Sunday 25 September 2016

'Do the math' - Budget airline says passengers need 're-education' on extra charges

'You won't find lie-flat beds on WestJet'

Neil Lancefield

Published 11/05/2016 | 09:25

A WestJet aircraft takes off from Vancouver. Photo: Deposit
A WestJet aircraft takes off from Vancouver. Photo: Deposit
Gregg Saretsky (left), President and CEO of WestJet and Clive Beddoe, founding shareholder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of WestJet Airlines. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Passengers frustrated by the cost of optional extras on low-cost long-haul flights need a "re-education", according to WestJet's chief executive, Gregg Saretsky.

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The Canadian carrier, which flies from Dublin to St. John's, began direct services between London Gatwick and six Canadian cities over the weekend.

Return fares on the routes start from £300/€380.

The airline's chief executive, Gregg Saretsky, said its business model means customers receive a "very low base fare" in return for the ability to "pick and choose" the additional services they want to pay for.

"There's a bit of a re-education that needs to happen," he told PA.

"People get on these long-haul flights and they're used to having a meal provided for free and their bags being checked for free and there is a little bit of this push back. But I would say 'do the maths'.

"It will cost you £15/€20 to have a hot meal and a checked bag. If we're saving you £300/€380 on the air fare you're still ahead by £285/€360."

Norwegian, currently seeking a US permit for transatlantic flights from Cork, already operates low-cost flights from the UK to destinations such as New York and Los Angeles, while WOW air offers budget flights to North America via Iceland.

Gregg Saretsky (left), President and CEO of WestJet and Clive Beddoe, founding shareholder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of WestJet Airlines. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Gregg Saretsky (left), President and CEO of WestJet and Clive Beddoe, founding shareholder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of WestJet Airlines. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

WestJet's non-stop flights from London Gatwick consist of year-round services to Toronto and Calgary, with flights to Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and St John's in the summer.

Mr Saretsky described early bookings for the routes as "very strong", adding that he was optimistic the flights would "change the face of travel".

He said: "EasyJet and Ryanair have really done a number here in Europe but nobody has done that on the North Atlantic.

"The incumbent carriers - British Airways, Air Canada - have been serving the Canada-Britain market for 60 years but they have done it in a way that has been very traditional.

"You won't find lie-flat beds on WestJet."

WestJet's primary founder Clive Beddoe (pictured above), who emigrated from England to Canada in 1970, claimed low-cost airlines are more focused on attracting passengers who would not have previously travelled on particular routes, rather than persuading those who use established carriers to switch over.

"The market isn't a finite number of people that travel," he said.

"As you open up and lower the costs, more and more people will take advantage of the opportunity to travel and that is exactly what this is going to be.

"It's a model we are very experienced at."

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