General aviation

Swoop celebrates one million passengers

A Swoop 737-800 awaits passengers on the tarmac at Abbotsford airport in January (photo: Brett Ballah).

Just weeks shy of its first birthday, Calgary-based discount carrier Swoop has celebrated a milestone, carrying its one millionth passenger on a flight from Edmonton to Hamilton.

“We suspected the millionth traveller would be flying this week, so we decided to have some fun and share the experience with an entire flight,” said Steven Greenway, President of Swoop in a statement. “After all, every traveller is equally as valued and we were eager to show our appreciation in a unique way.”

Swoop was created as a backstop as parent company Westjet moves more upscale and international in its ambitions. Westjet executives have acknowledged the transition could leave them vulnerable to competition from low-cost upstarts, such as rival Flair Airlines, based in Edmonton.

Westjet is in the process of being bought by Onex, though Swoop’s future was not mentioned in the transaction.

“Reaching one million passengers is a monumental achievement for Swoop and affirms that Canadians are embracing low-cost travel,” said Cathie Puckering, President & CEO, John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. “This accomplishment is particularly impressive considering the airline has only been operating for 11 months. We are so thrilled to be Swoop’s base in Eastern Canada and look forward to welcoming even more Swoop passengers to our airport in the coming years.”

While the airline is celebrating a passenger milestone, results have not all been rosy for the airline. Westjet executives have said they were disappointed with Swoop’s load factors in the fall and winter.

“The impact of lower fares stimulating domestic traffic through the winter season at the ULCC end is a reasonably significant challenge,” Westjet chief executive Ed Sims told investors in a conference call earlier this month.

Swoop operates on a low-cost model, where passengers pay a low base fare, then pay for every service they want on top of that. Westjet says Swoop’s ancillary revenues are performing well, despite the less-than-expected traffic.

Swoop has a fleet of seven Boeing 737-800NG aircraft, and expects to have 10 by the end of the year. It has launched an ambitious domestic expansion this summer, with destinations such as London, Ontario and Kelowna, British Columbia, accounting for most of Westjet’s expansion plans within Canada this year.

It operates out of bases in Edmonton, where it has 104 staff, and Hamilton, where it employs 166. Greenway has mused about opening a third base in Abbotsford, just east of Vancouver.

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