Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Swoop Airlines recently began selling 100,000 new seats for a base fare of $1 on existing routes.

Tara Walton/The Canadian Press

Swoop Airlines, the discount wing of WestJet Airlines Group, has embarked on an aggressive expansion, adding new flights and selling tickets for as low as $1, sparking new accusations of predatory pricing by a rival airline.

The federal Competition Bureau launched an investigation of WestJet and Swoop in November, 2018, after allegations by Kelowna-based Flair Airlines that the Calgary-based carriers were selling seats below their costs in an attempt to win market share. The Competition Act prohibits a company from abusing its market dominance by making “predatory acts” to “eliminate, discipline, or deter entry or expansion of a competitor.”

Swoop recently began selling 100,000 new seats for a base fare of $1 on existing routes, adding capacity in such destinations as Winnipeg, Hamilton and London, Ont.

Story continues below advertisement

“Flair’s position is that there’s definitely predatory pricing,” Jim Scott, chief executive officer of Flair Airlines, said in an interview this week.

Steven Greenway, president of Swoop, declined to comment on the investigation. In a press conference in downtown Toronto on Thursday, he said Swoop is a “startup” airline that offers cheap fares in a bid to become established.

“We put a lot of cheap seats out there but we are profitable. We are doing it in a measured way,” Mr. Greenway said, adding, “We have had to stimulate the market. We have had to get, pardon the French, bums in the seats.”

Jayme Albert, a spokesman for the Competition Bureau, said the investigation into allegations of predatory pricing of airline fares by WestJet and Swoop is continuing, and declined to comment further. In a 2018 Federal Court filing related to the case, the regulator said it had “reason to believe that the parties have engaged in conduct that constitutes an abuse of dominant position.”

WestJet launched Swoop in June, 2018. WestJet is Canada’s second-biggest airline, and was bought by Onex Corp. for $3.5-billion in a deal that closed in December, 2019.

“Swoop and WestJet welcome competition and believe the market can support significant growth in the ultra-low-cost space for many years to come,” said Lauren Stewart, a WestJet spokeswoman.

Discount airlines such as Flair and Swoop offer base fares, and charge for every bag, snack and coffee. They cater to budget-conscious leisure travellers – not business customers – flying point-to-point with no connections. They cut costs by serving smaller cities with airports that charge lower fees and are less congested than big-city airports, allowing planes to turn around more quickly.

Story continues below advertisement

Flair flies to Vancouver, Abbotsford, and Kelowna in B.C., as well as to Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Winnipeg. Swoop serves Abbotsford, Victoria and Kamloops in B.C., and Edmonton, Charlottetown, Halifax, London, Ont., Las Vegas, Winnipeg, St. John’s and some sun destinations.

Two other discount carriers, Canada Jetlines and Enerjet, have announced plans to begin flying but have failed to launch.

Barry Prentice, a transportation professor at the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business, said low-cost carriers serve a purpose, by providing cheap alternatives to the big airlines while offering checks on the abilities of the legacy carriers to overcharge.

But Swoop, as part of WestJet, functions differently in the market, he said. “Swoop is kind of like the guy that’s going to come along and make sure none of these other [small] airlines” can become established and compete by undercutting the fares, Prof. Prentice said. He said the complaint before the competition watchdog of deep fare discounts has “some legitimacy. … That does sound pretty predatory to me.”

“Consumers love price wars, but of course the goal of a price war is to put the competition out of business, and take over the market again,” Prof. Prentice said.

Flair’s Mr. Scott said the airline pulled out of Hamilton in 2018 and cancelled its Edmonton to Las Vegas flights because it could not compete with Swoop, which offered flights as cheap as $69, including tax. He said the lone remaining route Flair and Swoop compete directly on is Abbotsford, B.C., to Edmonton. On that route, Swoop earlier this week was selling one-way tickets for $12 on Feb. 4 and 10 other days that month, taxes included. Flair’s cheapest seat for the same flight is $67, although the airline does not schedule past Feb. 3, according to its website.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Scott said he hopes the competition bureau examines the latest seat sales, and makes a ruling quickly.

Swoop’s added flights come at a time airlines are cancelling and delaying routes amid lost capacity due to the global grounding of the Being 737 Max passenger jets. WestJet has been forced to idle its 13 Max planes, and has dropped the plane from its schedule until June 24.

Swoop’s Mr. Greenway said route overlap with Flair is “almost non-existent,” and said Swoop is able to add capacity because its planes fly 13 or 14 hours a day. He declined to address Mr. Scott’s allegation of unfair competition in Hamilton. “They have their own strategy. I’ll leave it to them to explain what they need to do.”

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies