A Look at Low-Fare Airlines in Canada and Mexico

Although the domestic U.S. low-fare airline scene has been pretty static lately, there's lots of action on either side. Lines in Canada and Mexico are expanding, as both established lines and newcomers try to earn their niches. In both cases, most of the action is for domestic trips, but the Mexican airlines, particularly serve quite a few U.S. and Canadian points. The start of Swoop flights in June suggests a round-up of it and the other options.

Canadian Low-Fare Airlines

Canadian low-fare airlines are of greatest interest to Canadians or foreign visitors traveling within Canada. Canadians looking for cheap international trips often flock to airports across the U.S. border for their best deals.

Swoop

Canada's newest entry, Swoop, is the new low-fare subsidiary of WestJet. A few years back, WestJet would have been listed as a low-fare airline, but it's morphing into more of a direct competitor to Air Canada. So it did the obvious: Start a separate low-fare airline. Swoop flies from a sort of hub in Hamilton to Abbotsford, Edmonton, Halifax, and Winnipeg. Although Swoop doesn't say anything about future destinations, it is likely looking at cross-border flights to the U.S., along with possible longer trips to beach destinations.

Swoop currently flies 737-400s, with standard seats at a tight 29-inch pitch and a few stretched economy seats at 34-38 inches. The airline has 737-800s on order to replace the outmoded early models. Fares are almost totally unbundled. The lowest fare includes only an underseat personal item; carry-on and checked baggage, seat assignment, snacks, beverages, advance seat assignment all cost extra. Swoop is too new to have accumulated any TripAdvisor ratings.

Flair

Flair is the latest incarnation of the airline that started out as New Leaf. After a shaky beginning, it currently flies among 10 Canadian airports: Abbotsford, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Kelowna, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg. Although Edmonton is its main base, it flies to more destinations from Hamilton, with nonstops to all cities in the system other than Calgary and Halifax. Cross-border and warm-weather beach destinations are likely additions within a year or so.

Flair currently flies 747-400s, with 737-800s on order. The airline does not post its seating information, nor does SeatGuru. As with Swoop, fares are almost totally unbundled. The lowest fare includes only an underseat personal item; carry-on and checked baggage, seat assignment, snacks, beverages, advance seat assignment all cost extra. Flair reviews on TripAdvisor are mainly negative.

AirTransat and Rouge

AirTransat is a long-time leisure-oriented line, serving both transatlantic and warm-water beach destinations, with mostly seasonal routes. See the report on transatlantic low-fare airlines for details.
Rouge is the brand Air Canada uses on many predominantly leisure routes, including domestic, transatlantic, and warm-weather winter services. Many flights are seasonal.

Mexican Low-Fare Airlines

Mexican low-fare airlines pretty well blanket the country, serving most of the popular visitor destinations, and they're useful for both internal Mexican flights and flights from U.S. and Canadian gateways to Mexico's main tourist centers. Also, U.S. travelers heading to Mexico who live near El Paso or San Diego can sometimes find cheaper tickets to Mexican destinations by catching flights across the border in Ciudad Juarez or Tijuana. Crossing in Tijuana is especially easy due to the new Cross Border Xpress pedestrian access to the Tijuana airport.

Interjet

Interjet flies throughout Mexico with a route system centered on Mexico City and a secondary center at Toluca. International flights include Chicago, Dallas-Ft Worth, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, and San Antonio in the U.S. plus Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver in Canada. And it also flies as far south as Bogota and Lima.

Interjet uses 320s, 321s, and Sukhoi Superjets, with seats at a surprisingly generous 34-inch pitch. Unlike base fares on many other low-fare airlines, Interjet's lowest fares include one checked bag free within Mexico, but for a fee on cross-border flights, plus two pieces of carry-on baggage and snacks free, plus an assigned designated low-fare seat. Interjet generally gets favorable ratings on TripAdvisor.

Viva Aerobus

Viva Aerobus flies throughout Mexico from focus cities of Cancun, Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterey, plus nonstops from either Guadalajara or Monterey to Houston, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles in the U.S.
Viva Aerobus is much more the typical low-fare airline than Interjet, flying 320s at a tight 29-inch pitch. The lowest fare includes one carry-on up to 10 KG (22 pounds) plus a seat assignment to a middle seat toward the rear of the plane. Other baggage options, seat assignments, and meals are subject to charge. Viva Aerobus gets generally unfavorable ratings on TripAdvisor.

Volaris

Volaris covers most important Mexican destinations and flies to far more U.S. points than its competitors, including nonstops from either Guadalajara or Mexico City to Austin, Chicago, Dallas-Ft Worth, Denver, Fresno, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Oakland, Ontario, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, Reno, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Washington. It also serves key destinations in Central America.

Volaris flies 319-320-321s with a standard seat pitch of 30 inches and optional stretch seats at 32-inch pitch, higher at exit rows. The lowest fare includes one carry-on bag up to 10 KG. Checked baggage, seat assignments, snacks, and such are extra-cost options. Volaris ratings on TripAdvisor are generally unfavorable.

Above image by Aton_Ivanov via Shutterstock

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