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WestJet Ending Ultra Low-Cost Subsidiary Swoop
After only five years of operation, Canadian ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) Swoop is being integrated into its parent company. Swoop will operate its last flight on October 28, 2023 before being merged into WestJet’s mainline operations.
A New Pilot Agreement
The WestJet Group announced the end of the subsidiary in a press release about the ratification of its new collective bargaining agreement with its pilots. The airline had recently come to an agreement in principle with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) just ahead of a holiday long weekend in Canada. Hundreds of flights had been preemptively canceled due to an impending pilot’s strike. The strike was narrowly averted, and the four-year agreement has now been ratified.
ALPA, the union representing WestJet and Swoop pilots, describes the agreement as one that includes better job protections and pay increases, as well as improved scheduling and quality of life. While Swoop pilots are currently paid less than their WestJet counterparts, the new agreement brings their pay to a similar level.
The new agreement appears to be the main trigger for the discontinuation of Swoop. As a result of the agreement, the cost-saving benefits of operating Swoop as a separate entity have likely decreased for WestJet due to the pilot pay increase. Furthermore, the agreement negotiations included the integration of Swoop into the main WestJet brand. The company has stated that Swoop employees will move to WestJet.
Swoop: A Short-Lived ULCC
Swoop began operations in June of 2018 and has since grown its network to cover over 20 destinations across North America and the Caribbean. The airline operates a fleet of 16 Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and the jets are expected to join mainline WestJet operations alongside its employees. WestJet currently has a fleet of over 110 aircraft, consisting of Boeing 737-700s, Boeing 737-800s, Boeing 737 MAX 8s, Boeing 787-9s and Boeing 737-800BCF freighters. Its regional subsidiaries, WestJet Encore and WestJet Link, operate De Havilland Canada Dash 8-Q400 and Saab 340 turboprops.
Swoop currently competes in a crowded ultra-low-cost market in Canada, alongside airlines such as Flair Airlines, Lynx Air and Canada Jetlines. Swoop’s integration also comes shortly after WestJet announced the completion of its acquisition of fellow Canadian carrier Sunwing Airlines. Sunwing operates a fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft and offers flights and vacation packages to leisure destinations. WestJet has stated that it intends to keep the Sunwing brand separate in the near future.
After its last day of operations on October 28, Swoop will join a long list of defunct Canadian low-cost carriers. WestJet’s rival Air Canada has previously attempted to operate its own low-cost subsidiaries, Zip and Air Canada Tango. Other former Canadian low-cost carriers include Jetsgo, Zoom Airlines and Harmony Airways.
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