WestJet welcomes passengers back for their first flight within Canada

The airline is taking its path to recovery one step at a time, starting with domestic travel before eventually getting back to focusing on its global expansion.
Screen Shot 2021-06-25 at 9.27.51 AM

WestJet is welcoming back Canadian travelers with an emotional look at that first trip within the country that they’ve been forced to put off for nearly a year and half.

Its latest video, “Victoria” is the first brand campaign the airline has launched since the pandemic’s onset, telling a heartwarming story of a newly vaccinated grandparent excited about a trip to visit Victoria. But as his flight makes its final approach to Toronto, it becomes clear that he is not going to visit the city, but his granddaughter, who he is going to meet for the first time.

The campaign will be running heavily on digital video channels, along with traditional broadcast TV, “heavily skewed toward video applications,” says Rob Daintree, WestJet’s director of marketing communications.

Digital ads are driving to WestJet’s booking page, but also to its recently launched “Travel Ready” series. An evolution of its previous pandemic safety messaging, the new series of videos features WestJet’s VP of safety, its new chief medical officer, and some of the airline’s passengers filling the rest of us in about what to expect when they are next hitting the tarmac.

“Victoria” is an extension of the global-minded brand platform “Love Where You’re Going,” developed with AOR Rethink in 2018 but largely put on the backburner lately thanks to travel restrictions.

At the time, the platform reflected enhancements to loyalty programs, procuring new jets, and the airlines’ overall focus on providing the best traveler experience as it continued its transformation from regional to global airline.

“It has been, for obvious reasons, rather quiet for the last 16 months,” Daintree admits, though the airline is seeing positive signals in the marketplace when it comes to airline travel demand and brand sentiment, and is working with strategic partners like Destination Canada and Travel Alberta. “We know that [domestic] travel will be that first trip back for a lot of people.”

With that in mind, the latest campaign is more about putting the WestJet brand back front and centre with Canadians, with the notion of “care” expressed more in terms of facilitating the connections and emotionally relevant trips many people have been forced to postpone.  According to Daintree, it is about positioning that “care” message to Canadians planning their first trip to see friends and family and loved ones, while still making sure safety and reliability are a key part of making those trips happen.

WestJet plans to take its marketing one step at a time as more jurisdictions ease restrictions. After its focus on domestic travel and important personal trips, the airline will turn its focus to leisure travel within North America, before bringing its attention back towards the long-haul routes its global expansion was based around, as well as new ones it has added (the carrier recently announced direct service flights to Amsterdam from Calgary).

And regarding Flight Light, its recently Cannes Lions shorlisted real-time data endeavour to help families stay connected on international flights, Daintree says the carrier is looking at a number of options to actually take it to market, after it got temporarily shelved. While WestJet is currently more focused on brand and business recovery, Flight Light will eventually be re-tabled again, whether that be through a physical light or a mobile application.

“We love the idea and it speaks to our differentiator of care and that premium traveller we are still looking to connect with,” says Daintree.

The “Victoria” campaign spend, Daintree says, is “strong,” but also considerate with the current realities of its business and industry overall. Media Experts handled the media buy.