WestJet Trip Report: Delayed Vacation

It’s crazy to think that 2 months have passed since I got back from Calgary. Usually, I can get a trip-report written up and ready to be published within a week; this time that certainly wasn’t the case. In a way, the months of September and October mirrored the busy summer months of June and July. I really didn’t have a lot of spare time, and the time I did have filled up pretty quickly. Thankfully, I’ve managed to find some spare time between midterms to beat out this trip report and vacation summary; I really hope you’ll enjoy it! I’ve got a backlog of content waiting to come out which I hope to start working on in the next few weeks. Until then, thanks for checking us out!


JJ

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With the summer winding down, it was time for a well-deserved break. Unfortunately, my delayed vacation would be remembered for its delayed return. (Photo: John Jamieson, August 26th, 2018, YYC)

Ok, where was I … talks of a grand family vacation had been going on since the beginning of the summer. Initially, far-flung destinations such as London and Paris were floating around; as a certified “avgeek” things were looking good!

However, as the summer wore on, the idea of traveling 8+ hours overseas for a week seemed less idyllic. Eventually, we decided on a short staycation in Calgary with a side trip out to Banff. As part of the trip, I would have the opportunity to play the Banff Springs Golf Course, one of Canada’s highest-rated public courses; as a golf-nut, this heightened the appeal.

August 22nd, 2018

Flight 1: Vancouver (YVR) to Calgary (YYC)

Flight Number: WS 116

By the time our vacation came around, I was definitely ready for some rest and relaxation. After weeks of work and golf, I clearly wasn’t ready to face a 7 am start. What was meant to be a casual cruise over to the airport soon became a mad-dash as I overslept my planned departure time. Thankfully, having packed in advance the night before, I was able to throw some clothes on and catch the next bus from my apartment to the Canada line station downtown.

With my flight due to board at 8:20, I stepped off the train at 10 past 8 and sprinted to the departure gates. Passing quickly through security, I was able to grab a few photos of the aircraft before stepping onboard Fin #006 (B737-700) for the short hop over to Calgary.

  • Scheduled Departure Time: 9:00 Am
  • Push Back: 8:50 Am
  • Takeoff: 9:15 on Runway 26L
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The international terminal at YVR can be pretty quiet at 8 am. (Photo: John Jamieson, August 22nd, YVR)

Our 1 hour and 4-minute flight over the Canadian Rockies was uneventful. While I can’t remember what I watched on WestJet’s IFE, I’m sure I grabbed a morning coffee to properly wake up.

As we touched down on Runway 35L, it was instantly apparent that the smoky skies which lingered in Vancouver were nowhere to be seen; unfortunately, the smoke would eventually make its way through the mountains settling itself over Calgary for the duration of our stay.

  • Gate to Gate: 1 Hour 34 Minutes
  • Arrival: 11:25 Local Time (MST) perfectly on time.

Vacation Recap:

This ended up being a really fun vacation; things just seemed to fall into place. With little scheduled for the remainder of the day, I decided to phone up a business contact who works in the aviation industry. We were able to meet up for lunch and talk about WestJet’s new corporate logo, Air Canada’s European expansion, and other events ongoing in the industry.

I always enjoy catching up with R.E. In addition to his wealth of knowledge and experience, R.E had a mix of aviation magazines and trade journals for me to take back to Vancouver; I can’t wait to start digging into the material!

What had been a long day, became a relaxing night. After returning to the hotel, it was time for a dip in the pool and a cold brew. With a tee-time scheduled for 1pm in Banff, we’d need to grab a few hours of sleep; this round was going to be special.

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By the time we got to the back 9, the mountains started coming into view.

Banff Springs was spectacular! While the smoky skies spoilt the views slightly, the golf course itself was incredibly fun to play. As an accomplished golfer, I was able to enjoy the curvatures and elevation changes which are unique to Stanley Thompson’s famed design. On the drive back to Calgary I had some time to reflect on my experience at the Banff Springs Golf Club. Should the opportunity arise, I’d love to return to be able to see the course on a clear day to fully take in the mountain vistas. Surely nothing could live up to this on the remainder of the trip.

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Native Calgarians! While the Lemurs aren’t local to Calgary, the WestJet Q-400 certainly is.

Back in Calgary for Friday, we had some time to explore the world-renowned Calgary Zoo. Opened in 1929 along the Bow River a few minutes from downtown, the Calgary Zoo has been recognized as one of Alberta’s most respected organizations and one of the top zoos in the world for conservational research. We had the chance to explore it on a rainy day when large crowds were scarce. This gave us a great opportunity to view the animals at close range without having to fight for space amongst other patrons. We memorably got to get up close with Giraffes, Lions, and the Zoo’s Siberian Tiger. If you visit Calgary I would highly recommend a visit.

August 26th, 2018

Flight 2: Calgary (YYC) to Vancouver (YVR)

Flight Number: WS 137

All too soon it was time to return to Vancouver and 4 consecutive days of hard labor. The vacation had been perfect to this point: Golf, expensive food, relaxation, and a few good brews. However, now things were about to sour.

As we completed the check-in process on Saturday night, I noticed that our departure time had been modified. We were scheduled for a 7:30 pm departure time and WestJet’s app listed the departure time as 22:00; this seemed strange. Initially, we put it down to an Eastern time zone anomaly and decided that we would investigate the matter further at the airport. Upon our arrival at the airport, we examined the departure board for news of our flight. Our flight number, WS 137, was listed as “on-time” set for departure at 7:30, as we expected. Choosing to blindly follow the information provided by the Calgary Airport, we decided to pass through security and make our way to our departure gate.

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A different sight for Calgary “avgeeks”.  This trip presented me with an opportunity to capture my first photos of WestJet Link. (Photo: John Jamieson, August 26th, 2018, YYC)

After making our way through security, we decided to double check the status of our flight with WestJet’s Customer Service team. We were in for a shock.  It turned out that due to Hurricane Lane, WestJet had been forced to relocate aircraft to rescue stranded passengers. One of the aircraft which had been deployed to Honolulu was the aircraft meant for our evening flight to Vancouver. The WestJetter at the desk informed us that our inbound aircraft had been delayed in Hawaii and we should expect some delay on our flight. Unsure exactly what to expect we opted to wait and see how the delay would unfold instead of trying to secure seats on a potentially earlier flight. This was a mistake. Our flight ended up being delayed 5 hours!

Having been through flight delays before, especially during the winter months, I’ve come to accept that there’s no point getting angry at the airlines. Incidents happen and sometimes delays are unavoidable. However, in this case, I feel differently; had the relevant information been available, our decision to pass through security might’ve been different.

From what I learned while speaking with the WestJet customer service rep, the Calgary Airport gets its “live” flight data from a different source than the airlines. At one point, we checked the airport’s app to see if the departure time of our flight had changed and it stated that we had already departed. Had we been given accurate information prior to passing through security, we might have been able to avoid the 5-hour wait in the terminal. The WestJet staff likely knew that our inbound aircraft was delayed and we might have been able to grab food as a family before returning to the airport for our later departure.

I also want to throw a little of the blame at WestJet. While incidents like Hurricane Lane happen, they likely knew in advance that our flight might be delayed. Additionally, the fact that WestJet’s app listed the departure time as 22:00 without any explanation, instilled doubt in the airline’s check-in system.

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With our flight delayed by 5 hours, we had some spare time to explore the Airport… unfortunately, once it got dark, there wasn’t much left to photograph. (Photo: John Jamieson, August 26th, 2018, YYC)

With things eventually sorted, we found a comfortable place to sit and wait for our departure time to be confirmed; at 12: 28 am it was finally time to board the aircraft. Like it’s 168 passengers, our 737-800 had had a long day. After a 12 minute taxi and a sprint down Runway 35L, we were in the air at 12:40 am.

Having spent much of my evening at the Calgary Airport, I wasn’t in much of a mood for reading a magazine or watching a movie on the flight to Vancouver. While I remember grabbing a coffee and a bag of pretzels, there wasn’t much memorable about this hour-long flight to YVR.

At a quarter to one (PST), we touched down on Runway 8R. After a 5 minute taxi, our final gate-to-gate time was 1 hour and 22 minutes; however, our total travel time for the day well exceeded 6 hours. After picking up the car from the short-term lot, I was finally at my apartment by 1:30 am; much, much, later than I had initially expected.

Final Rating:

For these flights, I decided to follow the trend and rate my experience on WestJet out of 10.

Check-In: 8.5

The process was fairly straightforward. We were easily able to access our mobile boarding passes through the WestJet app. The only issue was the confusion over the departure time and an occasional interpretation error.

Booking: NR

While I personally didn’t book these flights, I’ve never had an issue when I’ve previously flown on WestJet. I have yet to book a flight through their app.

Seat: 8

The standard economy class seat. From my previous trip report (see Jet vs Turboprop) I can confirm that the 737 seat pitch is much nicer than on the Dash 8 Q400. I’ll be interested in one-day experiencing Swoop’s offering.

In Flight: 8.5

The cabin crew apologized for the delay, explained the reasoning behind the delay, and were communicative to the standard expected. The meal service was perfectly satisfactory- in line with their competitor’s product.

IFE: 8.5

WestJet has a fairly good selection of movies and tv shows available through their WestJet Connect service. While I’ve never noticed an issue while using the app, some may complain that the IFE is not built into the seat and that it is (at present) not available throughout the fleet.

Crew: 9

WestJet flight attendants have always been professional, friendly, and safety oriented. On this occasion, they performed all the tasks dutifully.

Food: 8

The beverage and snack service is once again in line with their competitors. It should also be noted that WestJet has upgraded the look and substance of its buy-on-board menu. There is a suitable selection of sandwiches, snacks, and spirits (including a craft beer option) now available for purchase.

On-Time: 6.25

While this might be slightly unfair, I feel it necessary to put a burden of the delay on WestJet. Had this been a local weather delay I would probably have been more lenient. It should be noted that when our return flight eventually took off, there were no further delays.

Overall: 8.11

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Despite the unfortunate delay, I’m looking forward to my next trip with WestJet. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to fly on one of their new Boeing 737 Max 8s! (Photo: John Jamieson, August 26th, 2018, YYC)
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