Swoop Ends Flights, Integrated Into WestJet

Swoop Ends Flights, Integrated Into WestJet

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Canadian airline WestJet has just discontinued its ultra low cost carrier.

WestJet discontinues low cost subsidiary Swoop

In June 2023, it was announced that Swoop would be integrated into WestJet’s operations, with a surprisingly fast timeline. That full integration has now taken place as of October 28, 2023 (the end of the summer IATA schedule). That means Swoop officially no longer exists, and all employees at Swoop have been moved to WestJet.

As you’d expect, you’ll still see Swoop branding for quite some time, since planes won’t all be repainted overnight, and airport branding also won’t be updated instantly.

For context, Calgary-based Swoop commenced operations in 2018, and was intended to allow WestJet to compete with the growing number of ultra low cost carriers in Canada. The airline had a fleet of 16 Boeing 737s, split between 737-800s and 737 MAX 8s. These planes were operated to destinations across North America and the Caribbean. Swoop was focused on point-to-point flying, so didn’t offer connecting itineraries.

Here’s how WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech describes the decision to discontinue Swoop:

“The WestJet Group is confident in the outcome of this negotiated decision and the path forward to integrate Swoop into WestJet’s operations. We continue our strategy toward providing reliable, affordable travel across the WestJet Group, leveraging the valuable experiences and learnings from the Swoop business model. This integration will enhance our ability to serve a broader spectrum of guests. Instead of only 16 aircraft serving the ultra-low-cost market, each aircraft, in our 180-strong fleet, will offer ultra-affordable travel options through to a premium inflight experience.”

Swoop has been integrated into WestJet

Why was Swoop discontinued?

As you’d expect, low cost subsidiaries of airlines are controversial among labor groups. After all, what generally makes these airlines “low cost” is that employees are paid less. It’s one thing if you just launch an independent ultra low cost carrier, since there’s no expectation that pilot pay would match what the “major” airlines pay.

However, it’s a different story when an airline creates a new subsidiary with a lower employee pay structure. This is also largely why WestJet has discontinued Swoop. As you’d expect, the union representing pilots wasn’t happy about the differential pay and rules for WestJet and Swoop pilots.

Over the summer, WestJet was negotiating a new contract with pilots (as so many airlines have), which nearly caused a strike. As part of the negotiations, management and the union agreed that they would shut down Swoop. This brings Swoop pilots onto a higher pay scale with WestJet, and it seemed like the most economical option for getting a new contract ratified.

Here’s how WestJet’s CEO describes the new pilot contract:

“The WestJet Group is pleased to have reached an industry-leading agreement in negotiation with ALPA that recognizes the value and instrumental contributions of our current and future pilots. This agreement bolsters our ability to provide certainty and career opportunities across our organization for years to come while ensuring the competitive sustainability of the WestJet Group.” 

Swoop was discontinued due to the new pilot contract

Bottom line

Canadian ultra low cost carrier Swoop has now been merged into WestJet. The subsidiary was formed several years ago, and was intended to be an operation with a lower cost structure. This always gets a bit tricky when you’re the subsidiary of another airline with a higher cost structure (especially when there are unions). With WestJet pilots having negotiated a new contract, part of this included a provision to discontinue Swoop.

It is kind of amazing how consistently ultra low cost carriers that are subsidiaries of major airlines have failed. In the long run they just don’t seem to make it…

What do you make of Swoop being integrated into WestJet?

Conversations (6)
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  1. sullyofdoha Guest

    How about Air Canada's 'Air Caada Rouge'?

  2. Eskimo Guest

    While across the Atlantic, Lufthansa is setting up a new "cost savings" airline.

    Just like Swoop and numerous 'cost saving brands' before them, We all know it's going to fold back into Lufthansa in a few years.

    Stop paying McKinsey for something so obvious.

  3. Brianair Guest

    I wish Swoop merged with Sunwing instead to make an airline called Swing that has a pink and orange livery and then have that be WestJet's new low-cost carrier subsidiary. On a more serious note, I wonder why LCC subsidiaries of full-service airlines that have lower labor costs don't do well in North America yet you find them all over Europe and Asia. Air Canada Rouge is the only one left in North America that I can think of.

  4. Bob Guest

    Now let's get rid of Rouge.

    Heck, get rid of AC altogether .

    1. beseny Guest

      rouge is actually extremely economical for AC.... also the new rouge cabins are essentially the same as Americans oasis but larger and have complimentary wifi.... considering AC has one of the best balance sheets in the industry (before & after covid) neither brand is going anywhere anytime soon

  5. C Scott Guest

    Over here in the UK, BA threatened to shut down its Gatwick short haul operations. Now we have BA Euroflyer. You can’t really tell the difference. Same uniform, same livery, same seats, same onboard service…. Crew are on lower pay structure.

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Brianair Guest

I wish Swoop merged with Sunwing instead to make an airline called Swing that has a pink and orange livery and then have that be WestJet's new low-cost carrier subsidiary. On a more serious note, I wonder why LCC subsidiaries of full-service airlines that have lower labor costs don't do well in North America yet you find them all over Europe and Asia. Air Canada Rouge is the only one left in North America that I can think of.

1
sullyofdoha Guest

How about Air Canada's 'Air Caada Rouge'?

0
Eskimo Guest

While across the Atlantic, Lufthansa is setting up a new "cost savings" airline. Just like Swoop and numerous 'cost saving brands' before them, We all know it's going to fold back into Lufthansa in a few years. Stop paying McKinsey for something so obvious.

0
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