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Swoop Airlines Review – Canada’s Low-Cost Carrier

A review of Swoop Airlines

Swoop Airlines is a new Canada low-cost airline and competition to Flair Airlines. Swoop launched in early 2018 and is the latest entry into the ultra-discount market for low-cost airlines in Canada. If you search for “Swoop airline review,” most reviews are typically bad. I decided to write my summary based upon my experience flying with them in late September 2019.

In the “race to the bottom” of ultra-low pricing, there have been many previous carriers in Canada and the United States. However, most of them have struggled with poor reviews, lack of customer service, and failed to still be in business five years later. Only time will tell if Swoop is still flying in the years ahead but read ahead to find out if you should “FlySwoop” (#FlySwoop) on your next flight from Canada?

Since their parent company is Westjet Airlines, there’s a tendency to assume that you will have a similar experience to flying Westjet when you fly with this low-cost carrier. If you are not familiar with Westjet, it is ranked as the #2 airline in Canada. It is second only to Air Canada that has been around for decades, and consistently receives excellent reviews and ratings for its service, pricing, and routes.

However, assuming Swoop is just a cheaper version of Westjet is a false assumption. They have a completely different business model. In my view, the only thing they have in common is some shareholders. Just think about how you could trim all of the extra costs from your flight. Now, you start to get an idea of what you must do to have cheap flights available in Canada. For me, the price of your trip is the #1 reason I decided to #FlySwoop.

Who Should Fly with Swoop Airlines?

Since I was flying solo and leaving my beautiful wife Karen at home, I was more willing to take a chance with a low-cost Canadian airline. Regardless of what happened, I knew it was just me that had to deal with it. Also, I intended to travel light when visiting family, so not having much luggage to pay for was not a problem. This Swoop Airlines review would not be complete without looking at their aircraft. Swoop’s fleet is typically a Boeing 737-800 with clean and comfy interiors.

If you’re a family of four, the savings you think you are getting with the ultra-low advertised fares could quickly be eaten up by additional fees. Fees quickly add up for carry-on bags, luggage, reserving your seats (so Mom and Dad sit with the kids).

Most airlines are increasingly charging more for upgraded levels of “economy-class” fares or checked bags. These additional fees are one way the airlines can offset their low, low fares. Be aware that should you need to move your flight to another date; all those paid fees are lost. These reimbursable fees are one reason why you might read a negative Swoop Airlines review.

Where Does Swoop Airlines Fly To?

Swoop Airlines App

This new Swoop airline has a limited number of destinations and typically flies only to smaller airports. These include Vancouver and Toronto, some popular U.S. southern destinations such as Las Vegas, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, etc., and five destinations in the Caribbean/Mexico. So, if you need an inexpensive, no-thrills flight to Puerto Vallarta or Los Cabos, Mexico, Swoop has you covered.

In total, as of this writing, Swoop flies to only 17 destinations. This is a significant factor in determining whether or not you can even fly with them! Fortunately for me, flying from Vancouver to Toronto easily translated into a flight from Abbotsford (about an hour east of Vancouver) to Hamilton (roughly an hour southwest of Toronto).

If there is a chance you will need to change your booking, don’t book with Swoop. I read countless horror stories and negative Swoop Airline reviews about the cost of rebooking fees.

Of course, this is one of the ways they can offer such a low fare to the rest of us because they can make it up on the other “fees.” For my flight, I paid the advertised price and didn’t get dinged for anything unexpected. It’s all in the details so, pay attention to fees and read the Swoop cancellation policy.

Booking with Swoop Airlines

I noticed that I couldn’t book with Swoop using Expedia, which is where I typically book flights. The only way to get Swoop airline tickets is with Swoop directly via their website or using their App. This indicated that they don’t want to pay any commissions to third-party booking agents or websites. Saving fees to third-party agents translates to savings for customers. So, I booked online via the website and had no problems.

Before the Flight

Since mobile technology is so standard these days, there’s not much that can surprise me because I have come to expect to have an easy-to-use website, appropriate notifications, and the ability to do everything via my phone. Still, the airline surprised me with their friendly phone reminder that “You’ll be flying in less than 72 hours”.

While I get countless notifications from my phone every day, I appreciated the reminder of “Am I ready to fly?” “What else do I need to take care of before I go?” or “Is there any last-minute shopping I need to do?”. How many times have you been running those errands on the day you fly just because you have been so busy before you fly? Maybe it’s just me! Lol.

Seat Selection

Next was the notification that it was less than 24 hours to my flight, and I can check-in online. Since I only had my small computer bag and small carry-on luggage (that I paid extra for), it was seamless and easy to check-in. The night before my flight, I did the Swoop airlines check-in on my mobile phone. However, since I was writing a Swoop Airline review, I took a pre-assigned seat of 24B, a middle seat near the back of the plane.

I thought this was a deliberate poor choice because I could see lots of window and aisle seats still available nearer to the plane’s front. Ah-ha! They have given me a poor seat selection to entice me to pay the additional fee for a better seat. I took the bait and paid the price to book a nice aisle seat in row 8. Haha.

However, on my return flight from Hamilton back to Abbotsford, the pre-assigned seat was an aisle seat. An aisle seat was precisely what I wanted. So, I guess it wasn’t an attempt to make me pay to upgrade my seat.

Getting to the Airport

Because Swoop doesn’t fly out of the major airports like Toronto or Vancouver, this is advantageous. There is typically less traffic, lower parking rates, and more accessible drop-off and pick-up. For low-cost carriers, this also saves on airport fees, which translates to savings for customers. When I fly to Vancouver’s international airport, I use multiple highways or freeways.

So, you often have to consider whether or not it’s rush hour, are there any accidents, what’s the weather, etc. There’s nothing worse than being stopped in congested traffic and getting that panicking feeling that you’re about to miss your flight! Both the Abbotsford and Hamilton airports are outside of the urban congestion zones and provide an easier commute.

The waiting area at Abbotsford Airport
The waiting area at Abbotsford Airport

The Terminals

Because Swoop flies out of the smaller airports, don’t expect to have the same choice of restaurants and shopping before your flight. However, both my terminals had basic dining options, gift and candy shops, etc. They even had a Duty-Free shop in Hamilton available to passengers flying south to the U.S. However, it was not available for me since I was only flying within Canada.

Boarding the Flight

Since Karen dropped me off at Abbotsford airport, it was a short inside walk to my gate. This is another thing that I couldn’t help but appreciate. When you fly out of Vancouver, or any major city in the U.S., part of the “adventure” is walking forever through the airport, making sure you are in the right terminal, finding your gate, and feeling exhausted by the time you finally get to your gate. However, Abbotsford has only a few gates, compared to the 42 in Vancouver!

Boarding Swoop Airlines
Boarding Swoop Airlines

Since I had paid for my carry-on, I needed to get a unique tag for my bag to indicate I’d paid the fee. A small personal bag (purse or computer bag) is included in the fare at no cost. But anything more than that, and you have to pay.

I can’t remember the last time I had to walk out on the tarmac when flying in North America. When you’re flying out of the smaller, almost rural airports, passengers don’t have access to heated jet-ways. It was no big deal, though. The flight boarded early and without incident, and we even took off early. Bonus!

Swoop Airlines Review: In The Air

Pre-flight Service

The staff was what I had expected and were friendly, professional, and got us all prepped for take-off. We watched the standard drill on what to do in the event of an emergency. But otherwise, no different from the many flights I had taken with other airlines.

On the return trip, we had one friendly Flight Steward who called all of us “beautiful people.” He asked if the “beautiful city of Abbotsford” was our home? I had lived in Abbotsford for ten years and never thought of it that way. But what the heck, maybe he knew something I didn’t know? Lol. Overall, the flight crew was friendly and what I expected.

Food Service

During the flight, the airline provides nothing for free. Really, are you kidding me? You even need to pay for a glass of water! At first, I thought this was ridiculous, but then I thought about how much I had saved. I estimate this flight was at least CAD 200 less than a comparable flight on WestJet or Air Canada, even after paying for carry-on and a seat.

The good news is, the in-flight menu does offer some economical food options (at a price). So, you don’t need to starve if you didn’t bring anything on board with you.

Knowing that I would need to pay for beverages, the easy solution was to purchase within the return flight’s security area. So, I bought a CAD 2 bottle of water, some snacks, and gum, to carry on the plane. Also, I purchased my favorite Tim Hortons tea so that I wouldn’t be thirsty during the flight. I didn’t miss the free coffee, water, or soda available on the other airlines.

Wi-Fi Service

I usually never pay for airline Wi-Fi service when flying. Instead, I like to use the time as a chance to “unplug” with a brief ‘digital detox.’ However, since I knew I would be writing this Swoop Airlines review, I paid CAD 10.99 on both flights. The fee gave me 90 minutes of in-air Wi-Fi. One glitch was that you had the option of paying via PayPal. But, as I was unable to login, I couldn’t pay by that method. Instead, I just paid using my credit card since they cannot take cash on the plane.

Swoop Wi-Fi pricing
Swoop Wi-Fi pricing

In both cases, I had challenges getting the Wi-Fi working and thought I had wasted my money. Eventually, I could access the internet, but the restricted service meant I had no access to bandwidth hogs such as YouTube, Netflix, or other streaming services.

The service was okay with a 10 Mb download speed and 1 Mb (for the geeks reading this). If flying again with Swoop, I would download my device at home whatever shows or movies from Netflix that I wanted to watch in the air.

A Swoop Airplane
A Swoop Airplane

Would I Fly With Swoop Again?

In the end, my Swoop Airline review scores a thumbs up. And I appreciated being able to fly across most of Canada at a price that was cheaper than anything I had paid for over 20 years. Yes, they offer almost no free services, but I’m okay with that because, in the end, I can fly more often to some of the destinations I want to see.

The old adage that “you get what you pay for” has always been true, and I have never wanted to pay twice (or three times) as much for a 5-hour flight so that I can get a “free” glass of wine when I board the plane or have a “free” blanket and pillow. I’m more than willing to cut the frills so that I can have a lot more money to spend at my destination rather than paying for it during my flight there.

My Swoop Airline review scores an 8 out of 10, and I would fly with them again. #FlySwoop