Hamilton airport has 'full confidence' in Swoop, despite cancellations

Airport officials say every carrier has cancellations, and Swoop's just got undue attention.

Airport officials say every carrier has cancellations, and Swoop's just got undue attention

Passengers of Swoop Airlines say the company didn't do enough to communicate with them or help them after a cancelled flight from Cancun to Hamilton. (Tara Walton/The Canadian Press)

Hamilton airport officials say they still have "full confidence" in Swoop despite a rash of cancellations over the summer.

Cathie Puckering, president of the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, says Swoop flew 972 flights out of Hamilton in July and August. And the high-profile Swoop cancellations, which happened for reasons like bird strike and unscheduled maintenance, only accounted for 3.5 per cent of them.

At Toronto's Pearson airport, by comparison, there are about 24 cancellations a day, she said. The media, she said, has paid undue attention to the cancellations by Swoop, which has Hamilton airport as a home base.

"We'll always have confidence in Swoop as a partner," Puckering told CBC News. "They are providing a product in the market that Canada has long awaited. They are providing low fares in leisure service, and they're a subsidiary of Westjet."

Puckering talked about the Swoop image at an a city airport sub-committee meeting last week and tried to reassure city councillors. Some were worried the cancellations might hurt the image of the Hamilton airport, which has been trying to draw more passenger flights for years.

"I don't want Hamilton to be perceived as 'There we go again,'" said Lloyd Ferguson, Ward 12 (Ancaster) councillor.

Swoop, along with seasonal carriers like Sunwing and Air Transat, was a major factor in the airport having 725,630 passenger flights in 2018 compared to 333,368 just two years earlier.

The city has been pushing the airport to increase its passenger flights since 1996, when TradePort took over operation of the airport. The company pledged to host a million passengers a year by 2010. It did reach that level in 2003, when passenger totals reached 1,041,204. Flights have varied greatly since then though, falling to 332,378 in 2014. 

Swoop cancelled 30 flights in the first 10 days of July this summer, and some customers paid out of pocket to salvage their travel plans. 

Among them was Radek Romanowski, who got a cancellation notice the evening before his July 8 return flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Hamilton. A second email that night informed him that he was rebooked to fly on July 15 — one week later.

That didn't work for the small business owner who needed to return home to Komoka, Ont., for work. But he couldn't call Swoop to complain. It was Sunday and the call centre was closed. He did send an email, but received no reply. He ended up having to use his wife's Aeroplan miles to get home.

"It's very, very bad business practice," said Romanowski. "No communication, no conversation, no answering, nothing."



Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

With files from Sophia Harris


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