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With first flight between Toronto and Abbotsford, Swoop hopes to fill a void for Canadian fliers

Click to play video 'Discount airline Swoop launches route between Toronto and Abbotsford, B.C.' Discount airline Swoop launches route between Toronto and Abbotsford, B.C.
WATCH: The airline industry is struggling, but discount carrier Swoop is adding a route between Abbotsford, B.C. and Toronto. As Robin Gill reports, the company is banking on domestic tourism to help business take off – Oct 26, 2020

Swoop’s inaugural flight from Toronto to Abbotsford wasn’t jam-packed.

Nevertheless, CEO Charles Duncan, who was on board, hopes the $99 one-way price will lure Canadians eager to vacation at home.

“Canadians in some ways are going to replace the international visitors we have seen in years past because of the pandemic,” said Duncan.

Swoop is WestJet’s ultra low-cost carrier. Like other airlines, it cut capacity by 95 per cent at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, it is hoping to capitalize on the U.S.-Canada border restrictions by offering passengers discounted domestic travel.

Read more: Tens of thousands of passengers connect from international to domestic flights before quarantine

Those restrictions aren’t allowing Ontarians to cross into Buffalo, N.Y., to use cheap carriers like Jet Blue.

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Meanwhile, on the West Coast, people from British Columbia aren’t heading to Bellingham, Wash., to land a deal with Allegiant Air.

According to Destination Canada, a federal agency that monitors Canadian tourism, the situation presents an opportunity for domestic travel to grow.

“Last year, $42 million left the country on travel spending. If we can get part of it back, it’ll be a huge difference to the Canadian economy,” said Destination Canada’s Gloria Loree.

Destination Canada has been analyzing online search habits and found that Canadians are looking for places to go inside the country — especially places that don’t require a 14-day quarantine period when travelling inter-provincially.

“Specifically Ontario and British Columbia are both areas that have been deemed stage four, which is readiness for interprovincial travel,” said Morgan Westcott.

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“So when you open up a channel from Toronto to Abbotsford and you lower the fare, it could stimulate demand.”

Read more: Swoop set to offer flights from Edmonton to Mexico, Phoenix despite rising Alberta COVID-19 cases

Westcott, a marketing expert at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, believes no quarantines and low fares are just pieces of the puzzle to increase demand.

“It’s a roll of the dice to see if that actually does play out,” said Westcott.

Still, the passengers with whom Global News spoke upon arriving at Abbotsford International Airport marveled at the price of the ticket.

“The price I paid is probably the lowest I’ve paid in 20 years,” said one passenger.

“I think I paid $400 for two tickets,” said another.

Swoop is counting on travel to take off again, and believes it can still turn a profit around with these low fares. At the same time, it realizes it isn’t the only airline looking to get ahead in these turbulent times.

“We are positioning for the rebound we know is going to come but isn’t here yet,” said Duncan.