White planes emblazoned with hot pink logos will soon be streaking through Canadian skies, carrying passengers willing to trade comfortable travel for cheaper flights.
WestJet has unveiled the name, pink logo and details on what travellers can expect from its ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC).
Named Swoop, the ULCC will begin selling flights in early 2018, however, the airline’s flights won’t begin operating until summer of next year.
Travellers should expect more seats, less legroom, and extra costs for the low fare option, WestJet said this past spring when it announced the airline.
Since WestJet started as a discount carrier with three aircraft in Western Canada in 1996, airlines have trimmed the extras and started charging for things like checked baggage and meals on flights.
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What is ‘ultra-low-cost?’
But ultra-low-cost carriers take it a step further.
No-frill airlines typically offer cheaper tickets by adding seats to their planes — which reduces legroom — and also charge extra for nearly everything, including printing your boarding pass at the airport, as well as snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.
Swoop’s base price will include just a seat. Snacks, checked baggage, in-flight entertainment all cost extra. The company is marketing it as “à la carte service.”
WestJet has not revealed pricing details for the airline or where it plans to fly, but said Swoop will be using “high-density” aircraft.
Graphics on Swoop’s website indicated the airline will use Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which are also used by several other low-cost carriers, including U.S.-based Southwest Airlines, Ireland’s Ryanair and Indonesia-based Lion Air.
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Swoop’s seating arrangement could be even tighter if it follows the lead of Ryanair, whose seat pitch is 30 inches, or Lion Air, which puts just 29 inches between some seats. According to SeatGuru, many low-cost carriers have a seat pitch of 28 inches.
“To make the ULCC model work, we’ve standardized plane sizes, seating configurations and flight patterns, and kept bells and whistles at airports to a minimum. It’s not going to replace other airlines — just complement the options available,” said Swoop’s website.
Swoop joins Flair Airlines in operating ultra-low cost flights in Canada. Air Canada said it is open to the idea, but won’t make concrete plans until other ultra-low-cost airlines get started and are successful.
Air Canada previously operated its discount brand Tango for three years in the early 2000s, when Canadians were not yet used to the “less is more” model.
WATCH: (Archive) WestJet says it will launch a new ultra-low-cost carrier. As Reid Fiest reports, the Calgary-based company says travellers should expect more seats, less legroom, and extra costs for the low fare option.
Based in Alberta
Last month Calgary-based WestJet said it was looking into the potential of a different home base for the discount operation, however on Wednesday said Swoop will also be based in the southern Alberta city.
“The city offers Swoop the opportunity to save costs through shared services with WestJet’s corporate head office, the availability of existing infrastructure, and talented, experienced WestJetters to draw from,” said Bob Cummings, WestJet executive vice-president, strategy and the executive member responsible for the launch of Swoop.
“We are confident that these qualities will support our ultra-low-cost operations and our guests well into the future.”
As for what the airline is called? “The name Swoop denotes exactly what we plan to do,” Cummings said.
“It’s a powerful verb that demonstrates we plan to swoop into the Canadian market with a new business model that will provide lower fares and greater opportunity for more Canadians to travel.”
— With files from the Canadian Press