In a surprise move that countered most of WestJet’s marketing strategies for the past year and a half or so, the airline announced yesterday that they will begin charging $20 for the second checked bag on flights on or after Jan 19, 2011. The first checked bag for each customer remains free. The fee is effective on all tickets purchased on or after Nov 3, 10. The $20 fee is applicable to all of WestJet’s routes and like any airline who adds a new fee, it has irked many travellers as can be seen by the responses on WestJet’s social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.
Most airlines in North America are now charging some sort of baggage fee (most U.S. airlines charge for the first and/or second bags with Southwest being a exception) however WestJet’s primary competitor, Air Canada only charges a second bag fee on flights to the U.S. and Europe. Within Canada, Air Canada still allows 2 checked bags for free, at least for the time being. We all know that the airlines tend to follow in each others footsteps so we may see Air Canada start charging for a second checked bag within Canada soon. If I was Air Canada I would avoid this to appease the customers especially since Air Canada seems to be gaining momentum in the customer service department and more people are enjoying their in flight service as of late. Perhaps Air Canada’s marketing department will put a positive spin on WestJet’s news for their airline. However, in the long run, if your primary competitor is adding to their bottom line with ancillary revenues derived from baggage fees on flights in Canada, why would you not do the same?