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I’ve been keeping close tabs on WestJet lately. As many of you know, Canada’s second-largest airline has been making big moves as it seeks to make the step up from a low-cost regional carrier to a full-service airline. As they prepare to launch their new Boeing 787 Dreamliners (complete with a cutting-edge long-haul business class product), the airline must now also improve its WestJet Rewards loyalty program to match its newfound stature as a global carrier.
New Lounge Access Benefits for WestJet Elites
As of today, WestJet has taken a significant step along that journey: WestJet Rewards Platinum and Gold members will now receive unlimited lounge access at 15 airport lounges across Canada, along with additional lounges in the UK and the Caribbean, when flying in any class of travel. These members will receive lounge access not only for themselves, but also for up to five immediate family members when travelling together.
WestJet defines “immediate family members” as follows:
In addition, Silver, Gold, and Platinum members will receive two one-time use vouchers to access these lounges.
This means that for Silver members, who were previously given an allotment of four lounge access vouchers per year, you can now use these extra one-time vouchers to access the lounge additionally either twice on your own, or once while travelling with a companion.
Meanwhile, Gold and Platinum members will have unlimited lounge access for themselves and their family, but if they’re travelling with someone outside the family, they can use these one-time vouchers to invite their companions into the lounge as well.
Lounge access is arguably the most important benefit of any frequent flyer program, and it’s good to see WestJet recognizing that and finally bringing its loyalty program on par with its competitors.
Air Canada’s Altitude program, for example, grants comprehensive worldwide lounge access to its mid-tier Elite 50K members as part of the Star Alliance network, and while it’s unrealistic to expect WestJet to match those offerings just yet, today’s move is certainly a step in the right direction.
How Does Elite Status with WestJet Rewards Work?
I haven’t given much attention to the elite status component of WestJet Rewards, mainly because the spending thresholds mean that there are no real “shortcuts” to earning the higher-tier status levels.
Nevertheless, to summarize it briefly, you’ll earn Silver, Gold, or Platinum status with $3,000, $5,000, or $8,000 in annual qualifying spend with WestJet, respectively. You can find the full details of the status tiers on the WestJet website.
100% of the base fare portion of WestJet flights, as well as 20% of the base price on WestJet Vacations packages, counts towards your elite status qualifying spend. Unfortunately, WestJet’s Member Exclusive fares, which represent an excellent opportunity for redeeming WestJet Dollars, do not count towards qualifying spend.
Meanwhile, if you’re redeeming a WestJet companion voucher, the amount of qualifying spend credited to the companion will be the amount of the co-pay ($99 for domestic/US, $299 for the rest of North America, or $399 for Europe). Remember, you can pick up a WestJet companion voucher as a perk of the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard.
If you travel frequently with WestJet whether for leisure or business, then you’ll want to have WestJet status on your radar. The primary benefits take the form of an increased rewards earning rate (for example, Platinum members earn 8% back in WestJet Dollars on their WestJet flight purchases), but now there’s the added benefit of complimentary lounge access as well.
Which Lounges Can WestJet Members Access?
The full list of lounges where eligible WestJet members can enjoy lounge access can be found on the WestJet website.
The 15 lounges in Canada are spread out across seven cities, and are mostly the Plaza Premium and Swissport lounges in the airport terminals where WestJet operates.
Meanwhile, there are also lounges for WestJet customers flying out of London Gatwick in the UK and Kingston and Montego Bay in Jamaica. I particularly like the No.1 Lounge in Gatwick Airport – I was there many years ago for an early flight, and they served up a mean Eggs Benedict off the à la carte menu.
Looking at the list of lounges more closely, you’ll notice that it overlaps entirely with what’s available via a Priority Pass membership, so you could easily gain access to the same lounges if you held an American Express Platinum Card or American Express Business Platinum Card (although you wouldn’t get to bring in up to five immediate family members).
(Side note: This also means that, frustratingly for Ottawa-based flyers, there still isn’t a lounge in our nation’s capital that can be accessed by non-Air Canada flyers. That’s something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later!)
However, while WestJet’s current list of affiliated lounges might not generate too much excitement, keep in mind that the airline is currently building nine brand-new airport lounges across its global network. When those new lounges open, I suspect that access will be exclusive to WestJet elite members, as well as passengers travelling in their new Boeing 787 business class cabins.
Here’s hoping that WestJet will seek to revolutionize the Canadian airport lounge experience somewhat – after all, if you’re going to make the step up to a globally recognized airline, why not go the full distance?
I’m genuinely excited by the growth trajectory that WestJet has been demonstrating. A fleet of 20 brand-new aircraft and a new lie-flat international business class product were only the beginning; with today’s addition of unlimited lounge access benefits to their Platinum and Gold members, WestJet is demonstrating its commitment to rejuvenating its loyalty program as well. Next up, I’d like to see the airline improve its earning and redeeming structure in order to make WestJet Rewards even more lucrative and engaging for its members.