Since excessive average fares are quite typical of the Canadian market, it was not troublesome to foresee the launch of a number of Ultra-Low-Value Service (ULCC) ventures north of the 45th parallel. Regardless of being the first new ULCC, NewLeaf Airways never actually started their operations earlier than they have been ultimately taken over by Aptitude Air in 2017, and a second start-up Canada Jetlines is simply due to begin flights by the top of 2019, the incumbent service WestJet tried to get ahead of the sport and launched its own ULCC referred to as Swoop.
With a very brilliant pink emblem and sassy slogans normally related to a new unconventional competitor within the marketplace, Swoop is a six-aircraft airline based mostly at Hamilton International Airport in Ontario (about a one-hour drive from Toronto) and Edmonton International Airport in Alberta with flights to 14 destinations in Canada, the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean.
Their fleet is solely made up of Boeing 737-800 plane with 189 financial system class seats, precisely just like the Irish-based low-cost airline big Ryanair. In contrast to their European counterpart, Swoop gives 39 additional legroom seats which are bought at a premium. Passengers are allowed solely a small personal item totally free, whereas carry-on luggage and checked luggage command an additional payment, between 30 and 36 Canadian dollars per phase (23 to 27 U.S. dollars), following very intently the ULCC enterprise mannequin made successful in North America by Florida-based Spirit Airlines.
Boarding Swoop’s 737-800 (Photograph: AirlineGeeks | Vanni Gibertini)
The prospect to attempt Swoop for the primary time got here with a promotional fare of 99 Canadian dollars (approximately 70 U.S. dollars) one-way between Hamilton, Ontario and Las Vegas. Like all Canadian carriers, Swoop routes are closely seasonal and operatives are adjusted accordingly all year long.
As flights to Las Vegas are approaching their seasonal finish, some weak days in all probability wanted a load factor increase by means of promotional fares, and there got here this one that gives a good opportunity to check out the brand new airline.
As I often do, I tried to verify in online 24 hours on the day earlier than departure, simply to discover out that my itinerary was not eligible for online check-in. I assume this was due to the one-way international itinerary I had booked that might require a guide examine of my passport and immigration paperwork.
On this instance, the lack to check-in on-line does not constitute a main inconvenience, since Swoop does not permit passengers to select a seat free of charge through the check-in process; selecting a seat is simply potential by paying a payment, in any other case a seat is assigned routinely with out the potential for it being modified. I was ultimately assigned seat 18F, a window seat, whereas I might usually favor an aisle seat to give you the chance to move freely with out disturbing different passengers.
John C. Munro Hamilton Worldwide Airport is a typical old-style regional airport, one which primarily assumes all passengers reach their departure airport by automotive. There is just one bus line connecting Hamilton Airport to downtown, but that does not function on weekends.
Since my departure was on a Sunday, after taking a one-hour bus from Toronto Union Station to Hamilton Transit Centre, I had to take another bus to an out of town transit hub where a taxi would ultimately take me to the airport following the cost of a bus fare surcharge. All the journey from Toronto to Hamilton Airport took roughly two and a half hours.
The small check-in lounge was outfitted with six Swoop check-in desks, all with a scale to weigh luggage, however without the standard built-in conveyor belt: after labeling, luggage had to be carried manually by passengers to the overall baggage belt. I had pre-booked a checked bag since it was cheaper than a carry-on and offered a a lot greater allowance.
Security checks have been a breeze since not many flights have been departing at that time and I had arrived fairly early at the airport. The departure lounge just isn’t very massive however extremely practical: the unmissable Tim Hortons coffee store, a duty-free retailer, many seats in several configurations, power points to cost electronics and a playpen for youngsters.
Examine-in at Hamilton Airport (Photograph: AirlineGeeks | Vanni Gibertini)
Boarding operations have been surprisingly sluggish: each in the terminal and onboard there was no sense of urgency, in contrast to what occurs on carriers that contemplate operational effectivity a should, like Southwest and Ryanair. Boarding was made in teams, however after priority boarding and group 1, all other passengers have been allowed on board together.
There are not any jet bridges or buses at Hamilton Airport: passengers have to walk throughout the ramp to get to the aircraft, and contemplating there were three flights boarding on the similar time and all gates have been subsequent to one another there was vital potential to get passengers on the fallacious flight. On the time of boarding the flight to Las Vegas, there were also a Swoop service to Edmonton, Alberta and a Norwegian flight to Dublin, Eire.
Boarding the flight to Las Vegas (Photograph: AirlineGeeks | Vanni Gibertini)
Flight WO800 from Hamilton to Las Vegas was scheduled to depart at 7.30 p.m. and land at 9:00 p.m. local time, for a scheduled period of four hours and 30 minutes. The extremely relaxed boarding process led to a brief delay, with the flight pushing back at 7.43 p.m., and a longer than expected flight time of 4 hours, 43 minutes had us land in Vegas at 9.26 p.m.
The seats on the aircraft are fairly normal, coated in gray leather-based, with a seat pitch that seems to be between 29 and 30 inches. It’s fairly surreal to see all the overhead bins virtually empty with passengers maintaining all their belongings between their legs. I requested to put my mild jacket within the bins and the flight attendant was very helpful and put it up for me.
The cabin on Swoop’s 737 (Photograph: AirlineGeeks | Vanni Gibertini)
A really restricted selection of meals was provided on the menu: no sandwiches, only noodles, oatmeal and numerous snacks, with a good number of delicate drinks, spirits, beer, water, tea or espresso. There isn’t a particular person display, as expected, and no content to be streamed to the passengers’ personal units. Nevertheless, each seat has a power plug to hold phones, tablets and a PC charged, and it’s attainable to join to the web for a charge.
Packages are available for 30 minutes, 2 hours or 24 hours and costs ranges from 12 to 36 Canadian dollars (9 to 27 US dollars). For passengers who have iPass or Boingo subscriptions, it’s attainable to use the prevailing account and the connection will probably be charged in accordance to their respective plans.
The flight landed at Terminal 3 at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas and all passengers had to go through U.S. immigration. All main Canadian airport have pre-clearance amenities that permit passengers to clear U.S. Customs and Immigration earlier than their flight and subsequently arrive in the U.S. as home passengers.
Nevertheless, Hamilton Airport doesn’t have this facility, subsequently Swoop flights from there can solely arrive at U.S. airports already in a position to deal with international arrivals, one way or the other limiting the range of locations obtainable for enlargement.
The experience was definitely constructive, though the ULCC enterprise mannequin has some elements that depart me unsatisfied. Not being able to decide my seat without having to fork out $20-$30 to reserve it prematurely is sort of annoying, and it’s much more annoying having to pay to carry with me even the bare minimal.
The private item allowance is perfectly acceptable for short commuter flights of 90 minutes or much less, but I discover it arduous to cram every part I want for a four/5-day journey into a small backpack. Furthermore, each airline seems to have totally different most dimensions allowed, virtually requiring a specific piece of bags per every airline. Personally, I find it inconvenient, but if I lived in a place the place a ULCC gives a wide selection of destinations at engaging prices, I might in all probability regulate my journey habits to benefit from their fares.
Nevertheless, their fares seem to be the most important drawback: they’re nowhere near low enough to make all this problem worthwhile. I managed to scoop up a low 99-dollar fare, however that is more an exception than the rule. On my means to the airport, I saw billboards advertising 199 dollars one-way as lead-in worth for a similar route. That may add up to a 398 dollar spherical trip fare, without checked luggage, with out carry-on, and without even being able to decide a seat at check-in.
That fare is just not too dissimilar of what may be obtained with conventional network carriers, as soon as the whole lot else is included. And that doesn’t even keep in mind the attainable value and problem of driving to a very out-of-the-way airport.
One of the parts that drove the success of low-cost airlines, from Southwest to easyJet to Spirit, was their capability to widen the catchment areas of the airports they served by offering very low fares: individuals have been prepared to drive a very lengthy distance simply to get those low fares. On this case, the difference between Swoop costs and the fares provided by traditional carriers does not seem large enough to generate the same impact, and this could possibly be a drawback in the long term.
Vanni fell in love with business aviation during his undergraduate research in Statistics on the University of Bologna, when he ready his thesis on the consequences of deregulation on the U.S. and European aviation markets. Then he pursued his ardour additional by obtaining a Grasp’s Degree in Air Transport Administration at Cranfield University in the U.Okay. followed by holding a number of administration positions at numerous start-up carriers in Europe (Jet2, SkyEurope, Silverjet). After shifting to Canada, he was Business Improvement Supervisor for IATA for 9 years earlier than turning to his different passion: sports writing.