WestJet Airlines
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Would You Purchase a No-Frills UltraBasic Fare?

These airfares redefine the term “no frills”.

This airline was once known for the humorous popular videos which commemorated April Fool’s Day. The new UltraBasic airfare which was recently introduced initially seemed to be another in a series of zany yet fictional ideas. Would you purchase a no-frills UltraBasic fare?

Would You Purchase a No-Frills UltraBasic Fare?

The airline is WestJet Airways; and the new UltraBasic fares are indeed real and not fictional. Richard Bartrem — who was the vice president of marketing communications and community relations at WestJet Airways but is now retired — starred in this video back in 2016 pertaining to RALFH, which is an acronym for Robotic Automated Light Food Handler. It eliminated the need for a food and beverage cart which blocks aisles and instead operated on a track overhead above the aisle as an innovative technology designed to improve the comfort of passengers during flights.

WestJet Airways also introduced a new service in 2013 called Furry Family for you to enjoy traveling with your pets aboard the airplane during a flight, as the airline eases restrictions on pets in the cabin in order to attract more guests who want to travel with the family pet. That too was a joke for April Fool’s Day.

A new service called KargoKids was introduced by WestJet Airways in 2012 for passengers to enjoy peace and quiet aboard an airplane free of children. No longer would you need to endure children running up and down the aisle during your flight. Instead, they are checked as luggage, sent on the conveyor belt in a “travel toboggan”, and stored in the belly of the aircraft with plenty of toys and a “state-of-the-art feed trough” from which they may eat and drink. They can run around, scream, cry, pick their noses and pull each other’s hair all they want during the flight.

Who can forget about Smart Seats in 2015 where once you sit in a seat at the airport, you can stay in it until the airplane on which you are a passenger lands at your final destination?

Richard Bartrem was behind these April Fool’s Day videos at WestJet Airways; so you can be forgiven if you initially thought that UltraBasic fares was another funny video in the continuation of a series of videos…

WestJet Airlines
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…but as the official announcement was released on Tuesday, June 4, 2024 — and UltraBasic fares are now in effect — it is no laughing matter to most people. UltraBasic fares actually offer the following features to customers — er…I mean guests:

  • A personal item to be stored under the seat
  • A pre-assigned seat at the back of the aircraft
  • The opportunity to be among the last passengers to board the aircraft — unless an Extended Comfort seat has been purchased or the passenger is a WestJet Rewards member with top-tier elite status
  • Baggage cannot be carried aboard the airplane — unless:
    • The passengers who purchase UltraBasic fares are aboard airplanes that fly on transpacific routes and transatlantic routes
    • An Extended Comfort seat has been purchased for all flights in a single direction, including connections
  • The option to add checked baggage for additional fees
  • The option to add seat selection for additional fees
  • The option to purchase Extended Comfort for additional benefits
  • The same friendly service, onboard food and beverage offerings, and access to the WestJet Connect inflight entertainment and connectivity system as before

UltraBasic fares replaced the former Basic fare offering, which gave passengers a chance not to board the airplane last and could carry a bag aboard the aircraft.

“We are committed to air travel affordability, and UltraBasic is an innovative cost-effective solution that strengthens WestJet’s ability to offer guests budget-friendly airfares to more destinations,” said John Weatherill, who is the current executive vice president and chief commercial officer of WestJet Group. “With UltraBasic, guests can tailor a travel experience that meets their needs, without paying for additional services they don’t value. We are delivering on our low-fare promise and believe UltraBasic will give more Canadians the opportunity to fly.”

UltraBasic fast facts include:

  • The introduction of UltraBasic will result in price reductions across domestic and trans-border routes, continuing the mission of WestJet Airways to provide affordable travel options for all guests.
  • UltraBasic is a key part of the larger strategy of WestJet Airways and has been thoughtfully designed to provide more choice and make air travel more accessible for guests from coast to coast.
  • It is anticipated that the introduction of UltraBasic will expedite the boarding process, contributing to enhanced on time performance and a better guest experience.
  • Weatherill recently outlined the airline’s affordability promise to Canadians, highlighting the approach of WestJet Airways to providing air travel options that are customizable and competitive.

Passengers who:

  • Purchased UltraBasic will board the aircraft in the final boarding zone.
  • Check a carry-on bag at the gate will be charged a checked bag fee and a service fee to check the bag under the aircraft.
  • Purchased a Basic fare prior to the launch of UltraBasic will still be permitted a carry-on bag on all WestJet flights.

Final Boarding Call

WestJet Airlines
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Paging Richard Bartrem: I know you are retired; but come on…are you the mastermind behind UltraBasic fares as originally intended as satire?

Passengers who fit the target market of UltraBasic fares will probably save money — maybe — but offering no-frills fares in general gives an airline an opportunity to advertise ultra-low airfares which a majority of its customers will eschew in favor of more expensive airfares which offer more options…

…similar to how lodging companies advertise artificially lower rates but then charge mandatory fees.

Would you purchase a no-frills UltraBasic fare with WestJet Airways — or with any other airline, for that matter?

All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

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