MIAMI — WestJet announced this morning that it will begin charging a fee for checked baggage on Econo fare tickets, for travel within North America. The low cost carrier (LCC) also introduced new levels to its WestJet Rewards frequent flyer program.
Passengers purchasing an Econo fare—WestJet’s base fare—for intra-Canadian travel or travel between Canada and the U.S. will now be charged $25 for their first checked bag. The fee will not apply to Flex or Plus fares, nor any travel outside Canada or the United States.
The airline estimates the new fee will affect about 20 percent of its customers, a number that could provide close to an additional $96 million in revenue, based on 2013-2014 passenger data through June 2014. The Canadian low-cost carrier’s announcement comes a week after the American low-cost carrier Southwest stated it would continue its policy of not charging for checked baggage as it entertains a possible entrance in the Canadian market in the future.
The airline also introduced new tiers to its WestJet Rewards frequent flyer program. The new teal, silver, and gold tiers, which are purely revenue-based, offer “milestone” rewards and differential “WestJet dollars” earning rates. Members spending less than $1,500 will earn 1 percent of their fare. Spend between $1,500 and $3,999 will receive 3% and any spend over $4,000 will receive 5%. WestJet’s milestones include free checked bags, priority security screening, and a free companion flight. The tiers will go into effect on October 29, 2014.
Bob Cummings, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Sales, Marketing and Guest Experience was optimistic about the change in WestJet’s approach to checked baggage, “Today’s announcements are further evidence of our commitment to our guests as Canada’s low-fare leader,” he said. “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.”