westjet paid bins

WestJet now offering controversial paid 'early access' to overhead bins

Low-cost Canadian carrier WestJet came under fire last week after hyping up a new seat option that would let flyers get early access to overhead bins — for an added charge, of course.

Last Thursday, WestJet said it would launch the "Extended Comfort" option on April 10.

Now, passengers who book any economy seat (Basic, Econo, or EconoFlex) onboard the carrier's 737 or 787 aircraft can select the upgrade.

"Conveniently located at the front of the economy cabin, guests will benefit from an enhanced experience that is aligned with WestJet's values of affordability and accessibility," said John Weatherill, WestJet Group's executive vice president and chief commercial officer, in a statement.

Booking an Extended Comfort seat comes with the following perks:

  • Seats with extra legroom (three to six inches)
  • Priority boarding (Zone 2)
  • Early access to overhead bin space
  • Quicker exit upon arrival
  • A distinct section at the front of the Economy cabin
  • A complimentary alcoholic beverage during inflight service (based on flight duration, aircraft type, and destination)

A WestJet spokesperson explained that Extended Comfort prices will start at $30 but can vary based on origin and destination, fare bundle purchased, travel date, and seat location.

Canadians reacted to the new seat option on social media, many accusing the carrier of "continuing to gouge customers for even more money" on Instagram.

Some thought the idea was absurd enough to be a late April Fools' Day joke.

"It's just another money grab for things that never were a problem before," reads another comment on an Instagram post about the seats. "Why would I pay for a storage problem that's not my problem? They get enough of my money."

"Good. Soon we'll be paying for air that we breathe," added another commenter on Instagram.

Other travellers pointed out that the airline might be doing this because "[fewer] people are checking luggage due to high costs."

"Why? Because people refuse to check their bags anymore due to neglect and loss of luggage? So charging them more for the service that should be provided is the way to go?" reads another comment on Instagram.

In response to the backlash, WestJet said in an email statement that it remains committed to increasing the affordability of air travel in Canada.

"Last year, we revealed plans to evolve our seat offerings within our mainline aircraft, giving us the flexibility to serve the diverse needs of Canadians," the airline said.

"The introduction of Extended Comfort is in alignment with this strategy and ensures Canadians are empowered to pick a travel option that best aligns with their travel requirements and budget."

Lead photo by

Pascal Huot / Shutterstock.com

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