Budget carrier Swoop, an offshoot of Canada’s WestJet, is launching a major expansion of its service to the United States, with introductory one-way fares to five new U.S. cities starting at $78.
The airline said tickets are now on sale for nonstop flights that will begin later this spring to Chicago, Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The carrier already flies to six U.S. Sunbelt destinations that are popular with Canadians, including Palm Springs, Las Vegas, and Orlando. In Canada, Swoop’s main hubs are Toronto, Hamilton (about an hour south of Toronto), and Edmonton (in Alberta).
The move is aimed at tapping into pent-up demand for travel between the North American neighbors, Bert van der Stege, head of commercial and finance for Swoop, told AFAR. He noted that while travel over the border did reopen to fully vaccinated travelers in August 2021, airlines are pushing for a further relaxation of Canada’s travel restrictions, including the pretravel COVID testing rule. “The key is the removal of travel restrictions, which are outdated and overly restrictive,” said van der Stege, adding, “Our airline is fully vaccinated, and our travelers are fully vaccinated.”
The Canadian government is set to revisit the issue by March 1 when current measures are set to expire. Meanwhile, Swoop is clearly betting on a surge in summer travel, with new service to be rolled out as follows:
- Nashville–Toronto, four times weekly, starting May 26
- Chicago–Toronto, five times weekly, starting May 30
- San Francisco–Edmonton, four times weekly, starting June 6
- Nashville–Edmonton, twice weekly, starting June 19
- New York–Toronto, five times weekly, starting June 20
- Los Angeles–Edmonton, three times weekly, starting June 23
- Las Vegas—Toronto, starting on May 20
- Las Vegas—Hamilton, starting on June 23
The $78 introductory fare is in effect until February 18, for travel in June and July, but the airline said it will continue to live up to what it bills as its “ultra-not-expensive” pricing model well after—Swoop charges a lower base fare and then travelers pay fees for additional services like luggage or extra legroom, a typical pricing structure for low-cost carriers.
The carrier currently operates a fleet of 10 Boeing 737-800 aircraft with 189 coach seats, including 39 “premium” seats with more space. It has ordered six Boeing 737 MAX jets to be delivered later this year.
Swoop isn’t the only airline looking to put downward pricing pressure on the Canadian airline business and its traditionally higher airfares. Edmonton-based Flair Airlines, which launched in 2017, bills itself as an “ultra-low-cost carrier,” with a declared mission “to disrupt the monopolistic practices of Canadian airlines.” Starting this spring, Flair will compete directly with Swoop when it adds new routes between Toronto and New York and Chicago.