Swoop says it can't offer flights from Region of Waterloo airport due to deal with Flair
Two low-cost airlines are butting heads over an agreement at the Region of Waterloo International Airport (YFK).
Swoop, which is owned by WestJet, wanted to set up shop at the airport and offer flights to Halifax and Edmonton.
They were turned down due to the airport's exclusivity deal with rival Flair Airlines.
"We’re disappointed that we’re not able to offer service to people in the region," said Swoop President Bob Cummings.
Flair Airlines began operating in the region in early 2021 after agreeing to an exclusivity deal.
The airport’s director, Chris Wood, said he offered the same deal to all Canadian carriers and Swoop did not respond.
"I know Swoop has said that they didn’t bid because they didn’t believe in exclusivity but they could’ve asked us to run the routes non-exclusively and we would have been thrilled with that," he said.
Swoop claims that deals preventing competition is hurting local customers.
"What competition does is it creates the optimal service for a region," said Cummings. "It gives people a choice, and the market ends up deciding who the operator is and what the appropriate level of service is."
Flair said it was willing take the risk in partnering with YFK and said it has paid off.
In an e-mailed statement Flair said, in part: "This is exactly the kind of behaviour that YKF wanted to prevent by providing a time-limited exclusivity on specific markets. It allows an entrepreneurial carrier time to establish a market without WestJet or its puppet, Swoop, dumping capacity and copying the innovator, and then disappearing again when their dirty work is done."
Wood said he's happy with the partnership they have with Flair and admits that the airport's growth and expansion is all thanks to Flair.
"We wanted to give them the opportunity, for a time limited period, in order to really test the market and make sure that it’s viable for them."
An air passenger rights advocate said while exclusivity deals aren't necessarily common, they are allowed.
"I do see this as an attempt to perhaps bully Flair, and more importantly, those decision makers from the airport authorities," said Gábor Lukács.
"This is a big market, so to come in and say that they were bullying people out, I don’t think that’s a fair statement," Cummings said.
Next week, Flair Airlines will find out if its licences will be suspended following a review by the Canadian Transportation Agency due to questions about Flair being Canadian-controlled.
Swoop said they've asked the federal government to void the exclusivity arrangement with the region's airport.
The Region of Waterloo International Airport said they've had several different exclusivity deals with other carriers for the last five years.
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