A new low-cost airline in North America is looking to disrupt the Canadian travel market by flying 2,000 miles cross-country for less than a fiver - working out at about four miles a penny.
Swoop, the little sister of budget carrier WestJet, is poised to launch in June, offering services between five Canadian cities from as little as $A71.
But to celebrate its arrival on the scene, it has begun selling its first batch of seats from just $C7.49 - about $A7.70 - from Abbotsford, British Columbia, to Hamilton, Ontario, linking travellers, broadly speaking, between Vancouver and Toronto - plus an hour's drive at either end.
Of course, being a budget airline, the base fare does not include checked luggage - or even a small carry-on suitcase ($A37.41, since you ask) - seat selection or food and drink, and the promotional fares will disappear in a flash, but the starting rates are still much cheaper than larger carriers, with fares between $C99 and $C289 one-way. Flair Air is offering Abbotsford to Hamilton for C$563.
Announced last September, Swoop calls itself the "Robin Hood of airlines… trying its best to bring ultra low fares to all".
Headquartered in Calgary but using John C Munro Hamilton International, just outside of Toronto, as a hub, Swoop says its plans to announce more destinations once it's off the ground.
It will support those plans by adding four new aircraft to its existing six - all Boeing 737s - by spring 2019.
The airline promises "ultra-low fares, modern planes… and [a] customised experience".
As far as British travellers are concerned, it will open up Canada once inside the country, but direct flights to the airports Swoop is using are few and far between. For example, there are none to Hamilton, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Abbotsford. So just Halifax, served by Air Canada and Lufthansa.
Unfortunately, there are as yet no images of Swoop aircraft available so all we know is that, in keeping with their pink and white colour scheme, the planes will likely be pink and white.
How cheap are the fares?
Taking Abbotsford to Hamilton, promotional fares that disappear in a flash are $C7.49 and starting fares are from $C129, but a glance at their websites shows far more $C239 seats, as well as some $C289.
Then there's luggage - $C36.75 for a carry-on suitcase and $C26.25 for checked luggage - and maybe $C16 for a reserved seat?
Why did WestJet bother?
Why would a Canadian low-cost airline, around since 1996 and well-established at more than 100 destinations, spawn another Canadian low-cost airline? A desire to "swoop" on the country's budget market, apparently, with "ultra" low-cost fares.
"What we modelled out from an ultra-low-cost carrier perspective is that when we reach 10 aircraft and scale economies, we will have the lowest cost of any Canadian ULCC," Bob Cummings, WestJet's executive vice-president told the Financial Post.
However, Cummings said that since Swoop's ancillary revenue - money from extra charges - will be low at first, fares will only be around 50 per cent down on other carriers, but they should fall further.
"We're building a cost structure to get at those types of fares," he said. "The number one thing is to make it as easy to purchase and travel as possible, and right beside that is being transparent in terms of what people are buying and what it looks like up front."
Cummings said there could be in-cabin advertising to boost Swoop's coffers.
Will it work?
Cummings himself said that the Canadian airline market is not big enough to support too many new airlines, and with Jetlines also battling it out with $C10 fares throughout five cities (Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax and Vancouver), it looks like only one will make it.
"Looking at the market characteristics, population, land mass and what a network would look like in Canada, we believe there's really only room for one major ULCC in Canada going forward, and WestJet is best suited to be that ULCC," he said.
The Telegraph, London
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