By Vanni Gibertini
Canada’s ULCC Swoop To Triple Its Fleet To 30 Aircraft
As the world progresses towards re-establishing some kind of post-pandemic normality and the airline industry works at regaining the years of lost growth, carriers are doing their best to position themselves so they can take advantage of the rebound in demand.
Canadian Ultra Low-Cost Carrier Swoop, a fully-owned subsidiary of Westjet, has been expanding its footprint from the original base in Hamilton, Canada, just over an hour drive southwest of Toronto, and has been launching services to other Canadian cities in the Western part of the country.
Last November Swoop announced a 76% increase in capacity at Edmonton Airport, supporting the creation of 140 direct and indirect spin-off jobs and an anticipated 120 million Canadian dollars ($94 million) of economic output activity in 2022. The expansion has seen the progressive introduction of non-stop flights from Edmonton to eight Canadian cities as well as three destinations in the U.S. — Las Vegas, Phoenix and Palm Springs).
“This is a major milestone for Swoop as we underscore our commitment to leading the way for ultra-low fare air travel in Canada and reaffirm our position as the airline with the most destinations from Edmonton,” said Charles Duncan, President of Swoop, in a statement. “With a strong focus on growth and Edmonton as our partner, we will continue to provide our travelers with more non-stop flights and ultra-low fares while supporting the recovery of Canada’s travel and tourism economy.”
But Swoop is not only focusing on short-term expansion: the carrier is in the process of planning the expansion of its fleet from the current 10 Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft in order to achieve a size more in line with its ambitions. The airline was in fact created to “swoop” into the Canadian market with a new business model and make travel more affordable to everyone. President Charles Duncan has confirmed to anna.aero that more than 50% of the tickets sold have been priced below the C$100 mark ($78) which of course excludes all the other ancillary services that are sold separately to passengers, such as checked baggage fees, carry-on fees and seat selection fees that can increase considerably the total cost of a flight.
“Our ambition is to have 16 aircraft for the coming summer, and ultimately grow to 30, so the excitement for our whole team at Swoop is that after an almost two-year pause we can now get on the front foot and focus on growth,” said Duncan.
The Westjet group operates an all-Boeing fleet as far as jet aircraft are concerned. Regional subsidiaries Westjet Encore and Westjet Link provide short-haul services with Bombardier Dash 8-4000 and Saab 340 aircraft respectively, but all jet flights are operated using Boeing aircraft. Swoop has a single type fleet of Boeing 737-800 in a single-class 189-seat configuration, much like Irish low-cost behemoth Ryanair successfully operates in Europe.
Duncan has confirmed that the airline is currently in the process of sourcing the additional six aircraft needed for the planned expansion in summer 2022, but has not disclosed whether the single aircraft type rule will continue to be observed in the near future.
Currently, Westjet has orders for 42 short-haul Boeing aircraft, all of which are Boeing 737 MAX. However, Westjet mainline operates 38 Boeing 737-800 aircraft that could potentially be replaced by newer MAX aircraft with the older frame to be handed over to Swoop after an interior reconfiguration since Westjet 737-800s have 174 seats, 15 fewer than Swoop’s.