How to use Qantas Points for WestJet flights: avoid expensive domestic flights in Canada

GUIDE: Using Points
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 5 minutes
POSTED: December 16, 2019
UPDATED: December 16, 2019
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Qantas Frequent Flyer

WestJet is a Canadian airline servicing over 100 destinations in Canada, the US, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe.

Since May 2016, Qantas Frequent Flyer members have been able to earn Qantas Points on Westjet flights. And as of late 2017, they have been able to redeem their points for award redemptions on WestJet.

Domestic flights in Canada can be quite expensive, even in Economy Class, so this is a welcome redemption option for those who plan to travel within North America.

In this guide, I explain when using points might be of good value; outline some of the routes and aircraft that WestJet operate; and provide step-by-step instructions on how to make a booking.

Shift from low-cost to full-service carrier

WestJet started off as a low-cost carrier in 1996 but has since morphed into a full-service carrier. It created an ultra-low-cost subsidiary called Swoop in mid-2018, which provides service between Canada and leisure destinations such as Florida, Las Vegas and Mexico. Qantas Points cannot be used on Swoop flights.

This is similar to what Virgin Australia has done, in starting off as low-cost Virgin Blue, then changing to a full-service carrier and launching its ultra-low-cost subsidiary Tigerair Australia, which has become a low-cost subsidiary.

Westjet Disney Airplane
WestJet used to focus on leisure destinations but has expanded its network over the past couple of years

Routes, aircraft and cabins

Routes

WestJet’s hubs are in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. It has focus cities in Edmonton, Halifax and Winnipeg.

Westjet hubs
WestJet’s hubs (in white) and focus cities (in red)

With over 100 destinations, we can’t list them all, but below are some example routes that WestJet flies and how many Qantas Points are needed for a one-way flight. Airports in bold have nonstop flights to/from New Zealand and Australia.

OriginDestinationEconomyPremium Economy*Business*
HalifaxDeer Lake10,00015,000/15,800
VancouverLos Angeles14,00021,000/23,700
VancouverSan Francisco14,00021,000/23,700
TorontoBermuda14,00021,000/23,700
CalgaryToronto20,00030,000/34,500
TorontoVaradero (Cuba)20,00030,000/34,500
EdmontonToronto20,00030,000/34,500
VancouverToronto/Montreal20,00030,000/34,500
CalgaryHouston20,00030,000/34,500
St John'sDublin20,00030,000/34,500
TorontoTurks & Caicos Islands20,00030,000/34,500
Toronto/Calgary/EdmontonLos Angeles20,00030,000/34,500
HonoluluVancouver/Calgary24,50042,000/48,500
CalgaryVaradero (Cuba)24,50042,000/48,500
HalifaxGlasgow24,50042,000/48,500
HalifaxParis24,50042,000/48,500
Vancouver /CalgaryLondon30,20052,500/59,00065,000/75,000

*Pricing for booking made before/after 18 September 2019.

WestJet have a really good timetable feature on their website where you can see all their direct routes, and the days/dates those flights operate. This will help you isolate what days to search for WestJet redemption availability.

Aircraft & cabins

Business Class

There is only one aircraft that WestJet operates that has a real Business Class cabin and that is on their Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

You’ll find an excellent reverse herringbone seat very similar to the one found on Virgin Australia and American Airlines’ 777 aircraft (this video is worth watching if you can get past the awkward smiling stare at the start).

This aircraft can be found mainly on flights between:

  • Calgary and London, Paris, Dublin & Rome
  • Toronto and London
  • Toronto and Calgary
  • Calgary and Maui
  • Vancouver and London (from 26 April 2020)

Interestingly, when WestJet launched this aircraft in mid-2018, it co-opted Qantas’ tagline and font on its livery.

WestJet Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Premium Economy Class

There are four—that’s right, four—different versions of this product, which WestJet just calls ‘Premium’ (it used to be ‘Plus’).

The best one is on the Boeing 737 MAX, which has recliner seats in a 2-2 layout. It’s very similar to what you’d find in Qantas and Virgin Australia Business Class.

The second-best product is on the Dreamliner, which is set up in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Westjet Premium Economy
WestJet Boeing 787 Premium

WestJet has four former Qantas 767s, which feature old recliner seats in a 2-2-2 configuration.

WestJet Boeing 767 Premium

And, finally, the most common version is found on the Boeing 737, which is WestJet’s most used plane. Unfortunately, this is a disappointing product, due to the fact it is just an Economy Class seat with the middle seat blocked, much like on intra-European Business Class flights. This aircraft is due to be retrofitted with the 737 MAX product, but the timeline for this is unknown.

WestJet Boeing 737 Premium

Economy Class

WestJet operates a pretty standard Economy Class cabin, much like you’ll find on other airlines.

Note that the only aircraft to feature seatback entertainment monitors is the Dreamliner. For other flights, be sure to load content onto your device before boarding.

When should I use my Qantas Points for WestJet flights?

Economy Class tickets on flights may be best purchased with cash, unless it is a last-minute purchase or during a peak travel period like summer holidays.

For example, let’s take Vancouver to Montreal. This nonstop flight in August would have cost CA$498:

Vancouver to Montreal Westjet booking

An Economy Class award seat on the same flight would have cost 20,000 Qantas Points + CA$45 in taxes and fees.

When taking into account the exchange rate, this award redemption would, therefore, give you a per-point value of ~2.7 New Zealand cents. This is above our valuation of Qantas Points at 2c a piece, which means I give it the tick of approval.

However, the same flight booked more in advance would only cost CA$263, giving you a much lower per-point value of only 1.3 cents.

So be sure to do your research and target redemptions on flights that have a higher revenue cost.

Award availability considerations

There seems to be plenty of Economy Class award availability with WestJet, with at least two seats available on most days and flights that I searched for.

Booking Westjet Economy Class

However, I was unable to find any award availability for Premium Economy or Business Class travel. Perhaps Qantas members are blocked from using their points for these cabins. Please share in the comments below if you have had success with this.

Do you need to call to book or can you do it online?

It is best to search for and book your WestJet flights online in order to avoid the phone booking fee.

However, if you find that there is a WestJet route unavailable to book online, do phone Qantas, and explain that it could not be found on the website. More often than not, they’ll waive any service fees.

How to redeem Qantas Points for WestJet flights

  1. See if WestJet operates the route with their route maps and timetables
  2. Check points pricing online – either via confirming route distance at Great Circle Mapper and looking at the Classic Partner Flight Reward table, or as part of the booking process on Qantas.com

  3. You’ll see the applicable taxes along with the points pricing as you try to make a booking – if you have enough points in your account

  4. Make sure you book through Qantas.com to avoid phone booking fees

Lounge access

The only WestJet passengers that have complimentary access to airport lounges are those travelling in Business Class on the 787 aircraft.

WestJet currently utilises third-party lounges in airports it flies to. However, they will open their own lounge in Calgary around July-October 2020.

If you’ve got the American Express Platinum Charge or Westpac Airpoints World Mastercard, you’ll receive complimentary Priority Pass membership with these cards, and you can access any lounges available at departure airports, regardless of what airline or class you’re flying.

They include the highly-rated Plaza Premium lounges.

Plaza-premium-vancouver
Plaza Premium (domestic) Lounge Vancouver
Plaza-premium-toronto
Plaza Premium (domestic) Lounge Toronto

Alternative redemption options

There are no other easily accessible redemption options for WestJet.

The most obvious alternative for Kiwis redeeming points for domestic flights in Canada is with Air Canada, using either Airpoints Dollars (APD) or KrisFlyer miles.

One-way Economy Class flights within Canada under 2,000 km cost from 125-150 Airpoints Dollars each, which is really good deal, especially if the revenue cost of the flight is very expensive. You can ‘buy’ these tickets by using a Kiwibank Airpoints credit card.

Business Class rewards over the same distance cost from 250-300 APD.

This is the equivalent of 7,375-8,850 (Economy) and 14,750-17,700 points/miles (Business) with other programmes, using this equalisation method.

If you’ve got access to KrisFlyer miles through everyday spend on an American Express Membership Rewards card, each one-way Economy Class flight within North America on Air Canada will cost a fixed 12,500 miles, and Business Class 23,000 miles.

This makes KrisFlyer rates better value for any flights over 2,000 km, which will typically be the trans-continental routes. Airpoints Dollars are better value on routes less than 2,000km.

Using either Airpoints Dollars or KrisFlyer miles will be a cheaper proposition than using Qantas Points for all domestic routes.

You could also use Asia Miles on Air Canada domestic routes, but the rates are typically equal or higher to that with Airpoints or KrisFlyer.

Summing Up

Canada can be an expensive place to fly around. That’s because they basically have only two full-service airlines and two low-cost airlines in a duopoly structure. Therefore, having the option of using Qantas Points to offset this cost on WestJet flights is a welcome one.

Just note that it will often make sense to use cash to buy an Economy Class ticket – or possibly ‘purchase’ via Airpoints – and save your Qantas Points instead for one of these best uses.

Have you redeemed your Qantas Points for flights with WestJet? Share your experience in the comments below!

Supplementary images courtesy of WestJet and Plaza Premium.

How to use Qantas Points for WestJet flights: avoid expensive domestic flights in Canada was last modified: December 16th, 2019 by Daniel Kinnoch