Swoop ‘seeing light at the end of the tunnel’ after incredibly difficult 15 months

From CBC News – link to source story

‘People are clearly willing and able to book that long-awaited trip,’ airline executive says

Desmond Brown · CBC News · Jun 18, 2021

Swoop, operated by WestJet, launched in Hamilton back in 2018 with a trip from Hamilton to Abbotsford, B.C. for just $129. (Swoop)

Low-cost airline Swoop is on the rebound, head of commercial and finance Bert van der Stege said Friday, after being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to van der Stege, the carrier lost more than 90 per cent of its revenue and roughly 90 per cent of its passenger volume over the course of the pandemic. 

“The past 15 months or so have been incredibly difficult,” van der Stege said during an executive exchange held virtually with Hamilton International Airport.

“It’s been a difficult 15 months [but] we believe we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel now and have reached a turning point.”

Van der Stege said a “great demand” for seats is “slowly coming back”. 

“We’ve seen a period of record sales again now. People are clearly willing and able to book that long-awaited trip,” he said.

This summer we expect to serve five destinations within Canada from Hamilton airport, and then as we approach the following winter season we will be adding five international destinations from Hamilton.- Bert van der Stege, Swoop Airline

Van der Stege said Swoop will initially focus on domestic travel as it emerges from the fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that’s where they expect the rebound to start. 

He said sales and forecast passenger numbers “are picking up really nicely, in particular in and out of jurisdictions that have outlined a clear path to recovery, easing travel restrictions, [and] a path to open up based on science.”

After that initial period of domestic recovery and domestic travel, van der Stege said Swoop will once again partner with Hamilton International Airport and open up international travel.

“This summer we expect to serve five destinations within Canada from Hamilton airport, and then as we approach the following winter season we will be adding five international destinations from Hamilton.”

Swoop will launch a new flight from Hamilton to Kelowna this Sunday, while the winter schedule will include the following:

  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
  • Cancun, Mexico.
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Orlando and Tampa Bay, Florida.
Swoop’s head of commercial and finance Bert van der Stege. (CBC)

Swoop, operated by WestJet, launched in Hamilton back in 2018 with a trip from Hamilton to Abbotsford, B.C. for just $129.

Since its inception the airline has carried more than one million passengers in and out of Hamilton airport. In total, Swoop has transported more than three million passengers.

The airline has also created more than 500 direct jobs at Hamilton’s John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport

“With the two brands, WestJet and Swoop being present here in Hamilton, we believe that we can assist in the recovery of the tourism and hospitality industry sector, not just focusing on getting Hamiltonians out of Hamilton using Hamilton airport, but also bringing visitors back,” van der Stege said.

With the airline seeing sales “on par with pre-COVID levels,” van der Stege said they will be adding another Boeing 737 to the fleet by the end of the year.

Cathie Puckering, president and CEO of Hamilton’s John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. (CBC)

Cathie Puckering, president and CEO of Hamilton’s John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, said the number of passengers that Swoop has put into the market in such a short time “was amazing.”

She said Hamilton experienced almost a 70 per cent decline in passenger volumes last year due to COVID-19.

Puckering said this year is just as hard but she is confident that things will get back to normal.

“The aviation industry has had shocks and has been hurt before [but] it has been resilient and we have bounced back,” Puckering said.

“So as long as we continue with the vaccine rollout and we continue to follow the restrictions and the measures … travel will recover and we’re optimistic about what the future will hold and Swoop’s growth in Hamilton.”