Exclusive: How Swoop Is Adapting Amid Ongoing Travel Restrictions

Along with a sturdy domestic network, Swoop also serves the likes of Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States. However, amid considerably strict travel restrictions within Canada, the ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) has had to adapt its operations. Simple Flying this week spoke with Swoop president Charles Duncan about how the airline is responding to the challenges.

Swoop_Livery_Nose_Side (1)
Within two years of the airline’s launch, it was faced with the most significant crisis the global aviation industry has faced amid the pandemic. Photo: Swoop

Comparisons across the border

Duncan emphasizes that in contrast with the United States and other markets, the situation has been significantly challenging from an aviation perspective. The ongoing restrictions are matched with a lack of government support. Therefore, it has been difficult for airlines to plan or look forward to progress within the country.

The executive summarizes the challenges with the following:

“We are in talks with the government, but there’s been no sector-specific aid. The Canadian-US border is still closed and flying is for essential travel only. No foreign visitors are allowed in, and any Canadians who returns from overseas by air are limited to four airports and put into a quarantine hotel, which costs up to CA$2,000 per person. All this is having a has a very negative effect. We’re still a Canadian industry, and we are down by 90% in our capacity levels right now. We look over to the US and those carriers are down 20-30% right now. So, this is a real contrast.”

Duncan adds that the airline is positive and thinking about growth. However, the prospects are tempered with the realization that the Canadian market is highly challenging.

Swoop Sanitation
The airline is doing its bit to ensure operations are safe. Photo: Swoop

Reprioritizing efforts

As a result of the tough conditions, Swoop has had to refocus its attention. Ahead of the winter season, the airline began operations from Toronto Pearson Airport. Services to the likes of Montego Bay, Kelowna, Edmonton, and Halifax now takeoff from Canada’s largest city. Notably, there is presently a clear concentration on domestic routes while international travel remains affected by constraints.

Over the winter, Swoop performed on 15 routes. Now, with the summer approaching, the carrier is expanding its schedule, especially with new operations to the west of Canada. Passengers will see new services to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, along with the return and addition of new routes to Kelowna, a scenic city by Okanagan Lake.

Swoop_Livery_Side_Close (2)
Following recovery, Swoop is targeting a fleet of 30 aircraft. Photo: Swoop

The next chapter

The carrier prides itself on its entrepreneurial spirit, which the company feels has helped it to adapt to the exceptional conditions. Overall, with the vaccine rollout underway, the firm hopes to be more flexible and bring more low-cost fares to the Canadian public. It’s not only holidaymakers that will be seeking to hit the skies with the ULCC, but those that have been unable to see loved ones amid the global health crisis.

Duncan shares:

“Now with the vaccine rollout being a bit slow down here within our country, relative to the US, we think it will be more of a domestic recovery for the summer. So, these are popular leisure destinations in the summer months for Canadians. So, we can get some confidence before that and we’re going to need to just continue monitoring demand and react. If we see pockets of strength, we will respond to it, and I hope we don’t see signs of weakness, but we’ll respond there too. It’s a very fluid situation still, but we are positive and we do see that recovery is very close.”

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Altogether, despite the lack of progress in reopening travel and the industry calling out for better support, Swoop is doing the best it can to remain active and keep travelers moving. It may be a while until conditions allow for consistent activity on routes to the likes of Mexico and the Caribbean, but until then, the airline will take pride in its domestic services.

What are your thoughts about the travel restrictions and lack of support across the Canadian aviation industry? Do you resonate with Swoop’s sentiments? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.