Swoop…and it’s gone

A pilot pay bump that was supposed to solve WestJet’s labour retention issues and stabilize operations has resulted in the company shutting down its budget airline, Swoop.

What happened: WestJet will bring Swoop under its main wing, integrating employees and operations by the end of October. Swoop will honour its existing reservations through to the end of its published schedule, but the days of $100 flights to Los Cabos might be gone. 

Why it matters: With Swoop folded, cost-conscious Canadian travellers will have one less option to get from A to B. When WestJet announced Swoop in 2018, it advertised prices ~40% cheaper than comparable flights, opening up access to a market of infrequent fliers.

  • Low fares were made possible through budget airline tingz, like paying pilots less and making you pay more for bringing a bag, grabbing a snack, or stretching your legs. 

Why it’s happening: A recent deal between WestJet Group and the union representing WestJet and Swoop pilots brought everyone into the same tax bracket and secured 24% raises over four years. This also effectively eroded Swoop’s ability to offer lower fares.

  • One airline expert told the CBC that he wouldn’t be surprised if WestJet did something similar with Sunwing, that other discount airline it recently bought.  

Bottom line: You can still snag a cross-country ~$300 round trip this summer—and for even less if you can brace the Tuesday Flair red-eye—but economists at Hopper expect airlines to continue facing pressure to raise prices to compensate for higher operating costs.—SB