Air Canada vs. WestJet: Which Airline Should You Fly With This Summer?
They both have their pros.
Which is better — WestJet or Air Canada? It's an age-old question for Canadian travellers that you may have wondered yourself when booking a trip.
While, ultimately, which airline is better might depend on your travel plans, there are some factors like pricing, ticket inclusions and baggage policies that could be factors in making your decision.
To help you decide, we've laid out some of the key similarities and differences between Air Canada and WestJet. Here are six things you may want to take into consideration before booking a flight.
Air Canada offers the most seats and frequencies of any Canadian carrier, so it's got WestJet beat when it comes to destinations.
Air Canada services 51 airports in Canada, 51 airports in the U.S. and more than 75 airports across six continents from its Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver hubs, as well as from Calgary and Halifax.
WestJet, on the other hand, flies to 38 airports in Canada, 6 airports in Europe, 27 airports in the Caribbean, 1 airport in Asia, 11 airports in Mexico, and 34 airports in the U.S.
While it would take too long to get into all the specifics, for instance, when it comes to European destinations, Air Canada flies to 28 countries and 65 cities, while WestJet's network covers just five countries and six cities.
So if you're planning a European summer vacation, Air Canada may be the better bet!
It's hard to say exactly how the airlines compare in terms of pricing — it really depends on the destination and time of travel.
However, looking at the price for similar routes can give you some insight as to which airline offers more bang for your buck.
For instance, for summer flights from Toronto to Vancouver, a popular route, Air Canada and WestJet are pretty evenly matched.
For a one-way economy class seat on this route on July 3, 2023, Air Canada fliers will pay as low as $363, while WestJet customers would pay a minimum of $261. However, book the same trip one day earlier and the fares are the same, both costing $340, or one day later, when they both cost $261.
While the economy ticket prices are similar, it's worth noting that you can fly Air Canada's business class on this route for much cheaper than WestJet's.
A ticket in business class on Air Canada (complete with lie-flat seats) will cost travellers $998, while the same seat with WestJet rings up at a minimum of $1,465.
When you travel with Air Canada, you can bring on board one standard article, one personal article, your coat, small purse, special need or infant care item.
There are no fees for these items, but carry-on baggage must adhere to certain size restrictions.
Air Canada also doesn't have a weight limit for carry-on baggage, but your bag has to be light enough that you can store it in the overhead bin without help.
Checked baggage works a bit differently. With Air Canada, your free baggage allowance is determined by your fare, destination, date of ticket purchase and loyalty program status.
However, for all trips, your baggage must be a maximum of 50 pounds, and its linear dimensions have to be 62 inches.
Generally, the first bag of checked baggage costs $30 for standard travel within Canada, and between Canada and the U.S., or Canada and Mexico/the Caribbean.
The allowance for other international destinations varies based on the route and when your ticket was issued, but, generally, a first bag fee of $75 applies to Economy Basic fares and Aeroplan Standard Rewards.
You can input your flight details on Air Canada's checked baggage calculator to see your free allowance.
With WestJet, your first checked bag costs $40-47.20 at check-in when flying with their basic fare in the U.S. and Canada.
If you're travelling to Europe, this increases to $70-82.60, and to $80-94.40 if you're heading to Asia. All other destinations will cost you $40-47.20.
If you fly in WestJet's EconoFlex, Premium or Business fares, your first checked bag is free.
In terms of carry-on baggage, travellers are allowed one carry-on bag and a personal item. Both have to meet certain size restrictions, but don't come with a fee.
What’s included in your ticket
When you book a ticket in Air Canada's economy class for an international trip, you get a complimentary meal, as well as the option to make changes to your ticket on the same day at the airport for $100.
You can also get advanced seat selection for an added fee. That's about where the perks end — for things like complimentary seat selection and access to Air Canada's Maple Leaf Lounges, you'll have to upgrade to their Flex fare.
WestJet operates a bit differently. Trans-Atlantic or Trans-Pacific flights on their Boeing 787 Dreamliner offer complimentary meals, although all other Dreamliner flights and international flights on their Boeing 737 don't get this perk, receiving complimentary drinks and a snack instead.
Like Air Canada, WestJet's economy fare allows you to make advance seat selection for a fee and get a credit for cancelling or flight changes, also for a fee.
If you're flying with WestJet, you can pay to use their lounge and partner lounges, with some offering a discount for those with a WestJet boarding pass.
Passengers can pay $59 to use the Elevation Lounge at Calgary International Airport, for example. If you're not flying with the airline, you can still get access by paying $65.
Both carriers offer their own rewards programs that benefit frequent fliers. However, depending on what kind of benefits you're looking for, one program may be better for you than the other.
Air Canada has Aeroplan, which is said to be Canada's most popular travel rewards program.
The loyalty program allows members to earn points for every flight taken with the airline, which can be redeemed later for flights, hotel stays, vacation packages, and even merchandise like Apple products, furniture and fitness gear.
You can redeem Aeroplan points in many ways besides through booking flights — one way is to make purchases through Aeroplan's Estore. You can also get Aeroplan travel credit cards that earn points per dollar spent.
Aeroplan is free to sign up for, and there are lots of benefits. For one thing, Aeroplan members can bid on Air Canada seat upgrades.
Those with higher-status Aeroplan memberships can also get complimentary access to Maple Leaf Lounges and enjoy priority airport services.
WestJet's rewards program, simply called WestJet Rewards, operates similarly, with some notable differences.
For one, there are fewer options for accumulating points.
You can get points by flying with WestJet and using WestJet travel credit cards, as well as on car rentals and hotel stays booked through WestJet, but the airline doesn't offer any kind of e-store similar to Aeroplan.
Like Aeroplan, higher tiers of WestJet Rewards allow members to get perks like free upgrades, lounge vouchers and priority services.
WestJet Rewards members can also get companion vouchers, which are valid for round-trip travel in Economy or Premium anywhere in WestJet's world, when they spend a certain amount.
Neither WestJet nor Air Canada provides travellers with free lounge access. However, they differ in who can access their lounges and what lounges they offer.
Air Canada is known for their Maple Leaf Lounges, which can be found in 16 airports across Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
Those who qualify for access include business-class ticket holders, Premium Rouge fliers, select Aeroplan members and Air Canada Maple Leaf Club Members.
However, those travelling in Air Canada's Premium Economy, Latitude, Comfort, or Flex fare can also get access by purchasing lounge access, which starts at $49.
Unfortunately, if you're flying in basic economy, you won't have access.
While WestJet has fewer of its own lounges (it offers several partner lounges across Canada, Europe and the Caribbean), the airline does make its lounge more accessible.
WestJet's flagship lounge can be found in Calgary, called the Elevation Lounge.
Those who can get free access to the lounge include platinum, gold and silver WestJet Rewards members and those flying business class on WestJet's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
Holders of lounge passes like Priority Pass, or DragonPass can also access the lounge using their membership benefits.
However, unlike Air Canada, WestJet allows everyone else to purchase access to the lounge. Those travelling with WestJet can pay $59 for access, while those flying with another airline can pay $65.
Those who have a WestJet boarding pass can also get discounts on the walk-in price at their partner lounges.
Air Canada or WestJet, which is better?
Which airline is better suited for flying with comes down to what you want to get out of the experience.
WestJet seems to offer more opportunities for lounge access, as well as exclusive perks like companion vouchers. However, Air Canada has more destinations, which could be a make-or-break factor for your trip.
Price-wise, the airlines seem to offer many of the same deals.
If getting to your destination on time is important to you, you may want to go with WestJet.
According to analytics company Cirium, while Air Canada and WestJet ranked as the worst airlines in North America for delays in 2022, WestJet fared a bit better than its competitor, with 59% of its flights arriving on time compared to 55% of Air Canada's flights.
WestJet beat Air Canada once again in April, with 63.23% of its flights arriving on time, compared to Air Canada's 56.71%.
Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.
These prices are confirmed at the time of publishing, but they can change at any time. Taxes and fees may not be included.