WestJet Adds Fees the Right Way

Once again, it appears that those north of the border have figured out a better way to raise money . . . charge for new services instead of ones that are currently free. The latest comes from WestJet, which has announced it will begin offering seat assignments for a fee.

WestJet currently uses a model we don’t see much of here in the US. You can’t reserve a seat at the time of booking on WestJet. But, when you check-in, you can pick your seat. This is different from Southwest which doesn’t ever assign a seat and just has you pick when you get onboard. Of course, check-in behavior for both airlines is the same. People try to check in as early as possible so they can get the best seats.

Now on WestJet, you will be able to reserve a seat any time prior to after booking for $10 (I assume that’s US or Canadian money.) For $15, you can reserve an exit row seat. Not a bad deal, huh? It’s funny how perspective changes how you view a fee.

If an airline currently offers me a seat assignment for free (or a first bag, or really anything), it makes it a lot more annoying when they take that away. It’s a reduction in value, and that doesn’t go over well. On the other hand, when an airline offers me something that previously wasn’t available, I think it’s great.

Legacy carriers in the US have a problem in that a lot more stuff used to be included in the fare than is the case with someone like WestJet. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Air Canada has done a great job of adding value by charging for things that previously weren’t available. Yes, they’ve charged for things that were free as well, but at least they’ve tried to add value.

So, is there anything bad about this? Well, I had one reader say that if you buy a sale fare, you can’t pay to reserve a seat. That doesn’t make sense. Charge more for sale fares if you’d like, but why turn away money? I’m not sure what the full story is there.

Other than that, if I fly WestJet, I’m probably happy about this, because I’d rather be able to select my seat ahead of time for that nominal fee. If someone doesn’t want to pay the fee, however, that person is probably not so happy because now all those people that pay the fee will take away seats that could have previously been had by checking in early. Still, it’s a net positive for the airline’s customers, and it’s a net positive for the income statement as well.


10 Responses to WestJet Adds Fees the Right Way

  1. Oliver says:

    > Now on WestJet, you will be able to reserve
    > a seat any time prior to booking for $10

    Booking? Or boarding?

  2. CF says:

    Oops, thanks Oliver. It’s any time after booking for $10. Sorry, it’s fixed.

  3. DRG says:

    AC’s fee for seat selection has creeped up to $24 one way. I only use for long-haul.

  4. bryan in san francisco says:

    good point about “reduction of value”

  5. Ben says:

    Just to clarify a point in the main article, you are able to select a seat at the time of booking for all fares, including seat sale fares. However, the seats at the front of the plane may not be available for those booking seat sale fares.

  6. CF says:

    Thanks, Ben. That makes sense to me.

  7. Anon Coward says:

    CF, I am stunned to have to ask this because I thought I saw it coming. So what are your suggestions on what new services the US legacies can offer that would bring in new revenue?

    Baggage delivery guarantee, pay an extra $25 and you get an automatic thousand if your bag doesn’t make it on time, no questions asked?

  8. CF says:

    Anon Coward – Sure, that’s one good example of what they could do. Obviously they’d need to set the fee at the right level for them to be profitable, but I’m sure people would welcome that opportunity.

    I also like Air Canada’s idea for offering a fee that will make sure you’re taken care of even in a weather delay. That’s something no airline does now, so it’s an added bonus.

    The airlines should do a better job of bundling air with hotels and cars. They can make good money off that, but of the legacies, I think Delta is the only one who has a shopping cart feature to let you book everything at the same time.

    Let people pay for priority boarding or priority check-in if they really want it. They could go behind the elites so that it doesn’t anger anyone.

    While you’re at it, start allowing people to pay for these types of things at the time of booking instead of forcing it to happen at the time of service. People would feel much better about paying a single fee up front.

  9. A.C. says:

    As long as it was tightly integrated in the purchasing process and wasn’t a pain in the a– for the consumer then I would be all for all of this. Why isn’t the admiral’s club day pass purchasing engine tightly integrated with the booking engine so that you can just click a checkbox at the time of purchasing tickets and the day pass automatically happens? (Er, maybe it is and I just haven’t noticed? My sight is bad and I’m in a rush, if it’s in fine print I ain’t seen it, lets blow it up people!)

  10. Westjetter says:

    WestJet Vacations offers Car, Hotel,Flight and Activity packages.

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