Flair Airlines, is based in Kelowna.

The company will offer more frequent flights to its remaining destinations — Abbotsford, B.C., Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Halifax — and said Thursday that it will add more routes to its network “in the coming weeks.”

“This initial schedule solidifies our commitment to a network of routes that connect Canadians from coast to coast,” chief executive Jim Young said in a statement. “We have a highly concentrated route network that we are very pleased with.”

Besides Kelowna and Moncton, NewLeaf has also dropped B.C. cities Victoria, Kamloops and Fort St. John from its original schedule, as well as Saskatoon and Regina. It briefly offered flights to Calgary over the Christmas travel season but didn’t continue those past the holidays.

NewLeaf also recently abandoned plans to fly to Phoenix, Ariz., and Orlando, Fla., blaming WestJet Airlines Ltd. for squeezing them out of the market when it also launched flights to Phoenix from Calgary and Edmonton.

“This is a classic case of the big guy squishing the little guy so that the big guy can profit more,” Young said in an early January Facebook post. “We sincerely hope and in fact challenge the other airlines to keep the fares low for you so that you can still travel south for the winter.”

In an investor presentation last month, WestJet chief financial officer Harry Taylor made no bones about the fact that his airline is aggressively going after new competitors.

“We like to think of ourselves as Canada’s low-fare airline and we don’t want to concede that turf,” Taylor told an AltaCorp Capital investor conference in January.

Taylor added that people didn’t take WestJet seriously when it first entered the market in 1996 and he doesn’t plan to make the same mistake.

“We’re going to be as aggressive as we can to make sure we can protect our reputation,” he said.

Two other companies, Canada Jetlines Ltd. and Enerjet Ltd., are also working to launch ultra-low-cost airlines in Canada. The federal government recently granted them exemptions to Canada’s foreign ownership restrictions on domestic airlines, raising the limit to 49 per cent from 25 per cent.

kowram@postmedia.com
Twitter: @kristineowram