Ultra-low-fare Canadian airline Swoop resumed service between Hamilton and Las Vegas on Thursday.
The first flight of the season left John C. Munro International Airport (YHM) just after 2 p.m., spurred on by a Vegas-themed gate-side celebration.
“We are thrilled to be resuming our highly demanded service between Hamilton and Las Vegas,” said Bert van der Stege, head of commercial and finance at Swoop.
“Today’s celebration reinforces our commitment to Canadian travellers and the Hamilton community, providing more convenient options for residents to enjoy weekend getaways and long-awaited vacations.”
The Swoop flights to Vegas happen biweekly accompanied by a pair of return trips. The fare to Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) runs around $139 plus taxes, with the return venture back to Hamilton at about $119 plus taxes.
“International travel continues to be a key component of Las Vegas’s recovery, and we look forward to welcoming more flights from Canada, our top international market for visitation prior to the pandemic,” said H. Fletch Brunelle, vice-president of marketing and sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The news comes just days after Ottawa’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for air and rail travellers discontinued with infections rapidly declining across Canada.
Starting Oct. 30, 2021, those over the age of 12 who were not inoculated were barred from boarding a plane or train, and most of them were no longer allowed to show a negative COVID-19 test as a substitute for vaccination.
Roughly 81 per cent of the entire population is vaccinated against COVID-19, government data shows.
The government also announced it is pausing its vaccine mandate for employees in the public service, and will no longer require employees in the federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors to be fully vaccinated.
John C. Munro’s executive managing director Cole Horncastle suggests the Swoop announcement will come as a relief to those hoping to avoid the reported delays that continue at Toronto’s Pearson despite the change in public health measures.
“We are thrilled that travellers can once again return to this popular destination and start their journey with comfort and ease from Hamilton International,” Horncastle said.
In May, half a million passengers faced delays on international flights at Pearson.
Passengers reported long lines at the airport, constant flight cancellations, and rescheduling. The airport cited staffing shortages, an influx of passengers as COVID-19 cases and restrictions decline, and delays due to processing COVID-19 protocols such as testing and verifying proof of vaccination.
Beth Potter, President and CEO for the Tourism Industry Association of Canada told Global News the agency says the backlogs are “concerning” and could further hinder summer travel in and out of Canada.
“We’re seeing domestic travel numbers looking pretty good for the summer,” Potter said.
“We certainly are not going to be back to 2019 levels, but they are coming back fairly strong.”
In late February, Hamilton’s international airport reported “signs of recovery” after a pair of dismal years for passenger air travel amid the pandemic.
The 2021 report, presented to the city’s airport subcommittee, revealed a 66 per cent drop to just over 250,000 passengers partaking in air travel to and from Hamilton in 2019.
The next year would see a rebound with the airport off just 24 per cent with some 330,000 passengers passing through.
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