Battle of the airlines: Air Canada provides treats as WestJet offers UltraBasic fare

Jun 6, 2024 | Biz/Tech, Canadian News, News

Air Canada announced new complimentary beer, wine, and snack options offered on flights in Canada and the United States until the end of this year.

The air carrier announced on June 5 that a new menu expansion would offer a selection of Canadian beers, French wines, and two new Canadian snacks for all economy flyers.

This announcement comes a day after WestJet’s news of its UltraBasic flight option.

UltraBasic will be replacing the airline’s Basic fare as a way for flyers to travel without frills, WestJet said in a notice posted on its website.

UltraBasic will provide the lowest pricing, allowing flyers to get from point A to point B affordably, the Calgary-based company said.

“Replacing the Basic fare offering, UltraBasic is WestJet’s lowest priced option and has been designed as a no-frills fare that gives guests the choice to add certain extras like reserving a seat in advance or adding a checked bag,” WestJet said.

This may seem out of the ordinary for WestJet. However, the company acquired budget airline Swoop on Oct. 29, 2023, and has since begun integrating the former airline’s methods into its business model.

An article posted to WestJet’s site days before the announcement noted the need to ensure affordable air travel for Canadians.

The article compares flying to eating at a fast food restaurant where the patron can pick and choose what they want instead of getting a combo meal.

“Giving our guests more choices to select the extras they want – whether that be checking a bag, choosing a certain seat, or enjoying the benefits of Extended Comfort – ensures that their air travel experience aligns with their needs and removes costs previously incorporated into all-in ticket prices,” WestJet said.

This change may be appropriate for some flyers, filling a hole in the industry where Swoop once was, it has also left other customers used to having all perks included, like Brittany Ho Tom, unimpressed.

“I just don’t get the point of making everything cheaper to make me end up paying the same amount or more to check my luggage and choose my seat,” Ho Tom said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

This new way of flying also enforces that UltraBasic flyers are last to board, cannot change, cancel, or receive a refund for their flight, and removes the collection of WestJet rewards, the company said.

WestJet says these changes will help with boarding efficiently and will optimize overhead cabin space, by flyers, like Ho Tom, are unconvinced.

“They’re trying to compete with other low-cost airlines, which is fine,” Ho Tom said. “But taking away the option to have normal economy airfare isn’t the way to do it.”