Update 08JUL, 2020: In a response received post-publication, an OWG spokesperson told Open Jaw the company will be based from Toronto and Dorval and is targeting a fall 2020 launch, but may re-evaluate this date if Covid-19 is still active.
Undeterred by the challenges of a global pandemic, a brand new airline is preparing to launch in Quebec.
Owned by parent company Nolinor Aviation and led by its president Marco Prud'Homme, OWG will offer flights to several Caribbean destinations with its fleet of three, used 158-passenger Boeing 737-400.
As such the company -- whose name is derived from "Off We Go" -- is targeting travellers who rent villas, houses or apartments, instead of staying in all-inclusive resorts.
“Before COVID, there was an interesting surge of people who went to rent houses on the spot. I look at all the young people here who go on vacation – they are not interested in hotel complexes. They want to leave with their backpacks, and rent a house. And in the coming year, I'm not sure that people 70 and over will travel the most," Prud'Homme told La Presse in an interview.
Armed with this strategy, Prud'Homme says the company doesn't intend to replace anyone, but rather to carve out a niche in the market.
"We chose a popular destination where we can take market share without becoming the Public Enemy Number One for other carriers," said Prud'Homme.
No official launch date has been revealed, although a countdown timer on the website suggests service will commence in 55 days, on 31AUG, 2020.
According to La Presse, the company says it has filed its schedules and received authorization from the Minister of Transport to provide regular international flight service on 06JUL, 2020. The precise list of destinations served will not be released for another week or two.
Open Jaw reached out to OWG asking whether the company plans to work with the Canadian trade. A spokesperson responded that “related information will be released in a few weeks.” It might seem like an ominous time to launch a new airline, when carriers around the world still have largely grounded fleets and are facing lethal declines in passenger volume. But the pandemic has provided a silver lining by levelling the playing field, says Prud'Homme. The crisis has freed up slots and boarding gates everywhere, notably at YUL, where OWG plans to operate its hub.
Mirabel-based Nolinor, founded in 1992, is well known in the charter transportation sector, mainly operating flights to the Far North with its fleet of 10 Boeing 737s. According to a media release, the Nolinor team has been working since 2018 to create a new leisure airline, and has invested more than $1 million in a think tank "to reinvent the way things are done in this industry."
In early 2020, OWG acquired a fleet of Boeing 737-400s, a decision that OWG says allows it to offer "competitive rates." The interior of each plane was refurbished with "new, lighter and sturdier" seats – an investment of several million dollars.
But don't call it "low-cost", cautions Prud'Homme in the La Presse article. The company sees itself as traditional airline, “where you buy your ticket and expect a certain service.”
When the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded last spring, Sunwing called on it to operate certain flights, which helped propel the vision to launch OWG, reports La Presse.
"We realized that people appreciated our service and it was not beyond what we were able to do," Prud'Homme said. "It added to the project that we had already started with the idea of diversifying our income. "
Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.