Battle lines were drawn between Canadian budget carrier Flair Airlines and Airborne Capital when the airline filed suit against the lessor on March 14, 2023, for having seized four of its B737 MAXs in what it described as "unlawful and immeasurably destructive actions".

Airborne Capital had hit back at Flair Airlines for suggesting it was conspiring with one of Canada's major airlines when it seized the aircraft. It said it was a last-resort move following five months of arrears in lease payments totalling millions of dollars. "Airborne Capital strongly rejects the allegations that have been made by Flair Airlines in recent days in relation to four Airborne-managed aircraft. The leasing of the four Airborne-managed aircraft was terminated following a five-month long period, during which Flair was regularly in default of its leases by failing to meet its payments when due, with payment arrears reaching millions of dollars," an Airborne spokesperson said in a statement shared with ch-aviation.

In a responding statement, Flair announced it had filed suit against Airborne Capital with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. "Airborne Capital's unlawful and immeasurably destructive actions were taken on the first weekend of many of our customers' school breaks. This is profiteering on the backs of Canadians and was entirely unexpected and unwarranted," it said.

Airborne Capital insisted that its senior executives had been in direct and regular contact with Flair over the past months, reminding them of their legal obligations to pay the lease arrears. "However, missed payments and lease defaults persisted," the lessor said in its first public comment on the matter. "Terminating an aircraft lease is always a last resort, and such a decision is never taken lightly. In this case, following numerous notices to Flair, it again failed to make payments when due, and Airborne took steps to terminate the leasing of the aircraft.

"Airborne has a legal obligation to seek to mitigate losses flowing from Flair's default. Airborne has taken steps to meet that legal obligation. Despite these efforts, material losses are expected in relation to the repossession and remarketing of the aircraft," it said.

Flair Chief Executive Officer Stephen Jones has recently made unsubstantiated allegations that Airborne was in cahoots with one of Canada's two major airlines, Air Canada or WestJet, to hurt the budget incumbent, alleging: "We have come in and upset the cosy duopoly, and as a consequence, people want us out of business. We believe there were negotiations going on behind the scenes between one of the majors and the lessor to hurt Flair by offering above-market rates for the aircraft we have been leasing."

When questioned on this by ch-aviation during an online news conference late on March 14, Jones refused to qualify his claim: "I think more will unfold on this as the days roll forward, and I am not going to name names or cite evidence here but suffice to say that we're very clear about what's been going on." He claimed that Flair had been a few days late on a USD1 million lease payment and felt the lessor's action had been surprising as the parties had been in constant communication.