A Step Back in Time on WestJet From Vancouver (Trip Report)

Trip Reports, Westjet

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.

WestJet 1754
April 16, 2023

From Vancouver
➤ 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.

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39 comments on “A Step Back in Time on WestJet From Vancouver (Trip Report)

  1. What does this mean, the first line of your report?

    We didn’t something strange for spring break this year

    Please edit/ proofread before posting.

    1. I for one appreciate thousands of words of free content every year, and am able to look through the occasional typographical error, on a short runway.

        1. Who, exactly, are you to tell Brett, who has provided us with informative, fun, and free content for years, to either meet your exalted standards or just give up on writing something? Politely pointing out a grammatical error is well and fine, but your tone here is arrogant and dismissive.

          Put another way: do you publish a free blog with high-quality, insightful content? If so, where is it and what’s the over/under on how long it will take me to find a grammatical error?

    2. This is why Cranky should have an upvote/downvote button to shame posters like Jason that distract from his quality, FREE content

  2. “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.”

    In Canada, wouldn’t it be referred to as just “Dry?”

  3. Heh, I’d go to Tim Horton’s too – not only can you get coffee without selling a body part and with normal size names, you can get some Timbits to go with it.

    (For those not familiar, Timbits are like Munchkins at Dunkin Donuts. IMO Timbits are better, but there is considerable internet debate on this subject. Not as fierce as, say, which Star Trek series is the best – the correct answer is DS9, of course – but not insignificant either.)

      1. Donut holes, basically. They pretty much taste like donuts, just in slightly more concentrated form.

      1. Well, we agree on the important part! And I only eat the little frosted (or chocolate) carb bombs if someone else brings them to work, or if I’m at a Canadian airport.

  4. The fun part about flights to Canada is you can be pretty disappointed by Air Canada or really disappointed by West Jet.

  5. Welcome to Vancouver, Brett and family! Your readers should understand that it does not rain all the time, Why, I remember one day in 1952…..

    As for WestJet, we don’t see ads any more about happy, non-union WestJetters, owners of the company, bending over backwards to look after their ‘guests’. I’ve said it before, WestJet looks more like Air Canada every day. Which is good news for Air Canada. It was inevitable. All those young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new staff have now been at it for 27 years. It ain’t the same and now it got bought out by ONEX, so it’s owned in Toronto, not Calgary.

    And thank you for trying to drink Canada dry.

    1. For the record, the day we arrived in Vancouver was spectacular and sunny.
      It was a glorious day to be outside, and we went to Capilano suspension bridge park. What a day… then it poured all weekend.

  6. Typical WestJet. They’re stuck in the 90s in so many ways. Now that Delta has abandoned YEG we’re forced to fly WJ. WJ isn’t worthy of being a Delta partner.

  7. We cleared US immigration in Vancouver last year. That wasn’t a problem but Canadian immigration was. Good thing we had a 4 hour layover between our flight from AMS and PDX. Never again.

  8. TSA Precheck means nothing in Canada (since Canada doesn’t have TSA, but rather CATSA). Westjet (and AC) participate in TSA Precheck for US departing flights, so TSA Precheck will still show up on your ticket.

    For expedited security in Canada, NEXUS is your golden ticket.

  9. Flew WestJet from LGA to YYZ recently. The airplane, the cabin, the service, and the branding all felt like I had stepped back to 1996. It was fine. On time. Not bad. Not amazing.

  10. You mentioned Flair. I’ve been on three Flair flights this April and they were on average fine relative to (low) expectations. Generally young staff that did their jobs pleasantly. Equipment was no-frills 737-800. Passengers seemed like the typical mix for a no-frills experience (bring your own offline entertainment). I had exit row seats with plenty of room. The first flight was Easter Monday and PACKED with young kids. Headphones were a necessity! The third flight though was the most bizarre due to the passenger seated directly behind me. I think he had psychological challenges. He had mis-seated himself near the front of the cabin and when directed to his row, arrived swearing at the passengers already seated in the row to get out of his seat. He talked non-stop as though the words came out of his mouth before his brain had a chance to realize it (headphones again to the rescue) and couldn’t sit still. To top it off, he got into at least a couple verbal altercations with the aircrew each time he left his seat. On arrival (YYC-YYZ) there was an announcement that it was VERY IMPORTANT we all stay seated until told otherwise, which isn’t that unusual because sometimes the plane stops short of the gate. But then we sat at the gate ~10 or so minutes. Then a couple police officers strolled down the aisle and stopped at the row behind me and escorted the the fellow behind me off the plane… First time I’ve experienced that after decades of flights! These Flair flights were part of a fairly large group and some in our group had to make flight changes midway through travel. Bookings were on Flair’s highest tier that allowed changes, but apparently the website didn’t work when trying to apply flight credit to a new booking. Trying to get a customer service rep on the phone literally took some a couple days and others never got through. Bottom line seems to be Flair is alright if you don’t have to make changes and/or deal with customer service for assistance. On the flip side, I also had one flight on Porter during this time, YYZ-YEG on one of their new E195-E2s and out of the blue at the gate received a complementary upgrade to Porter Reserve (front of the cabin with 36″ legroom). With the complementary meal and abundant choices of snacks and beverages (also the case if in regular economy), it felt like a much more refined, civilized, slightly hipster experience. At least it seemed like someone at Porter put thought into creating an enjoyable experience, even if they went a little overboard on some of the finer details.

  11. To clarify a couple things, you cannot use Nexus (TSApre) unless everyone in your party has been cleared. You said your kids were not listed.

    There are two tim Hortons. Everyone sees the first one and lines up but closer to the 80 and higher gates is another and the line is always much shorter.

    1. Martin – So, this is where I don’t quite understand. The sign said Global Entry, Nexus, TSA Precheck and had some other things on there. (I wish I took a pic.) So if it’s not actually accepting TSA, why say that on the sign? I just found it confusing, and I’m probably less confused than most American travelers.

      1. Is it possible that the agent just didn’t notice the Pre logo on your boarding pass? I’ve had that happen a few times at various US airports, and after pointing it out they direct me to the Pre line.

        1. Ji – Entirely possible. I’m just very confused by the whole Canadian process, so I’m pretty sure ANYTHING is possible.

      2. It does accept TSApre, but that has to show up on all boarding passes in the group. If one of your group does not have it you all get turned back. Or at least that is the way I understand it.

  12. So, Canada *just* started doing “redress” and collecting passenger data for domestic flights (like TSA does – date of birth, gender, name) before flight time, but I don’t believe they have rolled out a Pre-check for domestic flights yet.

    TSA Precheck still shows up on your boarding pass out of sheer IT laziness (all airlines). Its not inhibited for Canada because the Pectabs (system layout/design) of bag tags & boarding passes is notoriously hard to change and update (for what its worth, Alaska Airlines has like 15 different designs to handle all of the different common-use systems, airports, etc). So the airlines just leave it there. Anytime your information has been sent to the TSA/DHS, and the airline gets a positive flag for Precheck, it will appear on your boarding pass (but if you are flying, lets say YVR-YEG, it won’t appear).

    TSA Precheck *should* grant you access to the shorter CATSA Trusted Traveler lane. Its like Pre-Check light. But as someone stated, unless everyone in your party has it, they’ll point you to the regular line.

    The reason Canada scans your boarding pass so much is for security. CATSA also maintains images of your carry-ons for like 14 days after travel if you are flying out of an airport with a pre-screening boarding pass reader as you go thru security.

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