Ultra-low-cost is the new thing!

You’ve probably heard of “bundled services,” but do you know exactly what “unbundled services” means in terms of booking flights? Essentially, it’s a new trend towards “à la carte,” and here’s how it works.

[sta_anchor id=”top” /]The demand for reduced airfare costs is real and it has been for decades now. We always want low fares, but the demand is getting stronger.  To keep up, there is a new business model that is picking up in Canada and airlines are jumping on the opportunity. It’s called ULCC (Ultra-Low Cost Carrier), which differentiates itself in many ways from all the standard services provided in your average base fare. Before jumping on ultra-low-cost fares, it’s important to know how it works.


New cars are always nicer looking. They have more features and they are more fuel efficient. It’s very similar when it comes to new aircrafts.

In the past, low-cost carriers would purchase second-hand aircrafts to be able to charge less for fares. It sounds scary, but it’s not; the standard airlines would purchase new simply for reasons such as increased cabin space (leg room) and new features or technology to offer to their passengers – Often a main reason why we buy a new car. However, tides have turned, and even low-cost and ultra-low-cost airlines can operate brand new next-generation aircrafts thanks to increased fuel efficiency and less maintenance costs, which pays off in the long run. On that note, fleet strategy is crucial – A fleet of only a few types of aircrafts helps reduce maintenance and training costs, so generally, these ULCCs will have one or two types of planes tops.

Much like purchasing a new car, we pay attention to the features that come with it. Low-cost carriers tend to run on a minimum set of equipment and standard features. For example, next generation aircrafts are replacing their in-flight entertainment systems with Wi-Fi so that passengers can use their own devices instead. Or, there may be a little less leg room and the standardization of cabin seating options as well, which we will outline right away.


These low-cost airlines push for everything to be done online – Ticket sales, seat selection, baggage and check-in – one reason being to avoid costs related to call centre agents or airport staff. Verify with the airline you are choosing for your flight, but some may charge for checking in at the airport instead of doing it in advance online. And much like other airlines, you can count on fees for checked baggage, in-flight food or other charges.

Here is the pitched baggage fee structure for Flair Air and Swoop.

As an example, WestJet’s fleet of Boeing 737-800s usually have 12 “Plus” seats with additional leg room, while their economy seats have 31-33 inches. According to this Global article, their ULCC called Swoop – set to launch in 2018 and begin service in 2019 – should have more seats and less leg room (around 30 inches to be precise). Some low-cost airlines advertise only 28 inches.

Flight patterns

(Get used to this term) ULCCs generally use secondary airports to reduce high costs of busy airports such as landing fees or on-ground support. They also advertise more flights per day for quick turnaround and less time on the ground.

For example: Hamilton, Ontario instead of Pearson International Airport in Toronto, or Abbotsford, British Columbia instead of Vancouver.


Swoop Airlines Planned Route Map

Airport bells and whistles

For certain flights, some carriers have started loading passengers outside via stairs instead of tunnels. This is yet to be determined for ultra-low-cost carriers.

This model is geared towards “point-to-point” flights, which sells each flight leg independently, thus reducing problems related to connections or round-trip ticketing. Sometimes, bags need to be collected and rechecked even with the same airline, which reduces the ticket price.

Much like other fields, airport employees are “jack of all trades.” Staff are encouraged to perform multiple tasks – They can be part of the cabin crew, check tickets at the gate, work customer service, check-in counters or even clean the aircraft.






What this means for your luggage

As airlines become stricter on the carry-on luggage restrictions under this new ULCC trend, it becomes increasingly important to ensure carry-on compliance.

Here are a couple good carry-on choices:


Carry-on baggage dimensions:

* Please verify airline carry-on allowance prior to flying. For further information, please visit this page.

Dimensions H: 21.5” x W: 15.5” x D: 9” H: 21” x W: 15” x D: 9” H: 20” x W: 16” x D: 9” H: 20” x W: 16” x D: 9”
Weight 22 lbs. 22 lbs. 22 lbs. 11 lbs.
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Since Swoop and Flair Air will use the same aircraft, they are currently not pitching different carry-on restrictions. Here is what it looks like right now when it comes to new ultra-low-cost airlines:

Dimensions TBD H: 21” x W: 15” x D: 9” H: 21.5” x W: 15.5” x D: 9” TBD
Weight TBD TBD 22 lbs. TBD