WestJet’s Swoop tweaks its distribution to drive improvement in shoulder months

Canada’s WestJet has opted to tweak its distribution strategy for its ULCC subsidiary Swoop after encountering some headwinds during off peak times.

Swoop mades its debut in Jun-2018, and by the end of this year the airline will operate a fleet of 10 Boeing 737 narrowbodies. Presently, Swoop has a fleet of six 737-800s, according to the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database.

“We’re learning from our first winter of operations,” explained WestJet CEO Ed Sims “Through the softer shoulder months, we experience greater variability at Swoop than our core WestJet business with significant fluctuations seen in load factors between peak travel periods.”

In an attempt to combat those fluctuations, WestJet has opted to expand Swoop’s distribution into low-cost meta-search engines such as Google Flights and Skyscanner. Early returns from the changes look promising. “Once we got listed on Skyscanner and Google Flights, we’re seeing immediate increase in both awareness, but also bookings,” said CFO Harry Taylor.

The partnership with Skyscanner allows users of the platform in Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, the United States and the United Kingdom to search for flights and view airfares from Swoop. The Canadian airline describes the arrangement as a “significant step” in its distribution strategy and will create “valuable awareness” and a “convenient booking experience” for its ultra-low fare offer.

Company executives stated they are exploring and negotiating agreements with other large online travel agencies such as Expedia, “which we expect will continue to drive incremental bookings, build awareness, and further establish Swoop’s place as the top choice for travellers in the Canadian ultralow cost space”, Mr Sims concluded.

Swoop was born as a response to growing competition in the price-sensitive Canadian market following the introduction of low cost brands such as FlyToo (previously branded as Jet Naked), NewLeaf (acquired by Flair Airlines) and Canada Jetlines. Its 737-800 fleet is configured in a dense 189 seat arrangement in a single class structure.

After its launch on the Hamilton-Abbotsford route on 20-Jun-2018 it is just short of celebrating its one year anniversary. Its network now includes six points in Canada and five in the United States of America (USA), but now also extends to markets in Jamaica and Mexico in Latin America.

MAP – The Swoop network presently encompasses 14 destinations, including eight international marketsSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG