Ultra Low Cost Carriers (ULCC) like Swoop represent a race to the bottom in service quality for passengers and job conditions for workers. In order to turn a profit, Swoop must have high ancillary fees for customers, and low labour costs for workers. Here’s how it’s done.
The company has cut conventional entitlements for flying passengers and levied a fee for their access. Unexpected fees for customers flying Swoop include new charges to select a seat, to check or carry on baggage, to make a transaction through the customer contact centre, and to enjoy onboard beverages and entertainment.
ULCCs tend to make flying so unpleasant that even if a passenger opts out of the add-ons, they will eventually cave to the extra fees for increased comfort. There’s no reason to believe Swoop will be different.
Slashing Labour Costs
WestJet has said Swoop fares will be 40 per cent lower than traditional airlines, but new seats and fees alone won’t make up the difference. In order to stay profitable, ULCCs have to keep labour costs low, which means no pensions and no extended benefits for workers. Make no mistake: the only way Swoop will be profitable is if Cabin Crew Members are performing the same work, on the same planes, for lower compensation.
Job Security at Stake
WestJet’s business plans are to take planes out of the WestJet mainline fleet, give them a new paint job, cram a few more seats in, and fly these aircraft on existing mainline routes. Should Swoop expand as the company intends it to, WestJet mainline Cabin Crew Members could be displaced and potentially laid off. Worst of all? WestJet mainline workers will be used to launch the very competition that is threatening their job security.
Unions Exist to Protect Workers
In this time of uncertainty, WestJet Cabin Crew Members need the protection of a union. CUPE, through collective bargaining, can protect Cabin Crew Members by working to negotiate:
- A collective agreement that there will be no layoffs of mainline Cabin Crew Members
- Minimum complement contract language that prevents the employer from requiring or forcing mainline Cabin Crew Members to transfer to Swoop
- A commitment that WestJet’s mainline will continue to grow alongside any ULCC ventures