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NewLeaf Travel suspends ticket sales, issues refunds while licensing rules reviewed

Dean Dacko, Chief Commercial Officer of NewLeaf Travel speaks at a press conference in the arrivals area of the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, on Jan. 6, 2016.

In a sudden about face, New Leaf Travel Co., which began sales of ultra-low-cost airfares on Jan. 6, is temporarily halting sales while it waits for the country’s airline regulator to complete its review of licensing procedures.

In a statement late Monday afternoon, the Winnipeg-based upstart carrier with destinations to seven secondary Canadian cities on its route map, said it would refund all bookings within 72 hours. Its first scheduled flight was supposed to take place on Feb. 12. NewLeaf said it planned to resume ticket sales sometime in the spring.

“During this uncertain time, we didn’t want to put anyone with existing bookings at risk, and we wanted to give customers time to make other travel arrangements,” said NewLeaf chief executive officer Jim Young in a statement, saying that “thousands” of customers had already reserved seats.

Last week Young told the Financial Post that NewLeaf was complying with rules from the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), which is holding a public consultation until Friday on how it should evaluate licence requirements. The CTA also confirmed that NewLeaf would not require a domestic carrier licence, but that the situation might change after the review was complete.

NewLeaf had not planned to operate flights itself, but was initially contracting out the flights through a “wet lease” arrangement to corporate-charter provider Flair Airlines Ltd.

“Now, there is ambiguity in the air as to whether we need to amend the relationship with our air service provider, or whether we need to have a licence ourselves,” said Young.

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