Ultra-low-cost airline set to Swoop into B.C.

New WestJet subsidiary will take off in 2018

Canada’s newest ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) could soon swoop into Abbotsford.

On Wednesday, WestJet revealed the name and hot-pink logo for its subsidiary, Swoop. It will begin selling tickets for summer flights in February, according to Bob Cummings, WestJet’s executive vice-president responsible for the company’s launch.

READ: Comox Airport readies itself for WestJet’s new low-cost carrier

Swoop will leverage WestJet’s infrastructure and fly 10 Boeing 787-800 planes with 189 seats each, Cummings said. A ticket will only buy a seat with an extra fee likely charged for luggage, priority seating, extra leg-room and even in-flight entertainment.

“You pay for exactly what you want and will get value from,” he said.

Cummings would not confirm whether or not Swoop would be flying in and out of Abbotsford International Airport (YXX) but said it’s “a tremendous airport that fits very well with the ULCC model.”

“For competitive reasons, we won’t be absolutely disclosing the cities and the network until our booking launch day in February,” he said.

But the airport’s general manager seemed confident.

“It looks like [Swoop] will be in Abbotsford,” said Parm Sidhu, the Abbotsford Airport’s general manager.

Sidhu said YXX is perfectly suited to serve a ULCC like Swoop and anticipates it will get “new people flying” who aren’t able to afford conventional airlines. He said he expects operations to take off in June 2018.

WestJet has studied the ULCC model around the world, particularly in the U.S., Cummings said. There, he said, bargain airlines like Spirit and Allegiant typically charge 50 per cent less than Canadian airlines for flights of the same distance.

“You won’t see quite those levels of discounts [from Swoop], but we’re building a cost structure to get towards those kinds of discounts and average-fare levels that are quite substantially lower and, I’ll say, game-changing or disruptive in the Canadian market,” Cummings said.

Swoop hopes to “repatriate” some cross-border “leakage” to those American competitors by offering a price they can’t refuse closer to home, Cummings said.

Cummings reiterated that Swoop’s flight network won’t be disclosed until the new year, even declining to comment on whether it would run flights to and from its home base in Calgary, but said they hope to fly to southern B.C., southern Ontario and other “larger cities or regions in Canada.”


@KelvinGawley
kelvin.gawley@abbynews.com

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