Swoop Airlines introduces $2.56 surcharge to offset cost of new passenger rights rules

Swoop Airlines Boeing 737 on display during their media event, Tuesday, June 19, 2018 at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tara Walton

Swoop airlines is charging a new $2.56 fee on every flight to offset the cost of new federal regulations intended to protect air passengers.

In a statement, the airline said the Passenger Protection Regulation (APPR) Surcharge was introduced to maintain Swoop’s ability to provide “unbundled, ultra-low fares.”

The airline says the fee was introduced on Jan. 9.

“The surcharge provides compensation funds for travellers experiencing irregular operations that are within the airline’s control and not related to safety under the APPR,” a spokesman said.

Gábor Lukács, an air passenger rights advocate, said the airline is trying to send a political message with regards to the new federal rules.

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“Swoop could have simply raised its fares without identifying the increase as an APPR surcharge. But for some reason, Swoop wants to publicly declare that it is passing on the costs to passengers.”

Click to play video: 'Swoop Airlines cancels Kelowna to Winnipeg flight, with long wait for next flight'
Swoop Airlines cancels Kelowna to Winnipeg flight, with long wait for next flight

The second phase of the new air passengers’ rights protections took effect last month.

The regulations set compensation standards for passengers who face delays and outlines where children can be seated on planes.

If flight cancellations or delays are within the airline’s control and not related to safety, the airline will be required to compensate inconvenienced passengers. Delays resulting from weather or mechanical issues are exempted.

The amount a passenger will be compensated is based on the length of the delay the passenger endured before they reached their destination, and it depends on whether the flight in question was on a large or small airline.

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In mid-July, regulators enacted the first phase, which focused primarily on remedying travel mishaps like tarmac delays, lost baggage and overbooking.

The office of Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the objective of the rules was to enhance “passenger experience” without undue additional costs for airlines and travellers.

“By taking this balanced approach, we believe that airlines can meet their obligations to passengers with little to no increases in fares,” said spokesperson Amy Butcher. “Swoop is a private corporation and we don’t … have jurisdiction over surcharges charged by airlines.”

Swoop said the surcharge amount is consistent with a cost-benefit analysis completed by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

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The airline, which is owned by WestJet, began offering flights in 2018.

Swoop flies out of cities including Victoria, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Ont., and Halifax.

–With files from Erica Alini and Hannah Jackson, Global News

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