Low cost Canadian airline WestJet will launch an impressive fully flat Business Class service on its London Gatwick to Calgary route from 28th April.
As you can see from the photograph below, it looks good:
It is a 1-2-1 formation. If the seat looks familiar, it is because it is the same one that Qatar Airways uses on its Boeing 787 and A380 fleets in Business Class. It certainly isn’t the sort of seat you’d expect a budget airline to be using.
The one thing that differentiates WestJet from a legacy airline is the size of the Business Class cabin. There will be just 16 seats on each aircraft.
There is also a good looking Premium Economy cabin. These seats have a 38 inch pitch and a 13 inch TV:
The upgrade comes as WestJet begins to take delivery of its new Boeing 787-9 fleet. Ten of the aircraft have been ordered, with the next two earmarked for Calgary – Paris and Calgary – Dublin.
British Airways has been pulling back from Calgary
British Airways is not flying to Calgary this Winter and it appears that it will not return next Winter either. I have seen a report which suggests that the high cost of deicing the aircraft in Calgary each day makes the whole service uneconomic, although that sounds dubious.
The British Airways service IS operating during the Summer timetable, from 31st March to the end of October.
WestJet is offering ONE-WAY Business Class fares
One thing that WestJet brings to the party, apart from brand new aircraft and an excellent seat, is one-way pricing.
If you are struggling to find Avios redemption seats in both directions, you now have the option to fly one way on British Airways and purchase a relatively cheap one way ticket in the other direction with WestJet. You won’t be penalised by WestJet for only buying a one way ticket.
Even if you have enough Avios, it might make financial sense to pay cash for one leg if WestJet pricing is low enough.
What about pricing?
To be honest, the opening fares are not exactly low cost.
In July, the cheapest I can see for a one way FROM London Gatwick to Calgary is £889
A one way TO London Gatwick from Calgary is £736
This makes a total return cost of £1,626
However, let’s compare that to an Avios redemption.
A one-way flight FROM London Gatwick to Calgary in Club World (there is no First Class on this route) on peak Summer dates is 75,000 Avios + £419
A one-way Summer flight FROM Calgary is 75,000 Avios + £296
A return flight in Club World on a peak date is 150,000 Avios + £651
As you can see, you’re getting poor value for your Avios by doing a full redemption vs paying the WestJet prices. If the options are £1,626 return on WestJet vs 150,000 Avios + £651 on British Airways, then your Avios are only worth 0.65p each.
(If you have a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher then the numbers are a lot better, of course, and clearly worth doing.)
An Avios ticket is refundable, of course, whilst the WestJet ticket is not. On the other hand, WestJet offers a small private cabin with just 16 seats of a superior quality and configuration to BA Club World.
For 2019 this is very much a theoretical discussion only, however, as there are virtually no Avios seats in Club World to be found to Calgary for the entire Summer.
It will be worth keeping an eye on Dublin pricing when that service launches. With no Air Passenger Duty it should be at least £150 cheaper than the London flight and I would expect the reduced demand compared to London to push the price down even further.
There are no ‘add ons’ either ….
Despite being a low cost carrier, Business Class passengers do NOT pay for luggage or seat selection. WestJet will let you check in 2 x 23kg suitcases for free. Food and drink is free, and you get lounge access, priority boarding etc.
(Yes, I know, we have a low cost carrier offering free seat selection in Business Class whilst BA will charge you £60+ each way if you don’t have status …..)
And a few airline miles too ….
WestJet is not in any of the major airline alliances. However, you can credit flights to Delta SkyMiles, Flying Blue (Air France / KLM) and Qantas, as well as WestJet Rewards.
To see a low-cost carrier launch a Business Class seat which is far superior to the British Airways offering is an odd state of affairs.
£1,625 to £1,826, which is the current fare range depending on date, is not exactly bargain basement pricing for a return Business Class flight, of course. However, if WestJet ends up offering fares like this day in and day out, even outside sale periods, it will be a serious option for a flat bed to Canada.
Your best option to maximise your miles when paying is American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. This offers double points – 2 per £1 – when you when you book flight tickets directly with an airline. Our review of Amex Gold is here.
(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)