We did something strange for spring break this year… we took a cold weather repositioning cruise up the coast from LA to Vancouver. I’ll write the cruise up later, but more relevant here is that we had to fly back home… and we had plenty of options. In the end, we chose WestJet, and it was… fine. That being said, the airline’s technology should have been better.
My initial thought getting back from Vancouver was to fly Flair. I’ve wanted to fly the airline, but in the end, we opted to go a different route. Why? No, it wasn’t the four airplanes that were repossessed, though that did make me worry just a bit. Instead, it was the very early 7:15am departure from Vancouver to get down to LAX. Considering that we’d have to go through US preclearance in Vancouver, that would be a very early morning. We decided to do something later.
For the same price as Flair once we bought all the add-ons, we could fly WestJet a couple hours later. I’d never flown WestJet before, and even better, this flight went down to Orange County. Even better that that, we could use some old Delta credits to book this as a codeshare. For a mere US$155.72 + $22.56 for a bag per person (that’s total fare, credits reduced it further), we were good to go. I was pleased to see that when I booked as a Delta codeshare, a seat assignment was included too, a nice bonus that I don’t think is always the case when you book via WestJet.
We had a busy couple days in Vancouver to close out the trip, but I did take some time out of our Saturday to get us checked in. It took more time than I expected. Yes, the process worked, and I was even able to scan our passports using the camera on my computer to get them verified. I paid for 4 checked bags as well, but the system was dragging and it was a long wait to process each step.
In the end, I got our boarding passes. Annoyingly, while there was an “add to Apple Wallet option,” there was none for Google. We had no printer available, so I forced my wife to be in charge of the boarding passes with her iPhone.
The next morning, there was the falsely-named Vancouver Sun Run snaking through town, closing the street in front of our hotel and generally wreaking havoc on the rain-soaked city. The hotel was very confused by the whole thing. They told us they could get us a cab, and then they could direct them to the alley behind the hotel, making it seamless. We went with that option, but the cab company they reserved apparently sent the cab an hour early. There was a scramble to get us a cab, and in the end, we had a cab at the front door since they moved the street barricades. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Twenty minutes later, we were at the airport.
We went to the WestJet check-in area where we had to scan our boarding passes to get bag tags printed. Once we self-tagged, we went to the counter where the agent weighed them and asked if we’d had our passports verified. I told the agent that I had verified our passports online during check in and she looked very confused. She took our passports and said she’d just verify them for us, then looked surprised when they showed as verified already. Is this a new thing to verify during check-in? I have no idea.
We then took our bags to drop off before the security area, and then we were directed to go through security itself. My wife and I have Global Entry, but the kids don’t. We did have TSA Precheck on our boarding passes, but for some reason the agent redirected us to the regular line while others flew by. We weren’t in a hurry, so I wasn’t about to make an issue of it, but we were certainly confused.
We slowly snaked our way through the line, again having boarding passes checked multiple times for no apparent reason, before making it to the other side. Then we got into line for US customs and immigration. In all it took about 45 minutes to get through the process which, as I understand it, is pretty damn good.
With plenty of time to kill, we dodged the duty-free shops and laughed at the lengthy line at Tim Hortons with a much shorter one at Starbucks across the way. We may have officially entered the US, but we were most certainly still in Canada.
At the gate, there were repeated announcements both from the agent and from a recording saying that our flight was full and they needed volunteers to check carry-ons. We had nothing for the overhead bins anyway, so I just kept tuning them out.
Boarding began early, about 45 minutes before departure, and there were only 3 zones. The first was for fancy people, the second for rows 14 and back, and the third for rows 13 and forward. We boarded at the end of zone 2, straddling both zones between the four of us but in no hurry to get onboard anyway.
April 16, 2023
➤ Scheduled Departure: 945a
➤ Actual Departure: 1004a
➤ From Gate: E82
➤ Wheels Up: 1016a
➤ From Runway: 8L
To Orange County
➤ Wheels Down: 104p
➤ On Runway: 20R
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 1243p
➤ Actual Arrival: 108p
➤ At Gate: 16
➤ Type: Boeing 737-7CT
➤ Delivered: July 31, 2007
➤ Registered: C-GGWJ, msn 35503
➤ Livery: Original colors
➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 14B
➤ Load: ~99% Full
➤ Flight Time: 2h48m
My first view of our aircraft was of a cracked few decals trying to pitch credit cards, show that wifi existed, and exclaim the airline’s TripAdvisor victory on the outside of the airplane.
On the inside, the airplane looked old as well. The seats were comfy and clean, I’ll give them that.
But the seatback pocket looked like it had held many a water bottle, or something else. It was very stretched out and worn.
The bins were an older style, and they had a WestJet teal stripe alongside them. It all just had a very vintage look.
Once we were seated, I took a minute to admire the inspiring view out the window.
Oh right, I couldn’t see anything. It was raining hard enough that even the Air Canada CRJ-900 next to us was but a blur.
While we were waiting, I learned that to get any sort of entertainment on board, you have to download the WestJet app. Oh fun. I quickly downloaded it to my phone in case the kids needed it. I do not understand why any airline still requires an app download to watch entertainment.
About 10 minutes before departure, the flight attendants announced that we were just waiting for the fuelers and baggage handlers to finish up and then we’d be on our way. It looked like they were done, but we did not move. There wasn’t a single announcement from the pilots before departure, and we ended up pushing back 20 minutes late.
We taxied out to the west end and then launched into the muck heading east. I gave my daughter my phone to watch a movie, but instead I got this from her.
It was a slow but smooth climb up through the weather. We didn’t break out until we were above 30,000 feet. Once we were up there, my daughter did finally try to watch a movie, but alas, it wouldn’t work. When one of the flight attendants came through trying to hawk food, I asked if she had seen this error which popped up every time I selected to play a movie.
She gave me a couple of tips, saying other people further forward had been having different having issues, but this worked for them. It never worked for us. We gave up.
After selling food including the Great Canadian Meat beef jerky — which I chuckled at — the flight attendants came through with a drink service and gave out either cookies or pretzels. I gave them both to my son since he was hungry. I did have a ginger ale — Canada Dry, of course.
I spent the rest of the flight alternating between reading and staring out the window. Crossing over the Sierras was a highlight, seeing so much snow blanketing the peaks from the winter storms.
It was a rowdy group of passengers on the plane with at least one kid talking very loudly much of the flight. (I’m wondering if he had a disability. The family was repeatedly trying to quiet him down to no avail.) And someone nearby must have paid the big C$20+ (I think) for wifi, because he was texting like a madman with his phone making notification noises nonstop.
Though the entertainment didn’t work for me, the moving map did. The weird thing is that it had a pretty inaccurate arrival time. I guess it’s not connected to the flight deck, because at the top of descent the pilots finally came on and told us that we’d be arriving even later than originally thought which in turn was 15 minutes later than the map said.
It was a very hazy day around Southern California, and that was a bummer. The lower we got, the rowdier the passengers became. The decibel level just kept climbing as one group starting trying to talk louder than the next.
As we lined up on final, the pilots pointed the noise down at the same time they slowed us down, giving a strong sinking feeling. That caused people to shriek and shout like they were on a roller coaster, even though it was hardly noticeable or out of the ordinary.
When we landed a couple minutes later, the pilots put the airplane down hard, and again, screams were heard all around. I just shook my head mumbling “what is it with the people on this plane.” The woman in the aisle next to me who hadn’t said anything the whole flight turned and said something like “right? What is going on here?!”
As we got off the airplane, the cockpit door was cracked. I said something along the lines of “I for one appreciate a firm landing on a short runway,” as if apologizing for the other passengers around me. I’m sure they didn’t hear me.
Bags were on the carousel 20 minutes later, and we were on the way home. Not that it needs to be said, but it was far more pleasant leaving Orange County than had we gone to LAX.
Overall, I can’t say I found the WestJet experience overly impressive. It was fine, like I said originally, but the unexplained delay combined with the various tech issues made it all more annoying than it needed to be.