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Flair Airlines Ottawa-Cancún – Think “Cheap”, Not “Fancy”

“All of our planes are brand new!” the steward announced when we boarded the flight to Cancún.

Maybe he had noticed a few of us pausing upon stepping inside the Boeing 737 MAX 8, wondering how we would fit into the seats.

He was right, though. The aircraft did look new.

Why Flair Airlines?

And why Cancún?

Because like everything else these days in Canada, Air Canada tickets to South America were outrageously expensive.

We realized we needed a plan B back in September. Normally, Feng and I have this informal agreement we don’t start planning for any winter trip until after Thanksgiving and the guy’s birthdays, but we had a bad feeling this year. Indeed, when Feng checked the price of tickets to South America, we realized Air Canada was now charging almost triple the price.

Yeah… no.

We didn’t have many options either because only Air Canada flies direct to South America. Going through the US with an American airline? Almost as expensive, with potential headaches because it would include a stopover in the US in the winter during the busy holiday season—flights could easily be delayed or cancelled.

So we looked for cheap tickets to Mexico and we discovered Flair Airlines, Canada’s only “ultra-low-cost carrier,” was flying directly to Cancún from Ottawa.

“Can’t be worst than spending two days in Greyhound buses across the US, right?”

Deal.

The flight was only 4 hours and 40 minutes and the schedule was pretty convenient with a departure at 2:30 p.m. I had zero expectations from Flair Airlines for this “short” trip. It’s not like Air Canada is particularly fancy, anyway…

We were lucky, we left on December 19 right after the first winter snowstorm and before what’s apparently coming right now to most of North America.

Last Monday, “YOW,” Ottawa’s international airport, was actually pretty busy—the first trip in two years for most people, I guess. It’s still a surprisingly small airport considering it’s the national capital, so no big lineup for boarding passes even though the flight was almost full.

It was so efficient my in-laws who were dropping us off at the airport barely had the chance to lecture us and give us “essential” items we didn’t want to bring.

We were a mismatched group of passengers—a few Mexicans-Canadians, some families with kids, a few snowbirds, and what looked like a wedding party. At least, the three guys dressed in Christmas-themed pyjamas with Santa hats didn’t board with us, they were apparently on the Swoop flight to Edmonton, -28⁰C at the destination according to the airport board that includes local temperature in weather-obsessed Canada. I guessed when you fly to Edmonton for the holidays, you earn the right to dress how the fuck you want.

The seats had very little legroom and didn’t recline, and there was absolutely nothing free on board, not even water. Apparently, Fair Airlines doesn’t hire professional translators either because the menu had a very funny translation fail.

Don’t expect the usual in-flight entertainment system, seats don’t come with TVs. It wasn’t a surprise for us but it may explain why several kids—not babies, 5-10-year-old kids!—spent the entire flight screaming. Must have been screen-time withdrawal symptoms.

So yes, it was a boring, noisy and fairly uncomfortable flight but we left and arrived on time and the crew was very professional.

We watched the sun disappear and we landed in Cancún a few minutes later.

Passports were stamped, no questions asked, no form to fill up, and no vaccine certificate required.

Luggage took forever to be unloaded because apparently, all the gringos had landed at the same time from Toronto, Ottawa, Los Angeles and Frankfurt.

We stepped out of the airport and started looking for a ride to Playa del Carmen, an hour away, final destination of the day and first stop of the trip.

 Made it!

Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Trilingual sign, Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Trilingual sign, Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19
Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19
Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
Ottawa McDonald-Cartier International Airport, December 19
For my French friends... spot the "perle de traduction"! Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19
For my French friends… spot the “perle de traduction”! Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19
Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19
Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19
Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19
Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19
Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19
Ottawa to Cancún, Flair Airlines F8 370, December 19

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