WestJet closes its budget airline Swoop.
The company made the announcement in a press release Friday, noting that the ratification of its recent deal with its pilots will allow it to integrate all of its staff across several airlines into one banner.
“As agreed in the collective agreement, the WestJet Group will now begin integration efforts of its ultra-low-cost carrier, Swoop,” the airline said.
“Through an expedited process, the airline expects full integration into its mainline operations by the end of October. To avoid passenger impact, Swoop will operate its existing network until the end of its published schedule on October 28. Swoop employees will move to WestJet .”
The move comes as the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) announced that its members had ratified their recent pact with the airline, one that brings 24 percent increases over four years and puts Swoop pilots on par with WestJet’s in terms of seniority and compensation issues.
The union said 87 percent voted in favor of the deal, “which goes a long way in recognizing the value and expertise the pilots bring to their airline and will help solve many of WestJet’s problems with attracting and retaining pilots.” .”
Swoop launched nearly five years ago, in June 2018. It offered deeply discounted, low-frills fares for cost-conscious travelers. A handful of other so-called ultra low-cost airlines have entered Canada’s skies in recent years, including Flair, Lynx and Canada Jetlines.
While Swoop’s demise will remove a major player in Canada’s low-cost travel space, WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech says the airline will continue to offer affordable options.
“This integration will enhance our ability to serve a broader spectrum of guests,” he said. “Instead of just 16 aircraft serving the ultra-low-cost market, every aircraft in our 180-strong fleet will offer ultra-affordable travel options to a premium inflight experience.”
But ultimately, the news is a bad development for consumers, according to John Gradek, a lecturer at McGill University who studies the aviation industry.
“It has implications for the choices Canadians will have in terms of an alternative ultra-low-cost airline,” he told Breaking:.
Although it started in 1996 as a regionally focused airline with generally cheaper prices, WestJet is no longer a low-cost airline, Gradek says. “The loss of Swoop essentially eliminates a carrier that specialized in low cost and it will be a loss to Canadian travelers.”
Will there be more moves?
Gradek says it’s not surprising WestJet is making the switch, given that one of Swoop’s main benefits was its lower cost base in the first place.
“One of the conditions for Swoop’s creation was a different salary scale,” he said. “The ALPA agreement removes that difference that gives you a competitive advantage in terms of price.”
Gradek says he wouldn’t be surprised if WestJet does something similar with another low-cost airline it recently bought, Sunwing.
“WestJet have choices – they’re looking at Sunwing now and that’s the next shoe to drop,” he said. “How far are you going with this integration that started with Swoop — are you doing the same thing with Sunwing?”