WATCH: Richard Bartrem, WestJest’s Vice President Guest Services, explains how the fee for the first checked bag will actually lead to lower overall fares for econo flyers.
CALGARY – The next time you fly with WestJet, it could cost you more than it used to.
On Monday, the Calgary-based airline announced it will be charging a $25 fee for the first checked bag.
The fee only applies to Econo fares for travel within Canada, and between Canada and the U.S.
Guests who select a Flex fare will receive one free checked bag, while guests choosing a Plus fare will get two complimentary checked bags.
“If you are a WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard holder, the fee doesn’t apply to you,” explains Richard Bartrem, VP of communications for WestJet. “We’ve also introduced WestJet reward tiers, so if you are gold or silver tier you won’t pay that fee.”
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If you’re flying to any of WestJet’s international destinations including Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and Europe, you may continue to check your first bag at no charge.
The new fee will apply to bookings made from Monday onward, for travel on or after October 29, 2014. The move puts WestJet in line with dozens of American airlines, which already charge baggage fees.
This change is expected to affect approximately one in five WestJet guests.
Social media reaction to the announcement was swift, with many voicing their disappointment:
Business experts were also surprised at the move.
“It’s a bit confusing from a marketing and strategic positioning, because it’s moving away from a little bit the core that built WestJet, says University of Calgary marketing professor Debi Andrus. “This seems to be something that doesn’t make sense given their position in the market. given their existing branding, and given the fact they’re doing really well. The industry is stabilized, so it really doesn’t make too much sense.
“They want to position themselves as a friendly small airline, and this message is inconsistent.”
Also on Monday, WestJet unveiled its new rewards program as well as a price drop guarantee.
“If you’re worried ‘is this the low Econo fare that I’m looking for, or do I wait,’ and if you don’t want to wait, go ahead and book,” Bartrem explains. “And then if you do in fact see a lower fare on that flight from us in the future, then we in fact will refund you the difference in WestJet dollars.”
The price drop guarantee is valid for all bookings starting Sept. 15, but there must be a minimum $25 difference between the fares.