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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Flight Review: WestJet WS1468/WS1469 YYC-PSP-YYC

I know I mentioned that I don’t post too many flight reviews in my last flight review but I have found time for another one. So I promise that I will not say this anymore. I will just post my flight reviews when I can! Much like the last one I wasn’t planning on this so there are not a lot photos!

Back in August my wife, our two kids and I planned a trip to Palm Springs which we ended up cancelling because our cat, Cirrus, took a turn for the worse with her fight with melanoma. We knew we didn’t have much time with her so we didn’t even question cancelling the trip. It helped that we booked with WestJet as they are the only ones who serve PSP directly from YYC and the cancellations only cost us $50 a ticket. Fast forward to mid-November with a sizable credit sitting in my WestJet travel bank and our beloved Cirrus no longer with us (we had to put her down on September 1st) we decided that we needed to get out of YYC for some sun, relaxing and decent shopping. I found flights that worked for us leaving December 1st, returning the 5th and tried to book them online using the travel bank credit but as the credit was in my name it wouldn’t let me apply it to everyone in the family (apparently a security feature WestJet employs so that credits can’t be misused). I had to call the sales center to make the booking and it was an easy process having the credit applied for the bookings over the phone. The agent also helped in the seat selection option as we had prepaid our seats initially in August which was never refunded to us after cancelling, so she just applied it to this booking.

Fast forward to November 30 and we do our online check-in from home. No problems for my wife or kids but for me I get the message that I had to get my boarding pass at the airport. Great! I had been randomly chosen for a more detailed search at security. We arrived at YYC for the 10:35am flight with time to spare at 7am with the anticipation that U.S. customs and security could take us awhile as we had experienced in the past. Check in was relatively quick and low and behold for the first time I had the “SSSS” notation on my boarding pass. For a quick second I was actually excited as I had never been singled out for a more detailed search but of course that faded as fast as it came as it just meant more time to be spent in security. The family was hungry since we skipped breakfast as we planned on filling up in the Rocky Mountain lounge after security but now with the extra search and the waits we had experienced before we were thinking we may not be lounging it (happened to the family on our annual Maui trip earlier in the year!)

That being said, customs wasn’t as bad as we have seen before around 7am and even with the extra security check we were through by 8am. A quick right turn after security and up the stairs to the Rocky Mountain Lounge. Our Diners Club MasterCards got us in for free and there were only two other people in the lounge when we entered. The breakfast spread is primarily continental breakfast style but overall it was a good selection. They also had sandwiches and other snacks nicely plastic wrapped should we want to grab some for our flight. The next two hours were spent relaxing in the peace and quiet of the lounge, and in the case of my nine year old, reading the newspaper?!??

Reading the comics of course!
With boarding to start at 10am for our flight we leave the lounge a few minutes before that to grab some reading materials and head to our assigned gate C23. The area is packed beyond packed with WestJet guests (do they still call passengers that?) for flights to Phoenix, Orlando, and Palm Springs. The area past C23 was closed for the arrival of a domestic flight that would change over to U.S. control for the Orlando flight. This is exactly the reason why I love lounge access, the comfy seats and peace and quiet of the lounge compared to zoo in the C21-24 area is not even comparable. Ten o’clock arrives and the WestJet gate agent states that boarding for the Palm Springs flight will start shortly at gate C23. Not more than a few minutes after that we see the display for gate C23 switch from Palm Springs to Orlando. Seriously? You’re switching our gate and plane for the Mickey Mouse fanatics? Yup that is exactly what they did. The gate agent came on the PA announcing the change and that the Palm Spring flight was now going to depart from C24, the gate that was closed off from us since it was domestic arrival. They couldn’t tell us a time the gate would open or even when the plane would arrive, just that it would be shortly.  Well we heard those announcements a few times and the plane arrived late from its original destination (I heard London ON but can’t confirm) and once again that the gate area would be open any minute. Well that was a bust since some of the people getting off the plane decided to go to Tim Hortons and/or the bathrooms right in that area which further delayed it.  Once the doors were open at gate C24 WestJet did a pretty good job of getting the plane turned around, security inspected and we were set to board a little after 11am.

Of course the flight was technically late now as the 10:35 scheduled departure time was well eclipsed by the 15 minute on time rule. According to Flight Aware our actual wheels up time was 11:46. This included about a 4-5 plane wait at Runway 28 for arriving flights and one departing flight ahead of us. The flight was on one of WestJet's newest 737-800s, fin # 817 which has the new seats and no inflight entertainment. They did announce at the gate that the plane had no TV's and you could tell a few people were unhappy about that. To me, while I do enjoy in-flight entertainment it wasn't that big of deal, we had reading material, iPods and activities for the kids but I must admit without the IFE or even moving map display the flight felt longer than it should have (see later for actual flying time which was actually quite good).  The flight wasn't very full so the four of us took up all six seats on both sides of the aisle. This set up provided us with ample space and with none of us coming close to being six feet tall, the leg room was fine. The inflight service was OK but nothing spectacular, the flight attendants were so-so with their attitude, not the bubbly joking type seen on WestJet in the past but not evil dragon lady either. Our scheduled arrival time into Palm Springs was 12:36 but of course with our delayed departure we actually arrived into PSP at 13:39. Flying time was just under three hours.

WS1468 YYC-PSP
We enjoyed a a great vacation in Palm Springs based out of the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa (review to follow) but before we know it we were back at PSP for the return flight to YYC. The inbound flight was delayed by about a half hour which of course meant our flight was delayed by about that much.  We had a scheduled departure time of 1:25pm but weren't wheels up until 13:58. The return flight was on a 2010 delivered 737-800, tail number 813 which did have seat back TVs. Since WestJet's live TV option isn't available until almost the Canadian border they provided several movies that are normally pay-per-view for free. Unlike our flight down to PSP this flight was packed. I didn't do a thorough check but it appeared that only a couple of seats may have been open. Once again service was decent for what is provided on 3 hour flights (free non-alcoholic drinks, buy on board food and alcoholic drinks plus the free Cookies or Nuts N Bolts). The flight attendants were indifferent to most people it seemed, not really cheery or friendly and bordering on grumpy. Not really like what everyone seems to rave about with WestJet.  The scheduled arrival time of of 17:33 was missed because the half hour delay but a some time was made up during the flight as our arrival at the gate was at 17:50.  Customs was relatively quick although I still can't wait for Nexus however, should be by June of this year as that is the earliest my whole family could get in together for interviews. Luggage took a bit longer as there were a bunch of flights waiting for luggage in the customs areas but we were lucky enough that we didn't have to wait too long for luggage and we were able to get into the final customs line with only about 10 people in front of us.

WS1469 PSP-YYC
Before these WestJet flights, I had not flown on WS for over a year and half as all my flights have been on Air Canada since March of 2011. I must say that overall I am not as impressed as many people seem to be with them and how they continually berate Air Canada. Who knows, maybe I am a lucky one but all my Air Canada flights are pretty much equal too or better than the WestJet flights I have experienced. Outside of air traffic or weather delays my Air Canada flights are on time and the service at the airports and on board from the flight attendants are just as good if not better than WestJet's. Even my kids seem to prefer Air Canada, and as most parents know, kids tell it like it is and they seem to have preferred their flights on Air Canada. In fact when we told them we were going to Palm Springs, they asked if it was on AC and when told no, it is on WestJet they seemed a little sad. However with that being said, these flights were good and there was nothing really big to complain about. My family and I will definitely fly with WestJet again when the need arises (such as Palm Springs again since we prefer direct flights versus connecting when we can!)

6 comments:

  1. Westjet is all about the marketing and it makes people feel like they must have had a better experience than what actually happened. Air Canada isn't as bad as they are made out, and their IFE is far superior to WJ limited control and selection. In my experience the Westjet travel experience is like lipstick on a sanctimonious pig.

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  2. Ok whatever you say Air Canada.

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  3. Westjet isn't the the old Westjet that we all loved. Since their new CEO took over, it has really gone down hill. It has become like any other airline now, not the fun, reasonably priced and entertaining flights they used to be. You can tell it is all about the bottom line now, not the customer like it used to be.

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  4. WestJet TVs don't work south of the border anyway, even if the aircraft had them

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    1. That is true for their live TV service from Bell but they usually run prerecorded shows on 3 of the channels for flights outside of Canada

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  5. I Flew West Jet for the First time Halifax - Calgary - Victoria return Victoria - Calgary Toronto for business meeting - and it was a nightmare - AC aren't that friendly but with AC I can talk top them and get where I need to be in a reasonable amount of time. Anyways on my return delays in Victoria then once we have boarded the plane the pilot finds and error and we have to deplane, we wait for another flight to come in, they mention my connected to TO wont wait so im screwed - but they will put me up in Calgary (Landing at 1.35am departing at 7am) - of course once on the new plane the pilot says we may not have enough fuel and we wait for a refuel after 30 minutes he mentioned no need to refuel we are good to (IDIOT) then we go to de ice and because the MORON pilot made us wait for fuel we didn't need the de icing crew have left and need to be called back - another 40 minute delay. You guessed it we land in Calgary at 3.30am and I get a cab and hotel voucher - of course the hotel is downtown Calgary (25 minutes away). I book in at 4.10am only to shower and leave again at 5am - For everything that West Jet is supposed to be this is exactly the opposite - I will take my grumpy Air Canada employee any day of the week above this fake West Jet we care BS..oh yes arrived in TO at 13:50 8 hours late and no sleep

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