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No Swoop expected in Grande Prairie

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Ultra low cost carriers are about to be an option for Canadian travelers, but don’t expect them to service Grande Prairie right away.

WestJet has announced plans for Swoop airlines to fly in 2018. The “no-frills” option is expected to launch in select markets at first, but where those will be located is a closely guarded secret. Grande Prairie Airport CEO Brian Grant says there are seven or eight markets he thinks they could try to launch in.

“Its becoming pretty evident that it’s got to be a market with high density. So you are seeing a lot of them concentrating in the larger centers and in southern Ontario, mainland and lower mainland B.C.”

Grant says population is only one of the considerations airlines will have to make before bringing a low cost carrier to an airport. The other airlines that service certain airports and areas will have a major impact on Swoop’s launch plans and also their potential expansion plans in the future.

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“They also have WestJet and Encore so they’ve got some areas that they have to be pretty strategic in in order not to erode that base by bringing in their ultra low cost base. I don’t foresee a lot of airports that have WestJet and Air Canada service in a regional marketplace are going to be their first focus because there is just simply not as many passengers.”

This May saw an additional 2,000 passengers at the Grande Prairie Airport compared to 2016. Despite continued expansion and growth at the airport, Grant doesn’t expect to see Grande Prairie as part of the initial launch. He says if things go well for the airline, though, we could see interest in the region.

“They’ll start to look at those secondary markets and Grande Prairie is in a pretty prime geographical site to entice them to looking at the whole region and bringing the whole region [together], similar to what WestJet did when they launched their service with us back in ’97.”

While Grant doesn’t expect to see Swoop here right away, he says conversations are happening with other carriers.

“There are some fits that may be better than others. At this point with WestJet and Swoop I’m not sure that the indication would be that they would see us as a priority or a first option. So, there are others. There are other options; there are other carriers that are getting ready.”

“We’re having discussions, yes. I won’t say that we’re not. But, we’re certainly not to a point where we’d want to suggest that we have someone that is on the hook or is particularly planning or looking at specific target dates.”

Swoop has chosen Calgary as the location of its headquarters. An exact location will be announced at a later date.

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