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'A bit of a bait-and-switch': Air passenger advocate criticizes WestJet's UltraBasic fare


WestJet's new fare option is not taking off with an air passenger rights advocate.

On Tuesday, the airline announced its UltraBasic fare, the lowest-priced of its fare categories.

Those flying UltraBasic will sit in pre-assigned seats at the back of the place, and will have to pay extra to select a seat, even when checking in. They will also board the plane last.

The passengers flying UltraBasic are also not allowed to stow a carry-on bag in the overhead bins, unless they choose to pay extra. However, UltraBasic passengers can bring a personal item that can be stored under the seat, and carry-ons are allowed for trans-ocean routes.

“We are committed to air travel affordability, and UltraBasic is an innovative cost-effective solution that strengthens WestJet’s ability to offer guests budget-friendly airfares to more destinations,” said John Weatherill, WestJet group executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, said in an online statement.

Gabor Lukacs, an air passenger rights advocate in Canada, has criticized WestJet's decision.

"I would never buy such a fare, and I recommend passengers to avoid it," he told CTV News Winnipeg's Maralee Caruso in an interview. "Not having a carry-on at all and no baggage at all is something that would be impractical on most flights, and it is a bit of a bait and switch, because as a passenger, you assume that this is all you are going to have to pay, but then you show up at the airport and it's likely going to cost you way more."

Lukacs said he is worried other airlines in Canada will follow suit.

"I am concerned that more airlines may be adopting this type of bait-and-switch method to attract inexperienced travellers who may not fully understand what they are buying, what they are paying for, and that it is going to cost them more later on," he said.

Watch the full interview in the above space, including Lukacs' response on whether the fares circumvent the Air Passenger Bill of Rights. Top Stories

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