February 13, 2019 / 7:59 PM / 10 days ago

WestJet budget carrier Swoop carrying mostly new flyers: company president

FILE PHOTO: The Swoop logo is pictured during a presentation by WestJet celebrating Canada's first ultra low cost airline, Swoop, at John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

QUEBEC CITY (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd’s new no-frills carrier Swoop said on Wednesday that most of its passengers are either new or infrequent flyers, helping the Canadian company’s two airlines avoid competing for the same passenger.

Swoop President Steven Greenway said in an interview that more than 50 percent of its travelers had either never traveled by plane, or would not normally fly with WestJet or its domestic rival Air Canada.

“Given our model we are not cannibalizing, we are creating a new market,” Greenway said by phone.

Swoop, launched in June 2018 as an ultra low cost carrier will grow from six to 10 aircraft in 2019 as it adds frequency. But the airline will add fewer routes compared with the 19 it launched last year, he said.

WestJet, Canada’s second largest carrier, said earlier this month it would take a prudent approach to adding capacity in 2019. WestJet is counting on Swoop to help drive higher revenues this year after a turbulent 2018.

Greenway said about 20 percent to 30 percent of Swoop’s travelers to warm destinations such as Las Vegas or Mexico are “repatriated Canadians” who used to cross over the border to fly from U.S. airports on low cost rivals like Allegiant Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

Greenway would not comment on an investigation by Canada’s Competition Bureau into whether Swoop violated competition laws by selling flights at below-cost fares in order to force out smaller rivals.

The investigation followed a complaint by startup budget carrier Flair Airlines and is supported by Canada Jetlines which expects to launch service this year.

Reporting By Allison Lampert; editing by Grant McCool

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