Flair Air starts its Kelowna-Vancouver flights today.—Image: Flair Air

Airline alleges its website was taken hostage by consultant

Dispute started after Flair Airlines execs visited customer call centre and found one person working

A new low-cost airline with regular flights out of Abbotsford International Airport says its website was held hostage after complaints about sub-par customer service led to a dispute with a consultant.

In mid-March, Flair Airlines sued the consultant in Illinois. A spokesperson said the airline has since won back control of its main website, FlairAirlines.com, although it took several days for that website to go back online. The airline has used flairair.ca as its main website since the dispute began.

In the lawsuit, Flair said it had a falling out in January with Vacabo Services, a company it had hired to manage a customer service call centre and help set up a new online reservation system. Flair said that after receiving numerous complaints about the Vacabo-managed call centre, it visited the Illinois facility in January to find only a single person manning the phones. Flair alleges it was told that three of every four customer calls were being dropped.

That inspection led to a split between the two parties. Flair says that Vacabo, which had registered web domains for Flair’s use, refused to allow Flair to access the sites. The suit said that in mid-February, Vacabo proprietor Dusan Milicevic emailed Flair brass with a demand for $400,000 USD for outstanding invoices and as a “termination fee.” The suit says Milicevic also blocked access to a suite of other domains used to promote Flair.

Flair Airlines, which purchased New Leaf Travel last year, is trying to find success as one of Canada’s first “ultra-low-cost carriers.” The business model sees an airline offer cheap fares, while charging for add-ons and luggage, and frequently flying out of secondary airports.

Flair flies from Abbotsford to Hamilton, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Toronto.

The airline has had several customer-service issues in the last month.

Recently, a notice on Flairair.ca said the airline had been experiencing “very high call volumes with longer than normal wait times” and advised customers to contact them by email instead.

And in March, a passenger who had previously flown on Flair in December from Toronto to Edmonton posted on social media that a refund cheque she had received from the company had bounced. Jessica Holder said Flair failed to respond to her complaints after it lost her luggage; when she finally received her promised refund, the cheque bounced. Flair says a bank account was changed and “unfortunately there were a few cheques that were caught in the changeover.”

Holder received her refund through an eTransfer.

Asked about the issues, Flair Airlines spokesperson Julie Rempel wrote, in a statement: “Flair is continuously examining service levels, processes and procedures; making every effort to operate efficiently.”

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