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WestJet vs Air Canada: My Experience

A few weeks ago, I posted  that I was going to Edmonton on a business trip, flying there on WestJet and returning on Air Canada. From my observation, consumers have somewhat different perceptions of Air Canada and WestJet. WestJet is often regarded as a young, fresh upstart that has provided travellers with a friendly alternative to Air Canada. Their advertising campaigns really project a strong human element on the brand – an employee-owned company in which staff really will go the extra mile to satisfy customers. On the other hand, Air Canada comes across as being more corporate and less sensitive to the needs of travellers. Case in point, the PR fiasco they faced as a result of how they responded to the severe winter storms that hit Canada in December 2008, with disgruntled travelers as a result of many delayed and cancelled flights.

I thought I would take the opportunity to compare my experience with each airline on my Edmonton trip, from a marketing perspective. I should mention, I have done a fair bit of flying before, mostly with Air Canada and other international airlines. The WestJet flight to Edmonton was only my second with the airline.


It may be a small thing, but one thing stood out for me right from the get-go with WestJet. The itinerary confirmation I received by email included the line “Have a great flight!”. At the gate, their staff was open and friendly, joking as I was the last person to board the flight. The crew on the flight had the same demeanor, and wow was it ever refreshing. On the flight, I really enjoyed the convenience of having access to satellite TV, giving my choice in viewing pleasures.  All in all, it was a pleasant flight and an enjoyable start to the day. WestJet lived up to expectations, based on my perception of the brand.

Air Canada

My flight back to Vancouver the next day was very routine, the staff at the airport and the crew onboard the flight were friendly. On it’s own, a good experience. However, when compared to WestJet, Air Canada didn’t quite measure up.

Upon further reflection, it’s the small things that WestJet did, and the conveniences they provided, that made a difference. “Have a great flight!” being included on my itinerary. The staff that told jokes. Access to satellite TV. Going the extra mile.

  • Nick Black

    The fact that Air Canada have on-board power-points is a key driver for me, particularly on the longer flights.

  • Jillian Walker

    Love the post and completely agree. I was caught up in the Air Canada drama of 2008 and my bag was MIA for 4.5 months. It was horror after horror after horror from Dec 2008 to Apr 2009 dealing with them. These days, AC and WJ can both get you on and off the plane. If prices are equal I always fly WJ, the customer service makes the difference!

  • Judy Lee

    WestJet has a way friendlier customer-service approach than Air Canada (have my share of a horror story) does – maybe it has to do with the accountability. Afterall, WestJet employees are owners. That’s what a commercial told me, anyways.

    Judy @judyelee:twitter 

  • hollymclennan

    Have to say I agree wholeheartedly. 

  • eric

    Hi Jillian – thanks for commenting! Wow, that’s quite an experience you went through. It sounds like you actually got your luggage back?

  • eric

    That’s what a commercial told you, eh? Oh, those pesky marketers …