WestJet Adds Baggage Fees

WestJet, which I think can best be described as the Canadian version of Southwest, announced new baggage fees yesterday, but rolled them out in what I’d consider to be a smart way.

WestJet raising checked baggage fees for travel after October 29, 2014

First, here’s how they announced the baggage changes:

WestJet today announced it will charge a $25 fee for a first checked bag on Econo fares for travel within Canada and between Canada and the U.S. The new fee will only apply to bookings made today onward, for travel on or after October 29, 2014. Guests flying to any of WestJet’s international destinations including Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and Europe may continue to check a first bag at no charge.

This change, which will apply to Econo fares only, is expected to affect approximately one in five WestJet guests. Guests who select a Flex fare will receive one free checked bag while guests choosing a Plus fare will enjoy two complimentary checked bags in addition to waived fees, seat selection, more legroom and many other amenities. For more information on WestJet baggage fees, please visit westjet.com/baggage.

What they don’t explicitly mention in the announcement is that they’re also raising the checked bag fees on the second checked bag, as well as the fee for the second, third, fourth, and oversized/overweight bags.

WestJet-Baggage-Fees-2
Current WestJet baggage fees

WestJet-Baggage-Fees-1
New WestJet baggage fees

WestJet adding elite tiers — Teal, Silver, and Gold

What makes WestJet smart about the changes is that they’re essentially “bundling” them with some good news and more ways to get baggage fees waived, by introducing new status tiers:

WestJet also today launched its new WestJet Rewards tiers program featuring three levels – Teal, Silver and Gold. Guests who qualify for the Silver tier will be able to check a first bag at no cost. Guests who qualify for the Gold tier will get two free checked bags. For more information on all the significant benefits offered with the new WestJet Rewards tiers, please visit westjet.com/tiers. In addition, we have added a free first bag as an enhanced benefit to our WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard credit card program.

WestJet-Status

WestJet adds price-drop guarantee

WestJet is also adding a feature which many airlines have actually eliminated over the past few years:

Along with the launch of WestJet Rewards tiers, the airline also introduced a price-drop guarantee today on WestJet flights and WestJet Vacations packages. Guests who see that the price of their flight or their vacation package has dropped since their original purchase can receive the difference in WestJet dollars. For terms and conditions, please visit www.westjet.com/pricedropguarantee.

Bottom line

I actually don’t think their conclusion is unreasonable either:

“Today’s announcements are further evidence of our commitment to our guests as Canada’s low-fare leader,” said Bob Cummings, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Sales, Marketing and Guest Experience. “As we continue to evolve our fare products, we are creating more value by offering our guests the opportunity to purchase only those services they want. This user-pay type of system allows us to keep fares as low as possible, introduce lower sale fares and avoid fare increases, which benefits you and liberates even more Canadians from the high cost of air travel. Our guests can now book with confidence with the WestJet price-drop guarantee.”

They’re not claiming “oh, now your tickets will be cheaper,” but rather are claiming that this keeps the cost of airfare as low as possible, and will allow them to maybe offer more fare sales in the future.

Of course I don’t like any new fees, but as far as rolling out new baggage fees goes, I think this is about as good as it gets. My main objection is to the fact that they’re mentioning the cost for a first checked bag without mentioning that the cost of additional bags and overweight/oversized bags is going up as well.

To WestJet flyers, how do you feel about these changes?

(Tip of the hat to Todd)

Comments

  1. I fly Westjet a lot due to the 10% discount that Amex Platinum Canada holders get. This news upsets me a bit as I tend to check a bag when I bring lots of stuff with me back and forth. Sometimes I have equipment with me which needs a second bag charge.

    However, if they have a status matching scheme it might be a way for me to keep my first bag free – even though I usually credit my Westjet flights to AA.

    All in all it’s something that I wish didn’t happen but I can see why Westjet wants to do it.

  2. As a Calgarian, I can say that a lot of people I have talked to in the last two days are disappointed in WestJet. They liked having a popular home town airline to praise while they bash Air Canada. Now it’s Westjet taking the lead on starting baggage fees for the first checked bag on domestic flights. People feel betrayed. Westjet has started to loose their way with keeping customers based on customer service friendly policies. Air Canada, meanwhile, seems to be doing very well rebranding themselves and the business community has noticed – just look at their shares over the last three years. From 80 cents to over $10. I suspect Air Canada will bring in the same fee within a week, but it will be greeted differently as it won’t feel like something unexpected and dishonourable, but something you expect from the carrier Westerner’s love to hate. But again, people are starting to warm up to Air Canada as they see their old, former friend Westjet deteriorate to new lows that they are not use to nor expecting.

  3. I’ve become a frequent WestJetter this year for business travel, and this is great news! Although I love WestJet’s in-flight entertainment (screens at each seat!) and overall cleanliness of planes, something just feels empty inside not getting points. With the tiers launching today, do you know if recent past flights can be retroactively applied for status?

  4. @Paul, I can definitely understand how this would be disappointing from a Calgarian’s perspective – it does take away a core benefit that’s especially meaningful for the occasional traveler. But as an Atlantan who is accustomed to Delta’s race to the bottom, that point didn’t even phase me.

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