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This Canadian airline will stop flying out of the Lower Mainland. Here's why

Some big changes are ahead.
WestJet announced on June 9, 2023, that it will be winding down operations with its budget brand, Swoop.

Hot pink planes will get a blue makeover starting this fall across Canada. 

WestJet announced Friday (June 9) that it will be winding down operations with its budget brand, Swoop, starting this fall, citing fierce market competition. 

Under the pressure of looming strike action, thousands of WestJet and Swoop flights were recently disrupted or cancelled, leaving numerous passengers stranded in destinations around the world. While the airline settled on an agreement with its pilots' union at the eleventh hour on May 19, many travellers had booked contingency plans with other airlines. 

Ratification of the deal was announced Friday.

WestJet says that existing Swoop flights and packages won't be affected by the announcement and customers may continue to book tickets. Swoop does not have any bookable flights beyond October 28, as the carrier hasn't published a schedule beyond that date.

Swoop's 16 bright-pink, narrow-body 737s will be repainted with the blue and turquoise of WestJet's livery after it finishes the current schedule.

How will the announcement affect Lower Mainland travel from YXX airport? 

Abbotsford International Airport (YXX) offers service from three national carriers: Flair, WestJet, and Swoop. 

YXX airport does not charge airport improvement fees, which allows airlines to charge significantly lower prices. Most one-way tickets on domestic routes out of the airport cost between $49 and $79.  

Airport General Manager Parm Sidhu said that the airport offers some of the lowest prices for travel across the country and it will focus on continuing to do so through the summer. 

"Our airline partners are making travel more affordable [and] accessible for everyday Canadians with regular air service to Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto Pearson, Hamilton, London Ontario,  Kitchener (which starts in June)," he told V.I.A. 

While he couldn't comment on what the impact of Swoop's exodus will look like from the local airport, Sidhu noted that the airline has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with WestJet. 

The Abbotsford airport has seen significant growth over the past 13 years, with passenger volumes rising from 2015's 487,833 to 992,712 in 2022. It expects to see a whopping 1.2 million visits in 2023. 

Swoop spokesperson Kelsey Trainor said it will take time to paint aircraft and remove signage after the airline completes its final flights at the end of October. 

"With that said, as Swoop transitions into WestJet, Swoop's highly successful business model will be implemented across WestJet's operations," she told V.I.A.

"As a result, we will broaden our ultra-low-cost reach as instead of only 16 Swoop aircraft serving the ultra-low-cost market, each aircraft in WestJet's 180-strong fleet will offer ultra-affordable travel options through to a premium in-flight experience."

Founded as a regional upstart in 1996, WestJet has grown to serve 28 per cent of Canada's domestic air travel market as of last month, versus the 47 per cent run by Air Canada, according to aviation data firm Cirium.

With files from the Canadian Press.