The Complete Guide to Flying WestJet
Table of Contents
WestJet is Canada’s second largest airline, based in Calgary, Alberta. Founded in 1996 to emulate low-cost US carrier Southwest Airlines on short flights in western Canada, the airline has grown and morphed into a full-service airline with everything from regional flights on turboprop aircraft, international long haul flights on Boeing 787 aircraft, and even its own ultra-low-cost subsidiary.
WestJet is well known as a leading airline in Canada and has attracted fans for its straightforward booking process, comfortable seating, friendly service, and generally low fares—although fares tend to be competitive rather than outright cheap flights. It should be noted, however, that WestJet trails Star Alliance member Air Canada in global connectivity—while WestJet has codeshare flights and agreements with other airline mileage programs (most notably Delta), miles-collectors with global travel ambitions may find WestJet too regional.
WestJet is a full-service Canadian airline that grew up as a discounter. It’s well-established in Canada and has interline and codeshare agreements with a number of international carriers, including Delta, KLM, Korean Air, Japan Airlines, Emirates, and Cathay Pacific.
What we love about WestJet:
- More customer-friendly than some Canadian competitors
- Nonstop flights from Canadian cities to sunny destinations across North America
- Frequent flier partnership with Delta Air Lines
What we don’t love about it:
- Frequent flier program can be confusing, as it basically pays a rebate percentage on purchased fares. With WestJet, you can only earn miles on four airline partners, and there are some restrictions.
- Limited flights within eastern Canada
- Flights to many large US cities are not daily
Some examples of deals Going has found on WestJet
- Mistake Fare: Seattle to Tokyo for $316 roundtrip
- LA, Phoenix, or Portland to Toronto for $242 roundtrip
- Atlanta to Banff for $278 roundtrip
- Founded in: 1994
- Hub cities: Calgary, Alberta
- Fleet: 110 Boeing 737 and Boeing 787 aircraft
- Subsidiaries: Swoop, WestJet Encore, WestJet Link
- CEO: Alexis von Hoensbroech
- Alliance: None
- Nonstop routes: 194 domestic, 148 international
- Safety rating: 7/7 in general; 7/7 Covid-19 rating
- On time rating: 60%
- Nationality: Canadian
- Domestic classes of service: Business, Premium, Economy
- International classes of service: Business, Premium, Economy
- Customer Service
- WestJet Flight Status
A brief history of WestJet
Founded in Calgary in 1994, WestJet began operations in 1996, serving short haul routes in western Canada with a fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, modeled after Southwest Airlines’ low-cost model in the US. Following the merger of Canadian Airlines into Air Canada, WestJet grew to become Canada’s second largest airline. And whereas Montreal-headquartered Air Canada had historically been focused on serving eastern Canada, WestJet was decidedly focused on western Canada.
WestJet expanded to the US, including Hawai’i, before adding more service in eastern Canada. It also added turboprop aircraft to serve smaller Canadian communities as WestJet Encore, as well as Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft for long haul flights to Europe.
Where WestJet flies
WestJet operates over 300 nonstop routes, mostly in the US and Canada. Its routes serve about 24 US cities, including popular warm-weather destinations like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Palm Springs, Orlando, Honolulu, Maui, Orange County, Ft. Myers, and Tampa. The airline also serves major cities like San Francisco, Nashville, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York (LaGuardia), and Atlanta, but not on a daily basis.
The airline serves Amsterdam and London Heathrow year-round; during summer 2023, it will serve an additional six seasonal destinations throughout Europe—Barcelona, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Dublin, Edinburgh, Rome Fiumicino, and London Gatwick. A nonstop route from Calgary to Tokyo Narita will also begin in 2023.
WestJet is in the process of transitioning its network from a multi-hub concept to single-hub. While previously operating hubs in Toronto and Vancouver, CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech has noted that the company’s current strategy revolves around focusing on building Calgary as the airline’s only intentional-connecting hub (meaning connections are possible in other cities, but only Calgary is being actively designed that way). Calgary will also be the only base for the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner operations, without immediate intention to further expand that aircraft’s role in the network.
WestJet will continue to operate point-to-point service from eastern Canada to destinations in the US.
Tips for booking a WestJet flight
WestJet’s fare structure is pretty straightforward. Bookers choose the class of service they want and then choose from a standard or pricier flexible fare (called Flex).
WestJet fare types
WestJet offers three classes of service: Economy, Premium, and Business (only on Boeing 787 aircraft). Fares for each of these cabins comes with varying options on restrictions.
More expensive Flex fares in all classes of service typically include checked bags and seat assignments, and they can be refundable or offer a credit or voucher if you need to change or cancel your flight.
In the Economy cabin, in addition to the Standard and Flex fares, there’s also the cheapest Basic Economy fare, which is not changeable or refundable, and it does not accrue WestJet Rewards.
On WestJet Encore and WestJet Link, flights operated by either Q400 or Saab 340 turboprop equipment have slight onboard differences between Economy and Premium, such as an extra inch of legroom and seating in the front of the aircraft.
On WestJet flights operated by a Boeing 737 aircraft, Economy fares are for Economy seating, and Premium fares are for Premium seating. But on most WestJet aircraft, Premium seating is similar to other carriers’ domestic first or business class products, including a larger seat with more legroom, alcoholic beverages, and hot meals on longer flights.
For Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights, WestJest also offers Business class in addition to Economy and Premium. Business class features a lie-flat seating option, as well as hot meals and alcoholic beverages. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner operates on select domestic routes within Canada, to some other North American destinations, and on long haul flights to Europe.
Baggage fees on WestJet
For Standard Economy and Basic Economy fares that do not already include a checked bag, baggage fees start at $30 each way for Canada and other North American destinations if you buy a bag from the time of booking up until 24 hours prior to departure. Within 24 hours of departure and at airport ticket counters, baggage fees go up to $40.
All fare classes include a personal item and carry-on at no extra cost.
Seat selection fees on WestJet
Standard seat selection is only included with Economy Flex, Premium, and Business fares. Seat selection fees start at $5 for all other fares, including Economy Standard and Basic Economy.
Fees on WestJet:
- Carry-on bag: Passengers are allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item. There is no charge for carry-on bags.
- Checked bag: From $30
- Seat selection: From $5
- Food: On flights over 90 minutes, buy-on-board items start at $3.49 for snacks and $10.49 for entrees.
- Wifi: WestJet does not publish prices for their onboard Wifi, but it is available for select purchase on most Boeing aircraft.
What it’s like flying on WestJet
WestJet offers online, mobile, and airport check-in. Premium and Business passengers receive priority check-in at the ticket counter.
WestJet partners with lounge operators at larger Canadian and international airports but does not operate its own lounges. Lounge access is available for WestJet Rewards tier members and passengers seated in Business class up to three hours prior to the scheduled departure of their flight.
WestJet’s boarding process is similar to other carriers offering seat assignments—the aircraft is boarded by rows beginning with Premium and Business passengers. Carry-on size and count is strictly monitored to ensure there’s enough room onboard the aircraft for each passenger’s carry-on allotment.
Flying WestJet in economy class
WestJet’s economy class is comparable to competing airlines. Checked baggage and seat assignments are included at higher, less restrictive fares, and they are available for a fee at lower fares. Seats recline, and there’s personal device entertainment available via the Wifi network on narrowbody aircraft if you bring your own device. Seat design and comfort is consistent with competing North American full-service carriers. Seat pitch ranges from 30” on the Q400 aircraft to 31-35” on jet aircraft. WestJet also sells preferred or extra legroom seats at higher fees. Passengers are served complimentary beverages and a sweet or salty snack on flights over 90 minutes. Snacks and alcoholic beverages are also available for purchase. On flights over 2.5 hours, hot entrees are also available for purchase.
On Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights to Europe and Asia, hot meals are included in the fare, and pillows and blankets are provided on every seat. Seat-back entertainment and earbuds are also provided. Boeing 787 flights to all other destinations within North America offer WestJet’s standard service in Economy.
Flying WestJet in business class
WestJet’s Business class is only available on Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, offering a lie-flat seat in an individual pod with a large entertainment screen, noise-canceling headphones, complimentary hot meals, and alcoholic beverages. Business class is available on select domestic Canada and other North America routes, as well as on every flight from Canada to Europe or Asia. Pillows, blankets, and amenity kits are available on intercontinental flights from Canada. WestJet’s Business Class product on these flights is generally competitive with Air Canada, although the airline’s smaller size allows it to be a bit more innovative and nimble than its larger competitor, like subbing in truffle popcorn for mixed nuts as a cocktail snack and using smaller Canadian purveyors like Mat & Nat for amenity kits.
Dreamliner flights to Europe and Asia also have a Premium cabin, which is essentially a premium economy cabin, offering more room, upgraded meals, individually packaged pillows and blankets, and an amenity kit from Rocky Mountain Soap Company.
WestJet is rated a 3-star airline by SkyTrax with a 4/10 customer rating (Air Canada also has a 4/10 customer rating). Common concerns raised by travelers in SkyTrax reviews include difficulty with rebooking after flight delays or cancellations, or significant schedule changes after booking that impacted the length and convenience of their journeys. Many reviewers noted that WestJet’s limited flight schedule allowed for less ability to recover after delays or cancellations impact their itineraries. Overall, customers appreciate WestJet’s friendly, helpful crews.
Tips for flying WestJet
How to use a credit/voucher on WestJet
WestJet funds are stored in a digital travel bank. Customers can use their stored funds by selecting them as a form of payment on the checkout page.
How to change your flight on WestJet
WestJet reservations can be changed or canceled online or via the WestJet app by viewing the reservation and selecting the appropriate option to change or cancel.
How to get a refund on WestJet
Refundable fares (e.g. Flexi Fares) will have the option to be refunded to the original form of payment when they are canceled.
What if WestJet changes your flight day or time?
If WestJet has a schedule change, passengers will be offered alternate flights for qualifying circumstances. If the flights have changed significantly—WestJet does not specify what magnitude of change is “significant”—and the alternatives are not acceptable, passengers are entitled to a refund with any cancellation fees waived.
What if WestJet cancels your flight?
WestJet will attempt to rebook passengers on other flights, including flights on other airlines and to nearby destination cities (e.g. Hamilton, Ontario, for Toronto) in the event of a canceled flight. Failing any of those options, WestJet will issue a ticket refund.
How can I contact WestJet?
Customers can chat with WestJet on Facebook Messenger, using the chat function on the website, or by calling 1-888-937-8538 toll free from Canada or the US.
Read more about some of the lesser-known airlines we find great cheap flights on:
Frequently asked questions about WestJet
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What are WestJet vacations?
Published July 14, 2023
Last updated December 21, 2023
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