WestJet’s discount airline ‘Swoop’ takes flight

Published On June 20, 2018 | By Ryan | Features, Life, News

A Boeing 737 plane is pictured during a presentation by WestJet celebrating Canada’s first ultra low cost airline, Swoop, at John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport in Hamilton, Ont., on June, 19. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Ryan Brockerville

Canada’s first ultra low-cost carrier airline Swoop made its first-ever flight from Hamilton, Ont., to Abbotsford, B.C., today at 5:45 a.m.

Swoop, operated by WestJet, is the first airline of its kind in Canada. It aims to offer Canadians an ultra low-cost option for air travel.

The airline will have 45 weekly flights, including 24 weekly flights from Hamilton to Abbotsford, Halifax, Edmonton and Winnipeg, and 27 weekly flights from Abbotsford to Hamilton and Edmonton.

Introductory base fares are as low as $39 for a one-way ticket from Abbotsford to Edmonton, while other fares begin at $99 and up, depending on when you book.

Swoop is modelled after low-cost airlines like Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines in the United States, or Ryanair and easyJet in Europe.

“We are looking to target people who want to visit friends or family, those who may only be able to take one trip a year, people who are price sensitive, this will allow them to take multiple trips in one year, and people who cross the border to get cheaper flights,”said Karen McIsaac, a spokesperson for Swoop.

The cut-rate airline is targeting a specific share of the market, said Robert Kokonis, the president and managing director of Air Trav Inc., an aviation consulting company based in Toronto.

“Swoop is looking to target those who never travel by air or rarely travel by air because they cannot afford it,” he said.

“People always want to find the cheapest option, if you have a family or if you are a student and you can save on airfare, this allows you to spend more while on vacation,”Kokonis said.

While the potential passenger base can grow, he doesn’t expect Swoop will take significant numbers away from the main airlines of Air Canada and WestJet.

“It’s a positive step forward,” Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger said. “Cargo has always been a mainstay for our airport and we have been looking for ways to increase the number of passenger aircraft that fly in and out of Hamilton and Swoop will add to that volume.”

“If I asked Hamilton residents what they want out of their airport, they would say they want more flights and more destinations out of the Hamilton airport so that it is much more convenient for them to fly out of Hamilton,” he said.

“More destinations is part of our mission and our current service provider is helping that along and is looking to provide more opportunities for others to use our Hamilton international airport,” Eisenberger said.

The mascot of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats sits in a 737 plane during a presentation by WestJet celebrating Canada’s first ultra low cost airline, Swoop, at John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport in Hamilton on June 19. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Extra costs

While Swoop is looking to decrease flight costs, that means passengers will have to pay extra for things that are the norm when flying, such as checked baggage, certain carry-ons, as well as food and drink.

Passengers will be limited to one personal item that must fit under the seat and will have to pay if they want to bring carry-on luggage. That will cost between $36.75 and $92, depending on when it is paid. It will cost less if paid online, ahead of time. But the price rises at the airport counter, and even more at the gate.

Checked bag fees start at $26.25, seat selection ranges from $5 to $30, and if passengers opt for priority boarding, that will cost anywhere between $10.50 and $21.

Pets are not allowed on board and any flight credits offered are only valid for 90 days. Swoop doesn’t provide its customers with a loyalty program.

McIssac said there will be a learning curve for some when it comes to the fees but the experience on board will be the same.

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