Billing itself as Canada's "first true ultra-low-cost carrier", Swoop "is travel without the flair", says Bob Cummings, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Strategy and the executive member responsible for the launch of Swoop.
WestJet is counting on its Swoop brand to fend off a new breed of bargain carriers such as Flair Airlines while the fledgling carrier attempts to take market share from leisure operators Air Transat and Sunwing Airlines.
The airline will initially offer flights out of Hamilton to and from Winnipeg, Edmonton, Halifax and Abbotsford, B.C.
Swoop put its first 2,000 seats on sale for $0 fares plus taxes and fees (each way) on launch routes. Travellers are able to bring a "small personal item" on board for free.
Swoop is the $7.50 flights between Abbotsford, B.C., and Hamilton, Ont., for customers who book before February 4.
Swoop's website says 500 seats are available at the $0 base fare from June 20-Sept. Once that deal is over, flights will range from between $39 and $99, including taxes and fees.
The concept of ULCCs have taken off in the US and in Europe, and unlike major carriers, many low-priced carriers develop bases to maximize destination coverage. Beginning June 25, Swoop will expand service with the addition of six weekly flights between Hamilton and Edmonton and between Hamilton and Winnipeg.
To make the ULCC model work, WestJet has standardized plane sizes, seating configurations and flight patterns, and "kept the bells and whistles at airports to a minimum", explained Comox Airport CEO Fred Bigelow a year ago following the initial announcement of the airline.
Flights begin on Boeing 737-800 planes that will have 189 seats. 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.
Competitor Jetlines said last fall it aims to launch on June 1, and charter airline Enerjet is trying to start up its own ultra-low-cost carrier under the name FlyToo.