WestJet's discount airline Swoop makes maiden flight from Hamilton
1st flight Wednesday takes passengers from Hamilton to Abbotsford, B.C.
WestJet's discount airline Swoop took to the air on its maiden flight from Hamilton at 5:45 a.m. ET Wednesday, arriving on time in Abbotsford, B.C., at 7:42 a.m. PT.
But before that, the carrier took some time Tuesday to celebrate and cut some cake.
Greenway said John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport is where the airline chose to locate its first base, because the city ticks all the boxes in terms of ultra low-cost carriers. It's a small airport, it's not congested, it's simple to operate from, and the team there "wooed" Swoop to Hamilton.
We have a lot of faith in terms of what we're seeing in terms of numbers.- Swoop president Steven Greenway
Those are "all-important factors in terms of making an overall decision about Hamilton being our first base," said Greenway.
There will be multiple bases over the coming years, he said.
Instead of flying from Toronto Pearson International, flights will fly out of Hamilton's lower-cost airport. Other initial cities are Winnipeg, Edmonton, Halifax and Abbotsford.
Additional destinations will be added, including international flights likely by the end of 2018, said Greenway.
The name of the airline's first aircraft — #Hamilton — a name that Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger took a liking to during a speech he made at the launch Tuesday.
The Boeing 737-800NG has 189 seats and boasts an interior with a "pop of colour accents" on the headrests.
In terms of the workforce in Hamilton, Greenway said by the time they get to their fourth aircraft in August, just under 200 people will be based in Hamilton. That will predominantly be pilots and cabin crew.
The key will be to keep costs down from lower labour costs, cramming 189 seats into Boeing 737-800s, and stimulating demand from people who don't normally fly because of the high cost.
Great to attend the ribbon cutting and welcome our new air carrier Swoop flying out of Hamilton. We'll see 24 flights a week with more to follow. Congratulations <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HamOnt</a> <a href="https://t.co/x4G0l1dUuC">pic.twitter.com/x4G0l1dUuC</a>—@FredEisenberger
Greenway said Swoop will succeed in Hamilton — unlike other low-budget airlines that have attempted and failed — because the time is right.
Now boarding! <a href="https://twitter.com/FlySwoop?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FlySwoop</a> flights take off from <a href="https://twitter.com/flyyhm?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@flyyhm</a> starting tomorrow. If you’re lucky you may even get to fly on the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Hamilton?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Hamilton</a> . It’s never been easier to explore <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HamOnt</a> - <a href="https://t.co/5x2iNSWmTY">https://t.co/5x2iNSWmTY</a> <a href="https://t.co/AXDoM8DQqB">pic.twitter.com/AXDoM8DQqB</a>—@TourismHamilton
The 'real' thing
When it comes to competition, Greenway told CBC News that with any country, the competition is always fierce.
"We have to accept that it's going to be a competitive market and that's what the business plan was based on," said Greenway.
A number of airlines have come and gone, he said.
"People are sort of hoping that this is the real thing, and we believe it is. We have a lot of faith in terms of what we're seeing in terms of numbers going forward, so we're very positive about it and I think people are embracing that."
Great day for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HamOnt?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HamOnt</a>. Not only 24 more flights/week, but the entire <a href="https://twitter.com/FlySwoop?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@flyswoop</a> workforce of 200-300 people is based out of <a href="https://twitter.com/flyyhm?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@flyyhm</a>. <a href="https://t.co/FZDvfdVzFA">pic.twitter.com/FZDvfdVzFA</a>—@keaninloomis
Canada is the only G7 country without a true ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC), and the model has been successful in Europe, Australia and the United States, said transportation analyst Chris Murray of AltaCorp Capital.
"There are also frankly some opportunities if they do it well to be successful with it."
The fares don't include a range of fees, including carry-on luggage and checked bags starting at $26.25, seat selection starting at $5, and $15 to contact the call centre if the service can be carried out on the website.
No pets aside from guide dogs are allowed on board, and any credits are only valid for 90 days. No loyalty points will be awarded.
Swoop is starting with two planes and plans to roll out six by year-end and 10 in 2019.
With files from The Canadian Press