Two airline giants in the vast Canadian skies stand out: Air Canada and WestJet. These carriers have been winging their way across continents for years, earning the trust and loyalty of countless passengers.
As behemoths of the Canadian airline industry, they've successfully transported millions to their desired destinations, be it the bustling streets of Toronto, the serene landscapes of Vancouver, or the historic alleys of Montreal. Yet, the question remains: Which is the superior choice between Air Canada and WestJet?
While some might base their preference on past in-flight experiences or loyalty rewards, a detailed comparison is critical to determine which airline is on top.
We will do a deep dive into various facets of both airlines so that you have all the information you need to make an informed choice the next time you book a flight.
Destinations and airport presence
One of the paramount factors influencing a traveller's choice between airlines is the range and convenience of destinations offered. In this arena, both Air Canada and WestJet present strong arguments. Let's take a look:
As Canada's flagship carrier, Air Canada operates from major hubs like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. It boasts an extensive international reach, covering key destinations in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America.
This broad network ensures that Air Canada has you covered whether you're jetting off to a business meeting in Europe or seeking solace on a Caribbean beach.
Initially starting as a low-cost carrier, WestJet has significantly expanded its wings. Operating primarily from airports like Toronto and Vancouver, the airline has extended its routes to include significant locations in Europe, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
The carrier has significantly strengthened its presence in popular vacation spots, catering to travellers seeking comfort and affordability.
Both airlines have strategically collaborated with other carriers, ensuring even those remote destinations are within reach of Canadian travellers.
The flexibility of choices between hubs like Toronto's Pearson International Airport or Vancouver's YVR means passengers have ample options when planning their itinerary.
Winner: Air Canada
Fleet and aircraft types
The type and quality of aircraft an airline operates can significantly influence a passenger's flying experience. Modern, well-maintained fleets often translate to better in-flight comfort, fewer delays, and enhanced safety.
This airline takes pride in its diverse fleet, including top-of-the-line aircraft from Boeing and Airbus. Their flagship long-haul flights are often serviced by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, renowned for its fuel efficiency and passenger comfort features.
The Airbus series, particularly the A320 and A330, are preferred for transcontinental routes.
WestJet has come a long way from its initial days as a single-type fleet operator. While they still rely heavily on the Boeing series, particularly the 737, recent years have seen the addition of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner for their long-haul flights. This has allowed WestJet to offer enhanced comfort and services on routes to Europe and Asia.
The choice between a Boeing or Airbus often comes down to personal preference, with some passengers swearing by the comfort of one over the other.
However, it's undeniable that both Air Canada and WestJet are investing in modern, fuel-efficient aircraft, elevating the flight experience for their passengers.
For the eco-conscious traveller, it's worth noting that both carriers have taken steps towards sustainability, with investments in newer aircraft that boast reduced carbon footprints.
Ticket pricing and purchases
Pricing and the ease of purchasing tickets can greatly sway a passenger's decision on which airline to choose. Air Canada and WestJet have made strides in ensuring competitive pricing and user-friendly purchase experiences.
Recognized for serving a broad spectrum of passengers, from business travellers to vacationers, Air Canada's ticket prices can vary based on route, time, and class of service.
Major cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver often see competitive rates, especially during promotional periods. Additionally, Air Canada's website and mobile app offer seamless booking experiences, with options to add on services such as seat selection, meal preferences, and more.
As a carrier that initially carved its niche as a low-cost airline, WestJet still offers some of the most competitive rates in the market, especially for domestic routes and vacation packages to popular destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico. Their online booking platform is intuitive, with transparent pricing and the ability to easily upgrade or modify bookings.
It's essential to note that while base ticket prices might be tempting, additional fees for baggage, seat selection, lounge access, in-flight entertainment, and in-flight amenities can add up. Both airlines, however, frequently roll out sales and promotional fares, making it worthwhile for travellers to stay updated and book during these periods.
In short, even though WestJet often takes the lead in base ticket prices, Air Canada's extensive network and range of services can offer value that aligns with its pricing, making the higher pricing tier acceptable for many travellers.
Seating and in-flight comfort
The journey can be just as important as the destination, especially for long-haul flights. Ensuring comfort in the skies is paramount, and both Air Canada and WestJet have made significant strides in this department.
With various options from Business Class to Premium Economy, passengers can choose their desired comfort level. The airline's Business Class, particularly on international routes, offers spacious seating that converts into flat beds, making overnight journeys restful.
Premium Economy provides a middle ground with extra legroom, priority boarding, and enhanced meal options. As for in-flight entertainment, Air Canada offers a diverse selection of movies, TV shows, and music, ensuring passengers remain engaged throughout their journey.
Not to be outdone, WestJet has revamped its seating arrangements over the years, especially with the introduction of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on long-haul routes. Their Business Class cabins boast pod-style seating that promises privacy and comfort.
Premium and Economy cabins have also seen upgrades, offering ample legroom and adjustable headrests. WestJet's in-flight entertainment system is robust, with various options to cater to different tastes.
Both airlines allow passengers to pre-select their seats, although charges may apply depending on the fare type. It's a valuable feature for those particular about window views or needing extra legroom.
Overall, with both airlines if you want added comfort, you'll pay for it. So, there is no winner here.
Food and beverages
The in-flight dining experience can set the tone for a traveller's journey. Air Canada and WestJet strive to satiate their passengers' palates, whether a quick snack or a gourmet meal.
Known for its diverse menu, Air Canada offers complimentary meals on most international flights. The menu often boasts a blend of Canadian and international cuisines, ensuring there's something for everyone.
Business Class passengers can expect a more refined dining experience with a range of gourmet dishes, complemented by a curated selection of wines and beverages. For shorter routes, passengers are treated to snacks and drinks, with the option to purchase more substantial meals if desired.
While WestJet started with a basic snack and beverage service, they've significantly expanded their in-flight dining options, especially on international routes. Passengers on long-haul flights are treated to complimentary meals focusing on fresh, local ingredients.
The beverage service is also commendable, offering a mix of soft drinks, juices, and alcoholic beverages. WestJet's buy-on-board menu is worth exploring for those flying on shorter routes or looking for more snack options.
Both airlines cater to various preferences and requirements for those with dietary issues, offering vegetarian, vegan, and other special meals upon request.
Loyalty and rewards programs
Frequent flyers understand the value of good frequent flyer programs. Air Canada and WestJet offer rewarding schemes that provide tremendous customer satisfaction and significant benefits to their regular passengers.
Aeroplan is Air Canada's flagship loyalty program. Members accumulate Aeroplan points with each flight, which can be redeemed for future air travel, upgrades, and other exclusive benefits. The program features different tiers, including Platinum and Max, each offering a stepped-up range of perks.
From priority check-in to lounge access at the Maple Leaf Lounges, the benefits are tailored to enhance the flying experience. Moreover, the Aeroplan credit card partnerships allow members to earn points even when not flying, making it easier to accumulate rewards.
The WestJet Rewards program is the airline's answer to loyalty. Members earn WestJet dollars for every flight booked, which can directly offset future travel costs. With its tiered system, frequent flyers can access various benefits, from complimentary seat selection to airport lounge access.
The WestJet RBC MasterCard further amplifies the earning potential, providing members with opportunities to earn WestJet dollars on everyday purchases.
Winner: Air Canada
Additional benefits and services to consider
Beyond the flight itself, airlines often offer a plethora of additional services that can significantly enhance the overall travel experience for passengers. Air Canada and WestJet have extra benefits designed to cater to varying needs.
This airline has always focused on delivering a holistic travel experience. One notable service is the priority check-in for premium passengers, ensuring a seamless airport experience. Their Maple Leaf Lounges, available at major airports, provide a tranquil space for passengers to relax or work before their flight.
These lounges offer complimentary meals, beverages, and high-speed internet. Air Canada also partners with various hotel chains and car rental services, making it easier for passengers to plan their entire journey from a single platform.
Not to be left behind, WestJet offers a similar range of benefits. Their airport lounges are designed with passenger comfort in mind, complete with complimentary refreshments and dedicated workspaces.
The airline's partnerships with various hotels and car services ensure that WestJet passengers can conveniently book their trips. Additionally, the "WestJet Connect" in-flight Wi-Fi service allows passengers to stay connected during their flight, a much-appreciated feature for business travellers and those wanting to stay updated on social media.
Ultimately, the little extras can make all the difference in crafting a memorable travel experience.
Choosing between Air Canada and WestJet can be a conundrum for many Canadian travellers. Both airlines have their unique strengths, from extensive destination networks to rewarding loyalty programs, and it's evident that both carriers are dedicated to enhancing the passenger experience.
However, the right choice ultimately boils down to individual preferences and needs. If you're a stickler for price, you will likely find cheaper ticket fares with WestJet. However, if you want a better loyalty system and don't mind paying a little extra for comfort, Air Canada is a solid option.