Canadians were excited earlier this year when WestJet launched their brand new ultra-low-cost airline, Swoop. The promise of flying to destinations across Canada, in the States and even the Caribbean without spending hundreds of dollars seemed like a dream come true.
But, Canadians are now learning that it actually might have been too good to be true. To say that travellers are disappointed with the low-cost airline is an understatement. Some Canadians are downright outraged by Swoop and one group is even taking legal action against them.
Swoop's business model is based on passengers basically choosing their own flight package and therefore being in total control of their costs and what they end up paying. What that essentially means though is, unless you are flying with no baggage and don't mind not having any legroom, Internet, or anything to eat or drink during your five-hour flight, you're going to end up paying a sizeable amount of money.
It's not necessarily surprising that, when it comes to Swoop and other ultra-low-cost carriers, you end up paying more than you bargained for. But, what has been surprising to people is the level of customer service, or lack thereof, that many passengers have claimed to experience.
On the airline review website, Skytrax, which is officially recognized for the worldwide Skytrax Awards, Swoop has an overall rating of 4/10 which in the Canadian school system is a failure. Skytrax verifies that all reviews are from actual Swoop customers and allows them to rate the flight overall, say if they would recommend it and provide a detailed comment on their experience.
Some reviews from as recent as this week have given Swoop a 1/10 rating and have titles like "Truly a Horrible Airline" and "Flight Back Been Absolute Nightmare." While there are a few positive reviews throughout, the overall low rating doesn't exactly reflect well on the airline.
In their reviews, the main issue that seems to come up for people is that lack of communication and seemingly very few employees have led to missed flights, multi-day delays, and general frustration.
One reviewer wrote that she showed up at the Hamilton airport counter to check in for her flight an hour early but no one was there. When a Swoop employee finally showed up, she was told that it was too late to check in for the flight and she had to go to Toronto's Pearson Airport and book on a different airline. Not only that, she wasn't even compensated for the missed Swoop flight.
The airline's reviews on Twitter aren't much better. Many people have echoed similar complaints about the lack of helpful staff on the ground, insane delays, and a major hurdle in communication.
What a hot mess of garbage trying to get home has turned into. Not only was our first flight last night cancelled, but our flight this morning too, and moved to Tuesday. I dunno about other people, but I can't miss that much work. Thanks @FlySwoop.— PiggtailGirl (@PiggtailGirl) 17 September 2018
Dont fly swoop airlines, the company is a joke, they make up lies and steal your cash with no retribution if they can't fly you, and to talk to customer support... you have to pay them.— Dice Wolf (@DiceyWolf) 17 September 2018
made the huge mistake of trying to fly with @FlySwoop .........— eliz (@lizzaoh) 18 September 2018
Another concern brought up on Twitter is that if you want to phone their customer support, expect to be waiting on hold for at least an hour - many people have said that the phone call actually costs money. Swoop has even responded to this saying if you need to get a hold of the airline urgently, your best option is via email or Twitter DM.
We absolutely understand your frustration. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience. If you require immediate support we recommend sending a DM or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.— FlySwoop (@FlySwoop) 17 September 2018
As if negative reviews and a 4/10 rating aren't enough to make people outraged over Swoop, a passenger rights advocacy group has launched a legal complaint against the airline, saying its fees are unlawful.
According to the complaint, Swoop is running illegally by violating the Canadian Air Transportation Act, which states that flights within Canada have to offer a basic fare that includes reasonable baggage, a.k.a. a carry-on. Since Swoop charges extra for carry-on bags, it can cost up to $80 plus tax - they are violating that requirement.
The regulatory complaint was filed with the Canadian Air Transportation Agency. The hope is that, in the future, Swoop will be required to offer a base fare option that includes a carry-on bag with no additional price restrictions.
Swoop responded to CTV about the complaint saying they are confident that customers appreciate their model and that the airline has been very successful since its launch.