Swoop

Swoop launches Toronto operations

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Swoop launches Toronto operations Sunday

Fall 2020 schedule shows capacity shift from Westjet to Swoop in Toronto and Edmonton

A Swoop Boeing 737-800 is pushed back from the gate in this undated photo (Facebook/FlySwoop).

Westjet subsidiary Swoop launches service from Toronto Sunday. It’s the first foray into Canada’s busiest airport for the ultra low-cost carrier, which for almost two years based its Eastern operations at Hamilton, about an hour west.

With the move, Westjet is signalling greater coordination than ever before between mainline routes and Swoop. The airlines’ combined fall 2020 schedule shows a shift in capacity in two of the group’s major markets.

In Toronto and Edmonton, the number of weekly mainline departures is falling. Instead, Westjet is shifting some of its capacity to its ultra low-cost subsidiary.

Swoop will fly 17 weekly departures from Toronto, though that is down from an initially announced 39 weekly flights. During the pandemic, this is not unusual as airline schedules fluctuate wildly in response to customer demand. Five weekly Swoop departures will be to Edmonton, directly replacing one Westjet flight between the two cities. It’s the first time Westjet has directly swapped metal between the two brands into one of its hubs.

Direct competition

The move puts Swoop in direct competition with Flair Airlines. Flair shifted its operations from Hamilton to Toronto two years ago. The move allowed it to offer services Swoop could not. This winter, Flair is offering 14 weekly flights from Toronto to points in Western Canada.

It’s not the first time Swoop has replaced a Westjet route. In 2018, Westjet was forced to reverse course when angry passengers expressed outrage the company was shifting capacity to Swoop between Edmonton and Las Vegas. After an outcry, Westjet reintroduced some mainline service on the route.

The shift to Swoop is even more marked in the Alberta capital where Westjet is reducing its weekly capacity by 19 flights this fall. To make up the difference, Swoop is adding flights 13 each week to destinations in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. The combined effect shows a slight decrease from 128 weekly departures in August to 126.

Pushing for a safe reopening

The airlines are trying to get ahead of the crisis. The shift from Westjet to Swoop is one element, with most experts predicting the price-sensitive leisure market will recover first.

Another is getting borders reopened to travel. This week, the governments of Alberta and Canada agreed on a pilot project to allow passengers to take a pair of COVID-19 tests, rather than quarantine for two weeks. If the pilot is successful, expect it to spread to other airports in the near future. Airlines and airports have been begging for just such a move to help restart air travel.

Swoop, however, will be denied one potential avenue of growth. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation gave its tentative blessing to a joint venture between Westjet and Delta. The DOT, however, said Swoop could not be part of the agreement.

The joint venture means Westjet and Delta would be able to work together on Canada-U.S. routes, sharing schedules, connecting passengers, and sharing profits and losses.

Relying on data gathered before the pandemic, the DOT said the agreement would open up new route possibilities. For example, Delta would get access to 16 new markets in Western Canada through Westjet’s Calgary hub.

The DOT also said that together Delta and Westjet would form a formidable competitor for Air Canada and United. Together, the Star Alliance members hold about 57% of the transborder market.

The Canadian Competition Bureau has already given its blessing to the joint venture.

Forecasts from the Canadian Airports Council suggest the number of travellers will be down 72% this year and 65% in 2021. That will lead airports to lose roughly $4.5 billion in revenue over the next two years.

Editors note: This story has been updated from its original version to reflect the changing number of flights being offered out of various cities.

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