‘Give us $600 and also we hate you’: WestJet’s new UltraBasic fare gets roasted online

If there’s anything people can agree on these days, it’s that flying sucks.

And between the delays and cancellations, extreme turbulence, and jets literally falling apart in the sky, it seems that some people have had about enough of flying experiences getting ostensibly worse instead of better.

Which may partially explain the online roasting of WestJet’s new UltraBasic fare, where you can board the plane and that’s about it.

Announced Tuesday, the new “no-frills fare option” doesn’t permit carry-on baggage (unless you’re flying overseas), has pre-assigned seats at the back of the plane, and those who select the fare will be the last to board the plane. They also can’t collect WestJet Rewards.

Even then, an UltraBasic round trip from Toronto to Calgary at the end of June costs about $650.

“UltraBasic has been designed to both expedite the boarding process and provide our most competitive pricing,” a WestJet spokesperson told CBC News in an email on Tuesday.

The online roasting was immediate, with satirical news site The Beaverton mocking the company with an article describing a fare where passengers just stay home and give them money, and people on social media describing the new fare as “give us $600 and also we hate you,” and “seat only, shut up.”

The Beaverton article was trending on Reddit’s r/Canada community this week, with commenters offering their own shoe-string ideas that airlines may use to try to entice passengers and stoke competition in Canada’s airline industry. These include extra money for oxygen and discounts for pushing the plane yourself.

“For $99, WestJet will print you MapQuest walking directions to your intended destination,” one person wrote in the comments.

On Friday, content producer Stewart Reynolds (a.k.a. Brittlestar) posted his own response on X in a video where he mockingly posed as a WestJet employee.

“A change of clothes is a luxury now,” he said in the video, then adding “your seat will be pre-assigned in the back of the aircraft, at the stinkiest, least comfortable spot we can think of, just for fun.”

“WestJet rewards,” he went on. “Reward for what? Being poor? Get out of here.”

Air Canada, Porter chime in 

The morning after WestJet’s announcement, Air Canada made one of its own that went down much better: free booze.

“Cheers to summer! We’re giving our Economy Class experience an upgrade with free beer, wine and premium snacks on flights within Canada and the U.S.,” the airline wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday.

Many people online pointed out the timing of Air Canada’s announcement, calling it “well-played.”

“Free beer on Air Canada … or keistering a change of clothes on Westjet?” one person wrote on X, using a slang term to imply they’d have to hide their luggage where the sun doesn’t shine.

Not to be left out, Canada’s other major airline, Porter, chimed in to point out it has always offered free wine and beer on its flights.

“Thanks for joining our mission to help everyone actually enjoy economy! What’s next, a raccoon mascot?” the company wrote on X.

Remember standing seats?

WestJet certainly isn’t the first airline to strip down to the basics, nor is it the first to receive backlash for it. 

European airline RyanAir, for instance, once proposed standing-room-only tickets and extra fees to use the toilets.

Budget airline VivaColombia also expressed interest in standing seats, although the Washington Post reported in 2019 that no airlines had yet placed orders for the vertical seats designed by Aviointeriors.

WATCH | Is air travel broken? 

Is air travel broken and can it be fixed?

In light of recent holiday travel chaos, Duncan Dee, former CEO of Air Canada, and John Lawford, a lawyer and expert on consumer rights, join Adrienne Arsenault to discuss what went wrong, and answer viewer questions about how to avoid travel headaches.

CNN reports that airlines around the world will be updating their fleets this year, which could mean changes for economy passengers, for better or worse. According to the network, some airlines will be adding a 10th seat to every economy row. 

But there may be some positive changes for the masses on the new planes, CNN predicted, like better seat cushions and “mood lighting.”

In a news release Monday, WestJet announced it was adding more planes to its fleet as part of its “ambitious growth strategy.” 

But the release noted the planes “will not immediately reflect the interior cabin experience, synonymous with the WestJet Group.”

Meanwhile, on the other end of the air travel experience, for tens of thousands of dollars you can sip champagne and dine on lobster thermidor while stretched out on a double bed in your own private suite on Singapore Airlines.

A woman makes a bed aboard an airplane
An air stewardess arranges the bedsheets of a double bed in a suite of Singapore Airlines’ new Airbus A380 in December 2017. (Toh Ting Wei/AFP/Getty Images)

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