Swoop Review: What It Was Really Like To Fly On Canada's 'Ultra-Low Fare' Airline (VIDEO)

The airline officially ceased operations at the end of October.

Blonde woman wearing a mask on a Swoop flight from Toronto to Cancun. Right: Seats on board a Swoop airplane.

Ali Millington on a Swoop flight from Toronto to Cancun.

In June, WestJet announced its plans to shut down its budget airline Swoop by the end of October 2023, with existing Swoop employees to be integrated into WestJet's main operations as part of a new deal.

October 28 officially marked Swoop's final day of operation as it merged with WestJet.

The airline, which launched in 2018, was known for its "ultra-low" fares and flight sales.

Back in 2022 when I decided to book a trip to Tulum, Mexico from Toronto, I opted to give Swoop a try.

As a frequent traveller who lived on the other side of the Atlantic for years, I've flown with too many airlines to count — but until April 2020, that list didn't include a low-cost carrier in North America.

The airline, which said it was "on a mission to make travel more affordable and accessible for all Canadians," was the only one flying direct on the day I wanted to travel, so the decision made sense — but I had no idea what to expect from the flight.

Booking experience: 4/5

Even though the Swoop homepage was busy and colourful, the booking process was user-friendly and straightforward. I liked how you could see the flight prices in a calendar view as you were selecting your departure (and return, if relevant) date, which made it easy to find the best deal if you had some flexibility.

Screenshot of the booking process on the Swoop websiteThe booking process on the Swoop website.Swoop

The base fares didn't include any extras, but you had the option to select your seat for a small extra fee (I chose not to since it was only a four-hour flight).

I did, however, choose to pay an extra $40 for a checked bag since I was travelling for more than two weeks. The base fare included one personal item, but there was an option to pay for an additional carry-on as well. I decided to skip this and try my luck with both a purse and a backpack at the airport.

I also paid an extra $5 for the "Modifly" option, which allowed me to change my reservation if needed.

While still pretty steep at $355 one way (they didn't have a flight on the date I wanted to return, so I decided to fly back with a different airline), the final price was more reasonable than some of the non-direct flight options I had with other airlines on the same date at the time I booked, which was just over a month ahead of my trip.

Check-in & boarding: 4/5

swoop check-in line at Pearson Airport in TorontoThe Swoop check-in line at Pearson Airport in Toronto.Ali Millington | Narcity

As I was getting ready to leave my apartment for the airport, I received an email from Swoop letting me know my flight was delayed — luckily only by 45 minutes, but it made me wonder what other surprises were in store.

I decided to head to Pearson as planned anyway in case there were any of the then-common delays, especially as I hadn't had the option to check in to my flight online.

Luckily, there were enough people working behind the Swoop check-in desks that the long line moved quickly. The check-in process was smooth and efficient — and the checked bag I'd paid extra for came in just under the weight allowance, for once in my life.

Once I was through security, I had some time to kill at the airport before boarding. When I made it to the gate, it was clear the cabin crew had been hanging out too — they were waiting at the gate chatting with one another and seemed to be having a lot of fun with their colleagues.

tunnel to board a Swoop flight to Cancun from TorontoBoarding a Swoop flight to Cancun from Toronto.Ali Millington | Narcity

Boarding started 35 minutes ahead of the departure time and moved pretty quickly. Nobody said anything about the two bags I brought on board despite the clearly stated rule, which was a bonus — some low-cost airlines are pretty strict about the one carry-on policy.

Seats: 3/5

seats on a Swoop flight from Toronto to CancunSeats on a Swoop flight from Toronto to Cancun.Ali Millington | Narcity

When we boarded the plane, every passenger was handed a wet wipe to wipe down their seat with, which was a little off-putting — it was unclear whether this was for extra comfort or because the seats hadn't been cleaned ahead of time.

The seats were pretty snug, as I expected, though not entirely uncomfortable.

view of the seatback on a Swoop flight from Toronto to CancunSeats on a Swoop flight from Toronto to Cancun.Ali Millington | Narcity

I was also happy to find both a USB port and a power outlet in front of me along with the tray table, which is the most important thing to me when I'm travelling alone so I don't end up with a dead phone.

Food & drink: 3/5

I'd checked out the in-flight menu online ahead of time, so I knew nothing complimentary would be offered on board and that no full meals would be available to buy. With this in mind, I made sure to eat lunch in the airport before I boarded — but anyone who hadn't thought ahead might have been surprised to only be able to buy snacks on the four-hour flight.

It's standard on a low-cost carrier to not be given anything for free, but since I was paying $350 for a one-way flight, a cup of water might have been nice. Luckily, the snack and drink selection was decent and the prices weren't too bad.

woman drinking prosecco on board a Swoop flight from Toronto to CancunDrinking prosecco on board a Swoop flight from Toronto to Cancun.Ali Millington | Narcity

I decided to treat myself to a mini bottle of Prosecco, which cost around $9. The cabin crew even put it on ice for me for a while before serving it because they didn't think it was cold enough, which was a thoughtful touch.

Service & entertainment: 4/5

There was no onboard entertainment, which is pretty standard for low-cost. This means no screens in the seats or in-flight magazines (which are a thing of the past post-COVID anyway).

The service was impressive, though — every member of the crew I dealt with was super friendly and helpful and seemed to be paying close attention to any onboard requests.

view from the plane window on a swoop flight from Toronto preparing to land in Cancun, MexicoSwoop flight from Toronto preparing to land in Cancun, Mexico.Ali Millington | Narcity

The view from the window didn't hurt, either.

Overall: 3.6/5 or 18/25

I was pretty impressed with my Swoop experience overall. 45-minute delay aside, while a lot of it was what you'd expect from a low-cost carrier, I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth the processes were and by the friendly service.

For me, the things that brought the score down slightly were the somewhat steep price I paid given the no-frills approach, not being able to check in online, the pretty tight seats and the fact that there was nothing complimentary and no entertainment on board.

However, this score was helped by the simple and easy booking process, smooth and quick check-in and boarding, USB and power outlets at every seat, reasonably priced snacks and drinks, and friendly and efficient service.

If I had paid a bit less for this flight, I would have been completely satisfied with the experience — but given I still paid more than $350 one-way, if I'd had the option to fly direct with another carrier for a similar price or slightly more, I may have chosen to do so.

Swoop was a solid option to keep travel costs low and be able to spend more on enjoying your holiday, so it's a shame for the industry that it's gone.

Let's hope WestJet delivers on its promise to "offer ultra-affordable travel options through to a premium inflight experience" now that operations have ceased.

This article has been updated since it was originally published on May 24, 2022.