WestJet casts big net for Swoop pilots
With 3 months to take-off and amidst union talks, airline launches international recruitment bid
Three months from the launch of its discount airline Swoop, Calgary-based WestJet has been looking abroad for pilots to fly for its new "ultra-low-cost" carrier.
A posting for Swoop pilots was placed this spring on the website of CAE Parc Aviation, an international recruitment agency that seeks aviation personnel and support services for the industry.
According to the ad, last updated March 23, the agency is looking for "a number" of pilots for "roughly" 21 days in late June and early July.
The work promises to pay $1,200 US per day, plus expenses. The posting says pilots with European or U.S. licences are welcome to apply.
News of the recruitment effort comes with time ticking down toward Swoop's start date in June, and while WestJet and its pilots union attempt to negotiate a first contract.
Airline has 'a number' of Canadian pilots
WestJet said Friday that Swoop's launch is on schedule.
"Swoop has a number of highly-qualified Canadian pilots joining the company and remains on track for its June 20 launch date," a company spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News.
"Swoop will be compliant with all Canadian Aviation regulations."
A representative of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) declined to comment on the job posting.
But labour relations consultant George Smith, a fellow at the School of Public Policy at Queen's University and a former director of employee relations at Air Canada, was surprised by what he thinks looks like a "highly aggressive" move by the company.
"It basically says to the WestJet pilots who are in negotiation, 'We're going to operate Swoop come hell or high water regardless of whether it impacts these negotiations and your right, or otherwise, to fly those airplanes,'" Smith said.
Earlier this year, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) ordered WestJet to withdraw a new policy of offering its pilots a two-year leave of absence if they go to fly for Swoop.
Swoop to launch with three aircraft
WestJet has said Swoop will operate as an independent airline with its own reservation system, operator's certificate and airport check-in counters staffed by its own employees.
Swoop aims to launch with three aircraft in June and grow to six by September.
By spring of next year, Swoop would have 10 planes and eventually reach 30 to 40 aircraft on domestic and international flights.
The flights will be on Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
Customers will pay their fare for a seat and can bring one personal item. Then, they can choose to pay more to check bags, watch movies, use Wi-Fi, have more legroom and buy snacks and drinks on-board.
The new flights will take off in June, travelling six times a week between Abbotsford, B.C., and Hamilton, Hamilton and Halifax, Hamilton and Edmonton and Hamilton and Winnipeg.
There will also be flights between Abbotsford and Edmonton.
Swoop will join other low-cost carriers in the Canadian market, including existing carriers Enerjet and Flair Air (formerly NewLeaf) and Jetlines, which aims to launch next year.
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With files from Canadian Press