It’s been an impressive start in the life of Swoop, the ultra-low-cost carrier owned by Westjet and headquartered in Calgary.
Monday marked four years since Swoop launched as an airline set on democratizing air travel in Canada. The carrier launched with some key domestic routes in Canada, before expanding internationally. Now, four years in, it is still “growing very, very fast,” according to Bert van der Stege, Swoops head of commercial and finance who spoke to TMR this week.
van der Stege told TMR that Swoop expects to expand its fleet by 60% this year, which lends itself to a rapidly growing route map. This year’s increase includes new flights across Canada, along with 11 total additions this summer to the U.S., including new flights to Nashville, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, destinations that appeal to a population of Canadian travelers who are increasingly looking for low-cost travel options.
“We saw the pent-up demand coming out of the pandemic and saw that there was a need for Canadians to explore not only new destinations domestically but also into the U.S.,” van der Stege said. “Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles—we’re adding popular leisure destinations as well as destinations we know where there is a connection, patricianly leisure driven, and tremendous pent-up demand.”
The growth, he added, fills a gap that Canadian carriers are not yet serving—Swoop is occupying a market that includes airlines like Air Canada Rouge, Porter Airlines, and Canadian Jetlines, but not U.S. carriers like Southwest or Frontier, who haven’t broken into the Canadian market. That means that Swoop can continue to serve consumers from its home country, along with American consumers who want to explore Canada at a low cost.
van der Stege told TMR that Swoop prides itself on keeping things simple—all routes are direct with “simple in and simple out” flights that minimize the risk of delays or cancellations.
“We don’t connect anywhere in our network,” he said. “We have simple in and out point-to-point flights.”
The expansion comes at a time when travel demand, despite rising prices, remains historically high and the left-over COVID restrictions, such as the U.S.’s inbound testing requirement, finally come to an end. It’s a perfect time for expansion on the leisure side, van der Stege added, despite some chaos continuing at select airports in North America
“We’re not happy with the level of services provided by some government agencies and airports right now,” he said, adding that solutions, including more staff being added, “will alleviate” some of those issues.
As for the next four years, Swoop plans to continue on its mission of democratizing air travel, but the long-term future is still hard to predict.
“The one thing we learned over the past four years, in particular, is that it is really difficult to predict what is going to happen – the past few years obviously have been really difficult,” he said.
“The next four years are going to be very growth-centric. We believe the model works in Canada, we believe we’re very well positioned, and we will continue to invest widely, in bases, in new destinations. We look forward to continuing to grow the airline, create jobs, and add destinations both in North America and internationally. “
As for the travel advisor community, Swoop started specifically with its own website that employed direct bookings. Now, four years down the road, it has added a travel agent support desk that van der Stege said is ready and eager to help build its community of travel advisors.
“We welcome their business and we look forward to working with agents,” he said.