4 Reasons that Make WestJet Low Cost Carrier Again

The Ruined Easter Vacation

by Sash
5 comments
a white airplane on the tarmac

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I’ve never considered WestJet to be an inferior airline or considered it to be a “Low-Cost Carrier (LCC)” in Canada. However, after my recent experience with WestJet, I may be beginning to think the airline is worthy of a downgrade to this level.

Over the Easter long weekend, I got the opportunity to “almost” fly WestJet for the first time in 8 years. The nearly 7-hour experience flying from Ottawa to Ottawa (yes, you read that right) was an eye-opener into the degradation of the airline over the past decade. During these hours, I witnessed 4 key shortcomings of the airline that I want to share.

1.  The WestJet App

How can an app bring so much agony? It looks quite slick and pretty but provides very little flight information, just barebone flight status information. Compare this to Air Canada, and you will see the differences.

a screenshot of a phone a screenshot of a phone

While knowing the flight duration, baggage carousel number, etc., is nice, the lack of incoming flight information is unfortunate. This is a feature that I regard highly above all others and is crucial when delays are expected; I use this to keep an eye on my incoming flight. Remember that all flight departure times are “Estimated” times of departure. More than likely, the plane is incoming from another city, which is also incoming from somewhere else, and so on.  Any schedule delay in the chain creates a cascading effect of delaying all the flights. Airlines can sometimes mitigate this, but noticing such a scenario can serve as a precursor to your flight being delayed before it is officially announced. This can enable you to act early to reschedule your flight before others and grab any spare seats on a different flight.

For my 6AM flight, I had noticed it had come in the night before, but late. As such, the flight was delayed by 40min due to “crew availability.”

In addition, online check-in is not possible if you are flying WestJet on a non-WestJet ticket. In my case, my flights were booked through Delta using my SkyPesos, sorry, I mean SkyMiles. How did I confirm this was the reason I could not check in? The WestJet incompetent check-in agent at the airport. Yes, incompetent, read on.

a white background with black text

2.  Dated Aircrafts

The Boeing 737 is the workhorse of WestJet. While the airline flies some of their newer 737 MAX 8 and the wide-body 787, they are few and far between. The stone aged 737-600, -700, or -900  is likely what you will get the pleasure of flying on, all of which are at least 18 years old and not refreshed much. In fact, the interior stenches of a 1990’s seating. There is also no Inflight Entertainment on the back of the seats, but you can access content through their amazing WestJet App (sarcasm alert). The beauty of this is limited entertainment selection and lotto if it works properly or not, from what I heard from others.

a group of airplanes with text

Westjet low cost carrier

Barebones Seat

Westjet low cost carrier

17in Seat Width – The Low Cost Carrier standard

WestJet seats are also not as wide as others, 17in wide, putting them in the perfect Low-Cost Carrier category.

3.  Staff

Do you remember the WestJet full of smiles, jokes, and an overall positive demeanor from all staff in the air, on the ground, and on the phone? What happened to that? The so-called “WestJet Magic” has died, and staff appears to be now as cold as any other airline. Here was my experience centered around competency and passenger communications.

Recall how I said that I was traveling on a Delta award ticket and could not check in online? Well, at the airport, the check-in agent had the same issue, and it took nearly 30 minutes to check us in as they had to call their support desk. The worst part was the lack of information the agent provided me with during the process. Not a single word unless I inquired first.

WestJet Low cost Carrier

WestJet Check-In, source: Reuters

Fast forward an hour and imagine you’re waiting at the gate to board your flight (or standing in line early like one of the gate lice), and the departure time has passed. There is a commotion going on amongst the WestJet staff (including the station manager), as well as with personnel that appeared to be from maintenance. Clearly, something is wrong. I went up to the station manager, who revealed what was happening, but the hundreds of other passengers were kept in the dark. None of the WestJet staff took the initiative to make an announcement.

a group of people in a terminal

Gate Lice, source: Business Insider

Shortly thereafter, we witnessed our aircraft being pushed away from the gate and real panic and anger set in among passengers. They lined up now to talk to one of the three WestJet agents. Still, no announcement was made. Not until about 2h 15 min after the estimated departure time that we could finally board the flight. This lack of communication with passengers is despicable and unacceptable.

4.  Limited Phone Rebooking Capability

Our flight delay meant we would miss our connection in Toronto, so I decided to be proactive and call the WestJet Gold Line to help with rebooking. I knew that WestJet would have to accommodate us with a partner airline but I was utterly shocked when the agent on the phone informed me that he could not help in rebooking us and that I would have to speak to an agent in Toronto after I landed there, which I knew meant standing in line for a long time, given most other passengers on my flight would also be in the same boat. How can an airline not assist a customer in rebooking over the phone, even a Gold Status member?

a screenshot of a phone call

5.  Bonus: Is WestJet being overly frugal with Fuel?

After we had pushed back from the gate, and de-iced again, we could not take off due to limited visibility from the dense fog that rolled in. We then sat on the tarmac for 90 minutes and began to run low on fuel and had to return to the gate. During these 90 minutes, passengers were not provided with any service nor permitted to use the washroom.

Westjet low cost carrier

Low Visibility – Dense Fog

What I don’t understand is how we can run out of fuel. Our scheduled flight was to be just 1 hour from Ottawa to Toronto.  Based on my research, the 737 fuel burn on the ground and in the air, plus reserves, should have been more than enough not to require refueling. I know that many factors go into the fuel calculation, but given the low fuel burn on the ground, it seems that WestJet is fueling their planes to the bare minimum, to save on costs, perhaps? It’s just a theory that I cannot prove but I’m hoping some experts can chime in on the comments.

a man standing on a platform next to a jet engine

Aircraft Refueling, source: Reuters

Bottom Line

WestJet ruined our Easter Holiday weekend to Anguilla. I should have heeded what I preached in my art of positioning post and arrived in Toronto the night before. I’m glad we did run out of fuel and returned to the gate as we deplaned ourselves and went home. I’m also glad I booked everything with points and miles as everything, except the 60K Delta SkyMiles, was refunded. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about the other sobbing passengers on my flight who had spent thousands on their travels.

This experience was an eye-opener into WestJet operations.  The airline has already degraded over the past few years from its system outages, canceled routes, and a questionable loyalty program that is trying to dig itself out of a deep grave.

I have no intention to attempt to fly WestJet again and will burn my gold status they willingly gave me through a status match. WestJet is positioning itself now as a leisure airline providing “affordable airfares as a low-cost carrier” to Canadians. They said it themselves; they are positioning themselves to be the inferior airline in Canada. A round of applause.

Westjet low cost carrier

5 comments

Uncle Lee April 19, 2023 - 8:01 am

You made two mistakes. First mistake, DON’T fly WS. Second mistake, see the first mistake. šŸ˜†. Seriously, sorry about what you went though Sash, but it just reinforces my decision to have never flown with WS, and, God willing, never will. I will take my chances with AC. Seeing as we’re in Canada.

Reply
Sash April 19, 2023 - 9:52 am

Uncle Lee, you have always provided me with the best advice. I should always listen to you!
Absolutely agree, just fly AC always i Canada!

Reply
Greg Jones April 18, 2023 - 3:23 pm

Since Clive Beddoe left the airline it’s unrecognizable. How many CEOs did that Airline go through in 10 years? Four or five? The leadership has been sadly lacking and staff autonomy has been retracted to an embarrassing level that they look like Air Canada employees. I’m with you in avoiding that Airline at all costs. Sadly I have $1,500 in WestJet dollars that are sitting in a travel bank which I want to use up but after that they will never see the light of my travel day again. Fingers crossed that I actually get where I’m going in the next couple of weeks as I fly from BC to California and then to Saskatchewan via Alberta, and finally back to British columbia. All I can say is if I have one problem WestJet they had better be ready for me because one thing I do not do is take fools lightly. That’s exactly what WestJet has demonstrated for the last 10 years. They are a bunch of fools trying to run an airline, with unempowered staff who simply don’t give a shit. A replica of Air Canada on so many levels

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Sash April 19, 2023 - 12:55 am

Absolutely agree with you Greg. The transformation of the airline over the last decade really surprised me. I remember the wonderful flights I use to have with Wesjet back then. Positivity always radiated from the staff.
I’m in the same boat as you, its full of WestJet dollars that I need to also burn, somehow.
I wish you the best of luck on your upcoming flights! šŸ™‚

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Mohammad April 20, 2023 - 1:20 pm

I’m wondering how much of this shift was also attributable to them being bought out by a PE company. Some of the service levels and such had obviously been declining well before that – but IMO at least, it seems the buyout really resulted in seeing much more significant cutbacks/change of strategy – i.e stopping at one WS lounge/ route cuts/ pausing on the entry into providing premium service… the 787’s were acquired before the buyout… sad really

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