Former Tigerair Australia chief executive Merren McArthur has been appointed as the inaugural chief executive of a new startup budget carrier in Canada, Lynx Air.
Following the announcement, industry veteran McArthur has become one of just a handful of women in the world currently leading an airline.
Before taking the top job at Lynx, McArthur, originally from Melbourne, spent over 10 years at Virgin Australia, having previously served as the CEO of Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, and CEO of Virgin Australia Cargo.
She was the CEO of Tigerair Australia until a corporate restructure saw her step down from the role in late 2019, before the brand was abandoned in March 2020.
Back home, McArthur is most widely regarded for being a trailblazer for tackling the gender imbalance in aviation. Under her leadership, Tigerair boasted the largest population of female employees and female pilots across all of Australia’s airlines, well as a management team that was 40 per cent female.
McArthur also set up and supported programs that encouraged school-aged girls to get involved in aviation.
Formerly a charter airline named Enerjet, the newly rebranded Lynx Air is set to launch service in early 2022, with a fleet of brand-new Boeing 737 MAX jets.
The Calgary-based startup said in a statement that it “plans to announce routes and schedule soon”, however McArthur confirmed that it will initially service domestic routes ahead of a planned expansion into the US and international markets.
According to the release, Lynx currently has firm orders and lease agreements in place for 46 737 MAX aircraft.
The first three aircraft deliveries are expected in early 2022 ahead of the carrier’s planned launch, with the remaining jets to be delivered progressively over the next seven years.
“We are excited to bring competition and choice to the Canadian aviation market at a time when Canadians are yearning for the opportunity to fly again, whether it be to see friends and family, or to take a long-awaited holiday,” McArthur said.
“We have created an ultra-affordable fare structure which is focused on simplicity, transparency and choice,” she added.
“Our a la carte pricing will empower passengers to pick and pay for the services they want, so they can save money on the trip and spend where it counts – at their destination,” she said.
Brad McMullen, senior VP of sales in North America for Boeing Commercial said, “Boeing’s newest 737 aircraft enables the lowest cost operation of any aircraft in its market segment, making it a great fit for Lynx Air’s ultra-low-cost business model.
“Passengers can feel confident in Lynx Air’s choice of modern fleet, knowing this latest generation of aircraft are designed to offer the greatest flexibility, reliability and efficiency in the single-aisle market.”
Lynx joins the competitive budget carrier market in Canada, which is plagued by high fees and taxes, as well as a healthy dose of competition.
Canada already houses a number of low-cost carriers, including Flair Airlines, Swoop and Air Canada Rouge.
Robert Kokonis, president of independent Canadian aviation consultancy AirTrav Inc., said that while in the past he doubted the Canadian market could support another low or ultra-low-cost carrier, the pandemic could have changed this.
“I think as Flair and Swoop have both grown, they’re succeeding in getting Canadians to understand what the ULCC model is,” Kokonis said.
“I’m feeling very bullish that Canadian travellers are getting acclimatised to that model.”
Despite concerns, McArthur told the media the airline is not concerned about the possibility of entering an already over-saturated market.
“We’re not really focused on the competition,” McArthur said. “Our strategy is actually about growing the pie, growing the number of passengers who fly.”
McArthur confirmed Lynx is gearing up to hire up to 450 people, the majority around its HQ in Calgary, to support the airline’s launch.