Last week I flew WestJet for the first time. If you are unfamiliar with WestJet, they are based in Calgary, AB (that’s Alberta, Canada, in case you didn’t know that already), and have flights to many destinations across Canada, USA including Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean. WestJet is not a member of any airline alliance, but you can earn American AAdvantage miles (redeemable miles only, no elite credit here) when flying most routes on WestJet.
The reason I flew WestJet is to visit G, in Vancouver. Although WestJet has several flights daily from LAX, they only have one flight a day from Orange County. Surprisingly, they also had a seat sale for Orange County to Vancouver and I bought my ticket (a day earlier than what I told G to surprise her for Valentines Day).
WestJet’s website (as far as I could figure out) would not let me reserve a seat before check-in; though it did let me at check in 24-hours before departure. In my opinion, WestJet’s website could use a bit of improvement as it was difficult even for me to navigate and find information I wanted. I also, out of curiosity, signed up for WestJet Rewards after I bought my ticket but I couldn’t figure out how to add my trip to the account. It didn’t matter as I was planning on crediting the miles to my American AAdvantage account anyway.
I got to the gate after clearing security with minimal hassle and part of me was actually dreading the flight. The gate area was full of children. I shouldn’t have been so surprised since Orange County airport is so close to Disneyland and WestJet is the only carrier with non-stop flights from Canada. I did not think that it would be a quiet flight.
Even though I wasn’t sure what to expect in-flight, I was still looking forward to getting up to Vancouver and I happily boarded. I also had a funny Twitter exchange with @WestJet before departure, which I’ll get to later. I put my roller-board up in the overhead compartment, my backpack under the seat and sat down. Immediately I was surprised at how much leg room there was! I felt like there was more leg room than the emergency exit rows on some domestic airlines. There was also seat-back screens with satellite TV and movies. Unfortunately, the satellite TV only works in Canada (and I was hoping to catch some hockey talk on TSN). However, since the flight was more than 2.5 hours long, movies were free. Passengers were told which movies were going to be played, but not which channel they were on. The movies are not on-demand so you kind of have to guess which one you’re watching if you didn’t catch the opening credits. Free movies are better than no movies.
There was your standard beverage service; although the non-standard choice of a party-mix type snack or cookies (which were more like British biscuits). I opted for the cookies. I actually try to avoid salt when flying as I am usually somewhat dehydrated as it is and extra salt doesn’t help. The cookies were a welcome alternative. What I was surprised about is that there was not a second beverage service – it was water only. On a flight that’s about 2 hours 30-45 minutes, it would be a nice improvement for WestJet to make.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I did enjoy flying on WestJet. However, I’m honestly not sure I would fly them again. From Orange County, flights are generally more expensive than LAX, and with only one flight a day to Vancouver there’s no choice for flights times. The flight to Vancouver leaves mid-afternoon, which is nice. But the return flight from Vancouver leaves late morning and I like to spend more time with G when I’m there. The alternative is to fly from/to LAX. The downside to that is that it isn’t that convenient for me and Alaska Airlines (also a partner with American) has multiple flights to Vancouver. I would also earn elite qualifying AAdvantage miles on Alaska Airlines.
Is there anything bad about WestJet? Beside the website, nothing at all. All things considered, I’ll agree that flying out of LAX is a tradeoff. As a resident of Orange County, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It would make more sense if I lived in Vancouver due to the flight times. Honestly, I think the only way for me to fly WestJet to Vancouver is if they had another good sale from Orange County. Here’s hoping and only the future can tell.
Back to the exchange I had on Twitter with @WestJet. While I was waiting to board, I tweeted “First time on @WestJet. Not sure if I should have low or high expectations.” They got back to me quickly and said “Bring low expectations. They’re easier for us to beat. ;)”. I assure you my opinions above were not based on low expectations, but I’m not sure I would want my airline to tell its customers to have low expectations. It was a creative response but something irks me about something I’m told to have low expectations about.