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WestJet’s New Low-Cost Fares Raise Eyebrows Among Travellers

June 5, 2024 3:42 PM | News


WestJet Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner photographed on March 5, 2018. (CHAD SLATTERY / WOLFE AIR LEARJET 25)

WestJet‘s new low-cost airfares are being met with a chilled reception online.

The Calgary-based airline announced its UltraBasic fare on Tuesday, “designed as a no-frills fare option.”

The base tier offering includes:

  • A personal item to be stored under the seat
  • A pre-assigned seat at the back of the aircraft
  • The option to add checked baggage and seat selection for additional fees
  • The option to purchase Extended Comfort for additional benefits

If you thought flying was already an uncomfortable and pricey experience, you aren’t alone. The reaction to WestJet’s news was swift and mostly negative in nature. Comments from the airline’s own social media pages across Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), showed a resounding displeasure with the UltraBasic fare.

The new lower-end flight category also doesn’t allow for a carry-on bag, except for guests travelling on transpacific and transatlantic routes, and guests will be last to board the aircraft.

WestJet says the move will mean price reductions across its routes. It also expects overhead bin space to be freed up and the overall boarding process to become smoother.

“UltraBasic has just made adding a carry-on bag to some flights a $300-400 option. Great work WestJet,” said Paul Patton, in a comment on the airline’s Facebook page.

Other travellers accused WestJet of increasing prices across the board to make room for the new cheaper category. A ChrisD.ca price comparison on WestJet’s website for a flight between Winnipeg and Calgary on July 11 (for example) was priced at $80 more for an Econo seat on June 4, compared to on June 3 before the UltraBasic fare was introduced.

“Affordability and Canadian air travel should not come in the same sentence,” another traveller wrote.

“Curious how taking away features without equivalently lowering the fares is making travel is more affordable for Canadians?,” asked another.

In response, WestJet spokeswoman Julia Kaiser told ChrisD.ca, “UltraBasic has been designed to both expedite the boarding process and provide our most competitive pricing.”

“As the airline that democratized air travel in Canada, we take our responsibility to provide guests with low-cost travel options very seriously and we are pleased to introduce an ultra-low-cost option that can serve the specific segment of ultra-low-cost travellers.”

WestJet customers are also expressing their frustration with recent changes announced to the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard program.

On May 31, it was announced companion vouchers issued on or after June 30, 2024, will increase by $100 for certain fare categories. Premium and PremiumFlex customers will pay more, while there are no changes to companion voucher pricing for Basic, Econo and EconoFlex fares.

For travellers within Canada or going to/from the continental U.S., the price increase moves from $119 to $219, plus taxes and fees. Those flying internationally through the rest of WestJet’s network will pay $499, up from $399, for their companion voucher on Premium and PremiumFlex fares.

Air Canada announces perks for Economy class

In a move timed one day after WestJet announced its UltraBasic fare, rival Air Canada said it would provide complimentary snacks to all customers on all flights in Economy. The airline is also expanding its complimentary beer and wine offering to Economy customers on flights within Canada and the U.S., alongside a selection of $5 spirits, through the end of this year.

— with files from Sarah Klein