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For Canadians, do you prefer WestJet or Air Canada to Europe?

I'm piggybacking off another question on this forum about transtlantic flights from the US. What about us Canadians on this forum? WestJet, AirCanada or one of the European carriers? Out of Calgary I can fly direct to London, Paris or Rome via WestJet but have to connect out of Toronto or Montreal for those cities via Air Canada. Overall, Air Canada offers more destinations but with a connection if flying from the West. British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa are the major carriers that I can get direct flights from Calgary and so I keep them in the mix as well; I haven't flown with them yet but I hear people rave about the KLM flight from Calgary to Amsterdam. As far as comfort goes, I'll take WestJet's new Dreamliners in a heartbeat over the others.

So fellow Canadians, how do the rest of you determine which airline to Europe best fits your needs?

Posted by
423 posts

I'll jump in. I depends where we want to go. We are an hour's flight to Vancouver, so we try to fly non-stop when leaving YVR. I once won a free flight from WJ anywhere in their world, so we actually flew WJ direct to Gatwick from Calgary and were very happy with the comfort and flight. You preorder your food. Gatwick is a great airport if you're going to the UK. Easy access to London via train or Gatwick Express.

We just flew AC to Dublin from YVR and return from Heathrow. We paid for exit row/bulk head seats and they were worth every penny. Good service and very nice flight. A couple of years ago we flew direct YVR to Amsterdam with KLM and Paris to YVR with Air France. Both were great flights, good service and very comfortable. We've been less enamored with Lufthansa over the years. We used to love flying with Lufthansa, but not so much any more.

Price, comfort and pre-selection of seats (my husband is 6'3"), location are all factors in our selection.

Posted by
3665 posts

Coming from Ottawa, considered a back water by so many services - airlines included, it is rare to get a direct flight to least when I am looking. I primarily use Air Canada usually because until recently I had an Aeroplan credit card so there was that incentive. The few time I travel West Jet I say 'never again' and that isn't even overseas just Canada or US. I have used BA and KLM as well as Turkish Air and AirFrance to Europe or Africa. I may have flown others as code shares with AC but I rarely find any significant service difference...except Turkish Air where I felt the food and service was better. Air Canada also has Dreamliners, but as every airline can do their own configuration, I am not sure whether they are the same as WestJet. I also can't comment on the comfort an extra 7 inches of height will get as despite some height, my legs actually comfortably fit in Economy so that is all I budget for.
As far as choosing, I use Matrix ITA for my dates, filter to time of day I need/want then look at price. I tend to want 3 hrs for transfers and won't go for any with really long layovers unless I am in a position to then extend the layover for a short visit to a new city. Most of the time, AC can match the time and for the points accrued, I'll accept a slight cost increase.
For North American flights, I have rarely seen WestJet that much cheaper - except the time I could fly return to San
Francisco return for under $350Cdn. But they changed the flights and it ended up being 12 hours and 3 flights of pain. Not impressed.

Posted by
31216 posts


I use Air Canada almost exclusively for flights to Europe due to the fact that most of the time connections are required with a regional carrier to get me to the final destination. Air Canada's Star Alliance partners provide a seamless connection, and I only have to check my luggage once, and it's waiting for me at the final destination.

I used a KLM / WestJet connection on one trip, but I found it a bit cumbersome as it meant arriving in Amsterdam which was far from my ultimate destination. Now that WestJet has a partnership with easyJet, I'm not sure whether that partnership will work any better? From what I've seen so far, it's not clear whether this new arrangement means I'd have to collect my luggage on arrival at Gatwick and then recheck on easyJet, or whether it would be sent direct to final destination? I should add that I used WestJet on a flight from B.C. to the Maritimes, and I wasn't impressed.

On more recent flights to Europe, I've paid for Premium Economy with Air Canada, although it's expensive. Especially on Air Canada Rouge, that makes for a much more comfortable flight, more leg room, better food and a few other perks. I have an Aeroplan points card so that's another thing that encourages me to travel with Air Canada.

Posted by
1665 posts

The few time I travel West Jet I say 'never again'

In the past, I've always had the opposite opinion and never had a desire to consider Air Canada. 17 or 18 years ago, AC bumped my family on a direct flight from LAX to YYC and instead put us on an LAX to SFO to YYC connection AND switched seating for my wife and my 2 kids-aged 4 and 6 at the time to different sections of the plane-none of us were together. I was told bluntly to figure it out myself once I got on the plane. We never flew Air Canada again until 3 years ago when we realized it was our best choice to Venice. Service was reliable both ways, but we did have to jump through some hoops to get seat assignment together for the return home. Seat changes and dificulties that I've never experienced with WestJet.

Having said that though, I've noticed with the WestJet sale to Onex that it is now acting like a major airline and less like that spunky airline that did what it took to earn your business. I do have a WestJet Mastercard and it's still my airline of choice in North America, but I do shop around when heading to Europe.

Posted by
327 posts

Hmm. It depends where we're going. From Edmonton, our best service to Europe is KLM non-stop to Amsterdam, Condor non-stop to Frankfurt, or Icelandair (one stop in Reykjavik) to many UK and European destinations. If we're using Air Canada (not AC Rouge), we prefer to fly Edmonton to Montreal and change planes there en route to Europe (have never been fond of connections in Toronto).
I have not yet had the opportunity to try Westjet's new Dreamliners, but from past experience, KLM, Icelandair, and AC would be our preferences. (It's not Europe but Westjet has changed our January flights from Hawaii 3 times in the last two months - not impressed! )

Posted by
1177 posts

We avoid WestJet. They stranded us in Miami once, and I hate their "jokes" they think are so clever to tell over the announcements. They told a horrendous anti-French Canadian one once. I was stunned.

I actually prefer Air Transat but find myself on Air Canada a lot due to the wider variety of destinations.

All that said, if I found the right route at the right price, I'd book it regardless of airline.

Posted by
416 posts

I've never really seen WestJet in any searches from Vancouver to our destinations in Europe ( ..these days Eastern Europe) but do see many Air Canada flights or AC code share flights. I use ITA Matrix and Skyscanner to search, then book directly with the airline. We've most often used Air France/KLM but starting to look at Lufthansa again as more often they are a little less money. It takes so long to build enough miles to be meaningful and they do expire so if you bounce between too many airlines you get nowhere.

Outside of our Regional carrier (YYE - YXS - YVR) we tend to use Air Canada exclusively within Canada. At 6'3" I've found West Jet seats uncomfortable on a couple domestic flights over the years.

Posted by
183 posts

From Vancouver I prefer to fly with any European airline direct to Europe and then make connections there. Connecting through Toronto or Montreal adds hours to the trip (but sometimes is necessary). Over the years we've used British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Luftansa, and Swiss -- all very nice. My daughter raves about Air France. The only one we didn't like was Alitalia.

The Air Canada flights to Europe are better than their domestic flights or flights to the Caribbean, but I still prefer the other airlines I've mentioned. We've never flown West Jet to Europe so I can't comment.

Posted by
3665 posts

I just did a test on MatrixITA for random flights Ottawa to London in February. WestJet does appear and $350 cheaper than AirCanada, but also over 15 hours! AC flights are as short as 9 hours out and 8 hour direct flight back. So, trade off of cost vs time. As I am only buying one ticket, I know which is more important to me.

Posted by
1665 posts

WestJet does appear $350 cheaper than AirCanada, but also over 15

I assume the AC flight is direct? That's why WestJet is my choice from Calgary. 8.5 hours to London or Paris, Air Canada requires a connection in Toronto or Montreal, resulting in it being the 15 hour option. Direct flights to Rome were just announced and so I'm sure WJ will be my choice to there as well.

Next May we're using WJ to Glasgow, connecting through Halifax. We went back and forth between that and KLM via Amsterdam; which was about 3 hours faster but because of my WJ dollars and companion fares I got the flights at pretty much 2 for 1, so I guess I do have a point where price wins.

Posted by
3500 posts

Comparisons grow more complicated as WestJet, under new ownership, drops its suggestion of being a "budget" airline, diversifies its fleet, and builds connections with other airlines, while Air Canada takes over Air Transat. And as a previous post mentioned, service on Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge can vary in some ways. My first concerns are cost, connections if any, and length of trip, rather than the logo on the tail of the plane.

Posted by
812 posts

Allan, you didn't mention the daily non-stop AC flight from Calgary to Frankfurt. That's my normal first choice as Frankfurt has so many connection options. And it's either a 787 or 777, so a comfortable flight.

Posted by
1665 posts

Nelly, I did forget that was actually an Air Canada flight when I listed Lufthansa, I forgot that it was a code share using Air Canada.