Swoop Airlines, cheap seats but at a cost — A cautionary tale

Swoop Airlines may boast a cheap ticket, but at the cost of comfort and convenience.

For many of us, flying can be an expensive affair. For those of us who come from Ontario (such as myself), it can get really expensive flying home during reading week during the holidays. While you might get lucky and catch a good price on a seat sale (such as on Black Friday) or buy your seats months ahead to save money, either way, a flight from Edmonton to Toronto is still going to put you back a couple hundred dollars. While I stayed in Edmonton over the last year due to the pandemic, I have flown to Toronto (more precisely, Hamilton) on discount Canadian airline Swoop Air in the past.

Compared to airlines such as Air Canada and Westjet, a flight on Swoop Air will cost less the vast majority of the time. While saving money is obviously a good thing, there are some disadvantages to flying on a discount airline such as Swoop Air. The goal of this article is neither to discourage people from flying with discount airlines, nor discount the economic realities of running a discount airline, but rather it is to highlight my experiences when flying with Swoop Air.

The Seats

The single-handed worst part of flying with Swoop Air has to be the seats. I understand that airlines are companies that need to make a profit to survive and thus have an incentive to book as many people as they can on an airplane. For those who have never flown with Swoop Air, the seats lack the ability to recline and they are also quite upright so as to fit more passengers on the plane. I felt as if the seat was pressing my back forward.

On short flights, this isn’t too large an issue. However, with long flights what this means is that your head gets forced forward whenever you fall asleep which puts strain on your neck. When flying to Toronto, I had some pretty serious neck and muscle pain the next few days because of this. When you throw in the fact that you sit for four hours or more, I wouldn’t describe a flight with Swoop Air as fun.

The Fees 

Need to check in a bag at the airport? That’s gonna cost you. Add another $20 on top of the cost of a checked bag. The worst offender? You can be charged up to $150 to change a flight on top of any cost changes associated with the new flight. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Swoop has stuck with this philosophy, providing no dispensation. There are also no refunds past 24 hours after purchasing a ticket.

My personal favourite has to be the contact centre fee which essentially means you can get charged $15 for reaching out to customer service if you need help. That’s a creative one. If you are curious as to all the fees that Swoop Air has, you can check them out here.

The Logistics

I generally consider myself a morning person, however, even getting up at 4:00 a.m. is a bit much even for me. Whenever I fly to Ontario I pick the most affordable flights and those usually depart at 7:00 a.m. from the Edmonton International Airport. I understand that these red eye flights are generally less expensive to operate but not everyone wants to wake up in the middle of the night to catch a flight. On the other side of the coin, some Swoop flights are scheduled at 10:00 p.m. or later so you can arrive at your destination in the wee hours of the morning.

Furthermore, Swoop flies into Abbotsford rather than the Vancouver International Airport. I learned this the hard way thinking that I would be flying into Vancouver only to realize I was actually stuck in a farming community an hour and half east of the city proper with no access to Uber. Good times, indeed.

I decided to share my experience as a cautionary tale since not everyone is aware of the tradeoffs of flying on a discount airline such as Swoop Air. When you count in the seats, questionable fees, and the scheduling, the downsides begin to add up.

While I will continue to fly discount airlines to save money, I can assure you that the moment I get a real job is the day I will finally be able to afford flying on an airline that offers a better flying experience.

Alexander Cheung

Alex is a writer and photographer with the Gateway. He is a senior contributor and specializes in tech and travel.

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