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Why I'm sticking with AC after my WS status match

Why I'm sticking with AC after my WS status match

Old Oct 18, 19, 1:36 pm
  #1  
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Why I'm sticking with AC after my WS status match

I was pleased to get a chance to try WS gold status through status match this year. For my flying patterns WS has at least one great route for me. Unfortunately there are some policy limitations with WS that, for my needs, make them uncompetitive with AC:
  • No flexibility within 24 hrs: I need flexibility with my flight bookings, WS has policies in place that don't allow free cancellation (refund) within 24 hrs of departure. In my opinion they shouldn't charge full service airline fares (just paid $499 for a one way YEG-YYJ) without providing full service airline features, like flexibility. Because of this, I basically won't book WS until I'm on my way to the airport. This leads to my next issue
  • Upgrades processed automatically 24 hours prior to departure. Given the lack of flexibility of WS fares, I don't usually book 24 hours in advance, that means I don't get upgraded. So now I just buy premium every time (this makes the value of my status close to zero).
  • No flight passes. Since I book last minute one of the tools I use to control costs is the use of flight pass products from AC. Note that even the flex passes allow free cancellation within 24 hrs. But the last minute fares on WS are substantially higher than the cost of using latitude pass on AC, which affords the ultimate in flexibility. Because of this I usually am paying about 50% more per flight if I fly WS using my last minute booking strategy.

For these reasons I am sticking with AC for almost all my flights and place very minimal value on WS status. After my gold status match I thought I could make them a secondary carrier and program, but after trying it out, I can't. Obviously there are other issues which prevent them from being my primary carrier (limited routes and frequencies, not many aircraft with lie flats, no concierge). So Im glad to see WS growing, and see them adding international routes, real business class etc, but unfortunately the program doesn't do much for my needs as a last minute western Canada based business traveler.
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Old Nov 5, 19, 2:13 am
  #2  
 
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Agree with you on most of those points. I would also add that WS lacks the route network of AC meaning that if your flight goes mechanical or you mis-connect you're more likely to be left stranded at the airport (and without a lounge to boot!). That being said, WS does have a better OTP than AC so perhaps less likely for IRROPs to happen in first place?

That being said, WS may still not be a bad secondary airline to fly with given their SkyTeam affiliate membership vis-a-vis DL. Milage accrual is between 25-50% on most Y fares but is 100% on some Y, and all PY and J fares. DL is nice in that they don't have an AQD like AC for non-US residents so it's just a matter of getting enough BIS with the likes of WS, DL and other SkyTeam partners.

Safe Travels,

James
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Old Nov 5, 19, 7:13 am
  #3  
 
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Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post
Agree with you on most of those points. I would also add that WS lacks the route network of AC meaning that if your flight goes mechanical or you mis-connect you're more likely to be left stranded at the airport (and without a lounge to boot!). That being said, WS does have a better OTP than AC so perhaps less likely for IRROPs to happen in first place?

That being said, WS may still not be a bad secondary airline to fly with given their SkyTeam affiliate membership vis-a-vis DL. Milage accrual is between 25-50% on most Y fares but is 100% on some Y, and all PY and J fares. DL is nice in that they don't have an AQD like AC for non-US residents so it's just a matter of getting enough BIS with the likes of WS, DL and other SkyTeam partners.

Safe Travels,

James
I would disagree on the route network issue. It dependents on where your based and where you travel.

If your in western Canada the WS route network is in many cases more extensive and in many cases on larger aircraft. Toss in the "no overbooking" policy or software limitation (not certain which it is) and you have an airline better able to handle IROP.

A good comparison. Saskatoon yesterday had 12 departures on AC and 16 departures on WestJet.

In Victoria it was 16 for AC and 15 on WS. However the WS flights were a mix of 737 and Q400. The AC flights had the one Rouge flight and the rest were all Q400.

The Plaza Premium lounges that WS use are nicer than the ML in most cases. However AC has better lounge coverage when you take into account cities such as Ottawa, Saskatoon, Regina and Montreal that have ML but no equivalent that WS can use.
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Old Nov 5, 19, 7:32 am
  #4  
 
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Originally Posted by Fiordland View Post
Toss in the "no overbooking" policy or software limitation (not certain which it is) and you have an airline better able to handle IROP.
It is definitely a policy, as Sabre is fully able to handle overselling/overbooking, but at this point this feature is disabled in the WestJet RES system to prevent overselling but used in DCS to handle operationally needed equipment changes and situations where, for example, an RCMP Air Marshall would need a seat on a full flight.
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Old Nov 5, 19, 10:52 am
  #5  
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Well the gate upgrade system might cancel out my 2nd gripe about the no upgrades for me on last minute bookings.

Now if they'd add flight passes and bring back free cancellation within 24 hrs of booking with no conditions (even if just for status pax) they would become my primary carrier for my western Canada flights.
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Old Nov 5, 19, 11:00 am
  #6  
 
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If WS had them I'd buy an eastern Canada flight pass in a heartbeat. The one I use from AC saves me a fortune in last-minute bookings.
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Old Nov 5, 19, 12:15 pm
  #7  
 
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Originally Posted by Symmetre View Post
If WS had them I'd buy an eastern Canada flight pass in a heartbeat. The one I use from AC saves me a fortune in last-minute bookings.
I think that there in lies the rub for WestJet flight passes. The last minute revenue loss, the lower eastern Canada frequency and the fact that they don't overbook flights all play into the reluctance of establishing flight passes in my opinion.
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Old Nov 5, 19, 4:01 pm
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Originally Posted by Fiordland View Post
I would disagree on the route network issue. It dependents on where your based and where you travel.

If your in western Canada the WS route network is in many cases more extensive and in many cases on larger aircraft.

A good comparison. Saskatoon yesterday had 12 departures on AC and 16 departures on WestJet.

In Victoria it was 16 for AC and 15 on WS. However the WS flights were a mix of 737 and Q400. The AC flights had the one Rouge flight and the rest were all Q400.
Yes, WS does have a significantly better route network out West, but I would argue that at best it's on the same level as AC with them having more or less the same number of flights out every day. However, one thing you fail to take into account are the single-stop options which may come in handy during severe IRROPs. Sure WS might have slightly more departures to YQR, but AC can get you to YQR in more than one way.


Originally Posted by Fiordland View Post
Toss in the "no overbooking" policy or software limitation (not certain which it is) and you have an airline better able to handle IROP.
If someone could explain what the benefit to not overbooking is, I'd love to hear it. I for one, like the option of having the airline pay me money not to take a flight, head back to the MLL enjoy some drinks and perhaps a prolonged shower, then head on the next flight out. In addition, for those of us with status overbooking doesn't affect us unless we let it impact us. Generally the airline will bump the no-status passengers on K fares before they touch their beloved *Golds and dime a dozen SEs.


Originally Posted by Fiordland View Post
The Plaza Premium lounges that WS use are nicer than the ML in most cases. However AC has better lounge coverage when you take into account cities such as Ottawa, Saskatoon, Regina and Montreal that have ML but no equivalent that WS can use.
Having had a Priority Pass membership I'm gonna have to disagree with you here. For one thing, many of the AC lounges have showers, I have yet to encounter any PP lounge in Canada with showers. Yes some of the lounges like the Banque National one in YUL has a decent selection of food, but if your use of a lounge is an all you can eat buffet you are completely missing the value of lounges. One thing I can count on with AC aside from the lounge coverage, is that there will be a working printer that will let me print off my documents and most times a business centre to get some work done whilst I wait for my connection. The same cannot be said for all these PP lounges.

Originally Posted by Nitehawk View Post
Now if they'd add flight passes and bring back free cancellation within 24 hrs of booking with no conditions (even if just for status pax) they would become my primary carrier for my western Canada flights.
Originally Posted by Symmetre View Post
If WS had them I'd buy an eastern Canada flight pass in a heartbeat. The one I use from AC saves me a fortune in last-minute bookings.
Originally Posted by calgaryhhr View Post
I think that there in lies the rub for WestJet flight passes. The last minute revenue loss, the lower eastern Canada frequency and the fact that they don't overbook flights all play into the reluctance of establishing flight passes in my opinion.
Perhaps you folks missed the memo here, but WS did at one point sell flight passes between YYZ, YOW and YUL although surprising pulled the plug after about a year. Now only the Skunk (PD) and Air Canada offer such flight pass products.

Safe Travels,

James
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Old Nov 5, 19, 5:18 pm
  #9  
 
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Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post
Yes, WS does have a significantly better route network out West, but I would argue that at best it's on the same level as AC with them having more or less the same number of flights out every day. However, one thing you fail to take into account are the single-stop options which may come in handy during severe IRROPs. Sure WS might have slightly more departures to YQR, but AC can get you to YQR in more than one way.
I am a regular into YXE so I know that one a bit better than YQR. There are more destinations on WS than AC. The on'y "extra" destination served from YXE by AC that WS does not have a non-stop on is the seasonal YOW flight in the summer. The one that is surprising as a connecting airport in IROP is Vegas. Sounds weird I know. YXE also has Delta (but not united) as a code share alternative.

Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post
If someone could explain what the benefit to not overbooking is, I'd love to hear it. I for one, like the option of having the airline pay me money not to take a flight, head back to the MLL enjoy some drinks and perhaps a prolonged shower, then head on the next flight out. In addition, for those of us with status overbooking doesn't affect us unless we let it impact us. Generally the airline will bump the no-status passengers on K fares before they touch their beloved *Golds and dime a dozen SEs.
Key beneficent is a higher probability that any given flight will have a few empty seats. In IROP situation you have a better change of being put on standby and actually geting on to the flight.

For top tier status passengers that get free standby for earlier flights it again means there is a better chance that there will be an empty seat available.


Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post
Having had a Priority Pass membership I'm gonna have to disagree with you here. For one thing, many of the AC lounges have showers, I have yet to encounter any PP lounge in Canada with showers. Yes some of the lounges like the Banque National one in YUL has a decent selection of food, but if your use of a lounge is an all you can eat buffet you are completely missing the value of lounges. One thing I can count on with AC aside from the lounge coverage, is that there will be a working printer that will let me print off my documents and most times a business centre to get some work done whilst I wait for my connection. The same cannot be said for all these PP lounges.
Some of the larger Plaza premium lounges have good work cubicles. Others not so much. Cell phone charging lockers is also another plus for ML over the PP lounges.



Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post
Perhaps you folks missed the memo here, but WS did at one point sell flight passes between YYZ, YOW and YUL although surprising pulled the plug after about a year. Now only the Skunk (PD) and Air Canada offer such flight pass products.

Safe Travels,

James
I think that was when WS was trying to be a credible alternative on that triangle. More recently I though they gave up and were starting to run Q400 on those routes.

I think WS should focus on the Vancouver-Calgary-Edmonton triangle and leave the eastern one to AC to dominate.
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Old Nov 5, 19, 5:57 pm
  #10  
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Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post

Having had a Priority Pass membership I'm gonna have to disagree with you here. For one thing, many of the AC lounges have showers, I have yet to encounter any PP lounge in Canada with showers.

Perhaps you folks missed the memo here, but WS did at one point sell flight passes between YYZ, YOW and YUL although surprising pulled the plug after about a year. Now only the Skunk (PD) and Air Canada offer such flight pass products.

Safe Travels,

James
Re Lounges:

The main YVR priority pass domestic lounge has showers, but I had to wait about 15 minutes to get into it because their staff really aren't as good as AC staff. Now I just use the AC lounge if I need a shower at YVR. As for the printer, yes AC has business centers which are actually decent should you find a spot. I go to priority pass lounges to eat, and the AC lounge to drink/work/shower. For me with WS I don't care about their lounge access...I care about their direct flights, which minimize the need for the lounges in the first place.

Re Flight Passes:

Yes I knew WS tried a small experiment a few years back. I want something to compete with the AC western commuter pass, and the AC southwestern sun destinations pass.
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Old Nov 6, 19, 2:39 pm
  #11  
 
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Originally Posted by calgaryhhr View Post
I think that there in lies the rub for WestJet flight passes. The last minute revenue loss, the lower eastern Canada frequency and the fact that they don't overbook flights all play into the reluctance of establishing flight passes in my opinion.
I understand what you're saying and expect there's some truth to it. But my thought is it would be better for WS to get an acceptable fare from me via a flight pass and perhaps miss out on that big last-minute premium, than get nothing at all when I simply buy a flight pass from AC instead.

Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post
Perhaps you folks missed the memo here, but WS did at one point sell flight passes between YYZ, YOW and YUL although surprising pulled the plug after about a year.
I didn't miss the memo James, but a triangle pass does me little good when I'm trying to fly YYZ-YYG or YYZ-YHZ.
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Old Nov 6, 19, 3:20 pm
  #12  
 
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Originally Posted by Nitehawk View Post
Yes I knew WS tried a small experiment a few years back. I want something to compete with the AC western commuter pass, and the AC southwestern sun destinations pass.
...and that's the leg up AC has over WS. Even if we are to admit that WS offers slightly better frequency on the west for some routes, AC has a flight pass targeted at those travellers that allow them to make bookings on an as needed basis.

Originally Posted by Symmetre View Post
I didn't miss the memo James, but a triangle pass does me little good when I'm trying to fly YYZ-YYG or YYZ-YHZ.
Fair enough although I would point out that AC has flight pass products designed specifically for these routes:


And if you don't like travelling on Friday through Sundays AC has a pass for you:


Originally Posted by calgaryhhr View Post
I think that there in lies the rub for WestJet flight passes. The last minute revenue loss, the lower eastern Canada frequency and the fact that they don't overbook flights all play into the reluctance of establishing flight passes in my opinion.
To counter that argument there are ways around this. Both AC and the skunk (PD) sell different types of flight passes at different prices and different conditions, the thinking here is they can re-capture some of the lost revenue from a last minute booking by forcing flight pass purchasers to purchase a pass at a different fare type. Going back to our favourite example (YTZ,YUL "triangle) here's what the cost and terms are for the standard pass:



And here is what the Flex pass looks like which offers booking on a moments notice:


As we can see the standard pass offers quite affordable flights between YTZ and YUL at a cost of $168.30 all-in. However, you must make the booking a week in advance, and can only select flights that still have Standard availability. For the frequent traveller that represents some savings on buying the fare a week in advance. For comparison here's what a fare on that route looks like a week out:



Is AC losing some revenue compared to the casual traveller who would just buy the one-way fare and eat up the cost? Sure! But you know what else those flight pass credits do? They create demand in the route by forcing the customer to commit to flying the airline for a non-trivial number of flights (often 10 but I've bought 30 credit passes before) all of which must be taken within a certain time period (i.e. 6 months or a year). I highly doubt the Skunk or AC could charge the fares they could if there was a lack of flight passes and corporate contracts filling them seats!

In the case of the Flex fare flight pass which allows travellers to book flights up to the very last minute, AC is also making a killing there charging $414 per one-way ticket. Could fares end up being more than that on day of departure? Possibly, but more often than not it's stuck around the $200-$300 if you're flexible on which time and airline you take out.

For the casual traveller, the difference between WS and AC may not be major. However, for those of us who travel regularly (and frequent FT), the differences are quite stark. Here we have two airlines that offer similar prices with the flag carrier having the route network advantage in terms of frequency and destinations. The flag carrier offers dozens of flight passes tailored to the needs of various travellers which give them the latitude to not be hunting around Google Flights every minute to find a last minute fare deal to get them where they are going. That has lounges, priority services and benefits (i.e. 3 free checked bags) on offer for their most frequent of flyers.

Yes, WS is making improvements. They are bringing online new aircrafts like the 787 for trans-con and TATL service, they are introducing new international destinations and they are even bringing some of the perks found with Altitude like lounges. However, it seems to me like its a case of too little too late, especially for the frequent flyer who is engrained with the various AC systems, products and way of travel.

Safe Travels,

James
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Old Nov 6, 19, 4:00 pm
  #13  
 
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I disagree

Originally Posted by Fiordland View Post
The Plaza Premium lounges that WS use are nicer than the ML in most cases.
I can't agree with this assessment. The only PP lounge which is better than the MLL is in YUL, IMO, I do agree with your point about poor PP coverage as compared to the MLL network,
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Old Nov 6, 19, 6:57 pm
  #14  
 
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Originally Posted by Antonio8069 View Post
I can't agree with this assessment. The only PP lounge which is better than the MLL is in YUL, IMO, I do agree with your point about poor PP coverage as compared to the MLL network,
I find the YVR Domestic PP lounge better than YVR MLL Domestic. Better food, seating etc. I would agree with the ML Transboarder being better than the PP. International PP gets you unto the Skyteam Lounge, which I like better than the YVR ML International.

Calgary is a weird airport, No ML in Transboard or International. The WestJet operated domestic lounge (also PP) is not as nice as the ML.

Edmonton domestic I would go with PP over ML. They are both about the same size. Better food in the PP (the Late is handmade) and more variation in seating arrangements with some where you can open up a computer and work. I would agree the cookies in the ML are better, but cookies do not make a lounge.

The YWG PP is nice, lots of seating options, include some that are suitable work working with plugs. The washroom not being inside the lounge is odd. Bar and food is better than ML.

The YYZ is a mixed bag. My one complaint about the YYZ T3 Domestic PP lounge is no outlets near the tables where you can work. Better food. Better drink. The washroom has the pull cords should be accidentally confined. The YYZ T1 Domestic has good mix of seating options. Better food and drink. The T3 international is AirFrance/KLM lounge that I like. Never been in the AC suite so its not a fair comparison. Trans-boarder I would agree the ML is better if you can find a seat.

Quebec city it is the same lounge.
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Old Nov 6, 19, 7:34 pm
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Originally Posted by Fiordland View Post
Calgary is a weird airport, No ML in Transboard or International. The WestJet operated domestic lounge (also PP) is not as nice as the ML.


YYC is hardly the only major Canadian airport without a MLL. As anyone who has had the unfortunate circumstance of having a TB flight at YOW, an experience comparable to Dante's Second Circle of Hell, a MLL is warranted there given the lack of amenities (I'm surprised they even have a restroom there!) and I suspect the volume of TB traffic given the amount of hot air coming out of Ottawa! The lack of a lounge at YQB is also worrisome given its the capital of Quebec and the amount of northern flights taking off from there.

One thing that's nice about WS at least for elites is they offer free same day changes for Gold and Platinum elites. Another interesting thing is that elites have access to complimentary upgrades. That being said, I would choose the priority services, lounges, and others perks of being a UA*G on AC over a status matched WS Gold/Platinum status.
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