Three things you can learn from the WestJet / Air Canada checked bag fee

WestJet, Air Canada

WestJet & Air Canada

Ah the great squabble over checked bag fees in Canada. First WestJet tacked on a $25 fee for your first checked bag. The subsequent uproar followed. Then a couple days later – to little or no surprise – Air Canada added the same $25 fee to the first checked bag. Oh what fun!

Looking back – it’s easy to say both companies dropped the ball. It’s not so much the fee, it’s how it was announced. Out of the blue…BANG! You’re paying more, at least that’s the thought process of you and me (the consumer). In reality, you already paid this fee. It was just included in the overall price. Now, airline tickets are less expensive (that’s the plan anyway), and if you want to check a bag, then the $25 fee applies. WestJet came out and said most people don’t check a bag, therefore most people will be SAVING money on airline travel. Unfortunately, there was no lead up to this or education from the folks at WestJet.

Here’s what WestJet could have done:

1) Ran an education campaign leading into the addition of the checked bag fee. In this education campaign they could have told as many consumers as possible about the fee.
2) EXPLAIN why they were adding the fee.
3) EXPLAIN how – in the end – you’ll end up saving money on air travel (if this is the case).

This could have been done in the typical WestJet way by using humour, and honesty. Instead, you were blindsided. It’s like getting woken up in the middle of the night by your wife who tells you she’s divorcing you. Out of the blue…WTF!

You end up saving on travel even with the addition of this fee, but all you notice is another fee from those fuckers in the airline industry. And it’s very difficult to change the brains mind. This easily could have been alleviated by a short EDUCATIONAL campaign by WestJet. Of course, they didn’t alas the public fire-storm.

Here’s what Air Canada could have done:

1) Seeing the WestJet blunder, and the ensuing revolt, jump on the opportunity to say WE DON’T charge baggage fees.
2) Then go on to explain the VALUE you add to the consumer (because an Air Canada ticket will probably be more expensive than a WestJet ticket now).
3) “Yes, we may charge more than the other guys, but here’s why…”
4) “At Air Canada we say NO to fees. While the other guys are saying YES to this that, and everything else, we say NO. There’s a reason why we’re called Air Canada. Because we’re for Canadians. Canadians who say NO to fees.”

It pretty much writes itself. BUT the airline industry failed you again. Both airlines are charging a fee for the first checked bag, and you’re irate because they didn’t educate you on WHY they’re charging the fee.

Here’s what you can take away from these blunders:

1) Follow what your competitors are doing. You may be too busy to do this, but it’s essential that you know what’s going on in the marketplace. To make life easier – set up a Google Alert under your competitors name.
2) When your competition blunders – take advantage. You don’t have to do an outright attack ad (aka political ads), but it’s a great platform to DIFFERENTIATE yourself from your competition.
3) THIS IS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO TELL YOUR STORY. One of the best at this is David Keam from Best Sleep Centre’s in Manitoba. Do yourself a favour by taking a few minutes to check out their website. He educates you on what the market is doing. He’s not schilling his product. He’s giving you the information you need to make an educated buying decision. And he does it by telling a story.

Love you,



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