WestJet Will Install Business Class Seats On 737s

WestJet is undergoing an interesting transformation. They’re Canada’s second largest airline, and historically have been a low cost carrier. They’re going two very different directions at the moment:


WestJet’s new 787 business class

A vast majority of WestJet’s fleet consists of 737s, and those are in a two(ish) cabin configuration. There’s economy, and then there’s WestJet Plus. WestJet Plus is in the first couple of rows of the cabin and includes extra legroom, a blocked middle seat, and free food and drinks. It’s like intra-Europe business class, except there’s more legroom. It’s unique to see an airline in North America trying to offer this configuration, and I’ve been curious about what their long term play is with the product.


WestJet Plus seats on the 737

This week it has been revealed that WestJet will be installing proper business class seats on some of their 737s. Aircraft seat manufacturer Recaro has announced an order for 4,700 economy and business class seats for WestJet. While the economy seat deliveries aren’t that interesting, here’s what I do find especially interesting:

For short and medium-haul routes, Recaro will also be supplying BL3520 economy class seats and CL4710 business class seats for ten of the airline’s aircraft. The seat deliveries will begin in 2018.

On short-haul routes, WestJet will be deploying Recaro seats throughout the entire B737 MAX cabins. The BL3520, which will be used in economy, is one of the most reliable seats in its class and stands out with its advanced lightweight design and exceptional passenger comfort.

The Canadian airline selected the CL4710 for its business class on short and medium-haul routes. The business class seat features a variety of stowage compartments for personal belongings. A leg rest, which can be adjusted in length and angle to adapt to the needs of individual passengers, contributes to superb comfort. The seats can also be equipped with state-of- the-art in-flight entertainment systems.

it’s not entirely clear yet if WestJet’s entire 737 fleet will eventually feature these seats, or if they’re only starting with some 737 MAX aircraft.

WestJet first introduced their Plus product in 2013, and I guess it has been pretty successful. Plus was a way for them to dip their toes in the premium market without investing too much, since they could keep the same seats. It’s logical enough to see this product evolve:

  • With WestJet introducing a proper business class product on their 787s, they’ll be able to compete better if they can offer business class on connecting flights
  • They should be able to introduce these seats without greatly reducing seat count, since the current seats have 36″ of pitch and a blocked middle seat
  • WestJet is forming a joint venture with Delta, so this will allow them to offer more of a consistent experience between the two airlines.

What remains to be seen is if they’ll continue to market the forward seats on their flights as WestJet Plus, or if they’ll instead brand this as a proper business class. Furthermore, I’m also curious to see if they offer enhanced services. Up until now WestJet Plus has gotten food that mostly looks like something you could buy in economy, which means that they’ve offered wrapped sandwiches and cheese plates, for example.

I wonder if they’ll introduce a real premium cabin experience now.

What do you make of WestJet installing proper business class seats on their 737s?

(Tip of the hat to Michael)

Comments

  1. I had a great flight with them from Orlando to Calgary last year. Though I went in Economy because Plus was 4 times the price of an Economy ticket. I might as well buy 2 economy seats and food and still save money 🙂

  2. Westjet is a pretty confused airline right now…at least with this, there’s some alignment between their 787 strategy and what they’re doing with the rest of their fleet, as they inch closer to being a full-service airline. At least now, the fact that they charge the same price as Air Canada on every route will start to make some sense, as they’ll stop pretending that they’re somehow “low cost”.

  3. Hi Lucky, so we’re taking Westjet down from YVR-LAX as part of the EK first class fare to MXP. I saw just yesterday that our assigned seats on WestJet were in row 3 A and C, so assume that fare just books into plus?

  4. They’re certainly low cost on the TATL. 6.5 hours on the tight seated 767 to LGW with no food but what I bought at YYZ was an absolute pain. After that experience I’m sticking to full service for longer trips.

  5. Going down the same path as Virgin Australia did, except this time there is précédent. All the best for Westjet, hopefully joining an alliance eventually.

  6. Looks like a premium economy seat, at best.

    Pro tip: wait until OLCI is available and upgrade your seat to Plus for SIGNIFICANTLY less than paying for it during the initial reservation (assuming they’re available and they typically are).

  7. @Todd:

    That’s generally how it works. For several airlines the domestic/regional First seats are very similar to, if not the same as, the international (and/or long-haul) Premium Economy. These have leg rests, though, which is pretty nice – assuming they actually go with what’s being rendered.

  8. Please stop calling WestJet a low-cost carrier. They’re not and haven’t been for years and years. WestJet and Air Canada prices are essentially the same.

  9. @Arcanum

    You are correct, Canadians don’t view WestJet as a LCC in a way Europeans view EasyJet or Ryanair. Officially, yes, WestJet started as low cost carrier in a sense that they didn’t have business class seats, no real FFP, etc. But given the fact that prices between Air Canada and Westjet is so comparable and services provided so comparable (at least in economy) that its a moot point. Which is also why they are spinning off a “proper” LCC called swoop.

  10. Will give AC a run for the money on biz class routes in North America and the Caribbean. Biz class on AC mainline is the same as domestic US first. Service on AC rouge biz is similar to mainline AC biz. Rouge economy is not.

  11. @Lucky

    “A vast majority of…” is not the correct construction. The correct phrase is “The vast majority of…” Please correct.

    Re Westjet as Low Cost: there is a difference between low cost and low price. As I understand it, Westjet’s compensation model is indeed lower than mainline airlines, so it costs them less to put a plane in the air. That does not always translate into lower prices.

  12. Westjet started on the Southwest model not a true low cost but now they are almost exactly as air canada. Now they need a true loyalty program and I can see them join Aeroplan after AC exits and also join Sky Team. Any thought?

  13. @ YULtide

    ““A vast majority of…” is not the correct construction. The correct phrase is “The vast majority of…” Please correct.”

    Fascinating.

    What’s your reasoning for this exciting “rule”? And to which English are you claiming it applies (all? US? Etc).

  14. Looks like a solid seat the economy one looks pretty good as well I welcome these great changes

  15. Westjet announced earlier this week a new tie up with the RBC(Royal Bank of Canada), Canada’s largest bank. I thought Aeroplan might tie up with WJ but I think that’s out the window now.

  16. @The nice Paul

    Specificity. When referring to a specific thing, person or group one uses the definite article, as in The nice Paul (you being a specific person).

    A portion of a specific group (Westjet’s fleet) might be specific or non specific. For example, one might speak of a quarter, there being three others, so the indefinite article is appropriate. But there is only one “vast majority”, so it is specific and takes the definite article.

    If one is speaking of majorities generically, there are many kinds, such as slim majorities, simple majorities, super majorities and vast majorities. The indefinite article may be used in this case. But in the issue cited above, the key word is “of”. Here what is referred to is not a majority (generically) but a portion of Westjet’s fleet. It is a definite group of planes and thus takes the definite article.

    This is normal English grammar.

  17. Lucky your wrong. Westjet has not been a low cost airline for some time (since 2005? a few years after the original senior management team retired?). They have been since then price wise and service wise positioning themselves as a full alternative to Air Canada in the economy and (now business) class. The only market they do not compete with AC is to Asia and Australia; but that my change with the 787 and slots if available. Their Swoop is an attempt to reintroduce the same low cost model they started with (the “Southwest” model i.e. with modern equipment and decent seats) rather than allow some other newbie to do it. AC have been unable to do this with Rouge so I doubt that WJ will be able to do this either and for the same reasons – the “management think difference” required is too hard and the anti-poaching (from big brother) constraints too constraining. Rouge model has turned into AC’s way of using old aircraft and seating well past their prime but charging a little less – if fuel prices increase and the maintenance costs creep up and up this model will also fall away: there are no more of their used aircraft coming down the pipe. In theory WJ know the SW management think required but these are different people and they will still need to deal with the anti-poaching – not going to happen.

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