I flew to Toronto seated behind a Pomeranian whose balls are different sizes.
OK, before we go further – yes, this is an airline review. But it’s not one of those airline reviews were someone tells you the plane’s registration number, lists which taxiways the pilot used and snivels that the canapes served in business class didn’t meet his standards. That’s a smooth jazz airline review. No, this airline review is heavy metal. You won’t get the jargon and the standard avgeek formula. But I will give you a perfect idea of what to expect from flying on WestJet, a Canada-based airline that gets passengers from Hawaii to Glasgow, mainly through hubs in Toronto and Vancouver.
Alright, we have to address the Pomeranian in the cabin. First off, I did not verify the owner’s claims. See, this Pomeranian was a show dog with world-champion parents. But it didn’t reach Ma and Pop’s lofty heights because of the mismatched marbles. So the owner told me. I actually didn’t know the Pomeranian was present until the flight attendants started cooing over the creature. I grew up with a Pomeranian – the same color as this one – so I had to jump into the conversation. As you can tell, the owners were the oversharing sort.
This little encounter tells you something: The WestJet crew on Flight 1136 that day was particularly friendly and engaging. Compliment somebody’s dog, and you have a new best friend.
OK, let’s take a step back to before Flight 1187 took off
This was a work trip, so someone at my organization booked the flights. But I decided to create an account with Westjet, and I noticed that an upgrade into the Plus seats would cost only $35. That got me extra legroom, some free food and a few other perks.
I started off at a self check-in kiosk at Phoenix Sky Harbor (Somewhat) International Airport. It wasn’t working, so a friendly nearby WestJet employee directed me to the desk. There, an employee checked me in and said “there won’t be a ‘1’ in front of the temperature.” No doubt, my friend!
I was in the security line with what I assume to be the WestJet crew. The captain and copilot both vaguely resembled Tony Hale (They’re both going to read this and be like “I knew we should’ve kicked that jerk off the plane.” But guys, c’mon – when does Buster Bluth not steal every single scene in Arrested Development?). They were also bantering with nearby passengers and just seemed unusually outgoing.
Once onboard, I had an entire row to myself. We pushed back 10 minutes ahead of time and I enjoyed a funny safety briefing that included the phrase “if you get bored of me, there are six exits throughout the aircraft.” All the jocularity reminded me of flying Qantas.
By the time we arrived in New Mexico, I had a cold turkey and provolone sandwich and the flight attendant was trying to talk me into a cookie. The crew passed through regularly and always seemed chipper – far more so than their counterparts on the big US-based airlines, on the average (I’ve had some wonderful crews on every airline, but most of been perfunctory to slightly grumpy and haggard). I remember one of the flight attendants being extra-patient as she grabbed a passenger’s cane from the overhead bin to help her to the lavatory.
You’ve probably forgotten about the Pomeranian by now. Well, so had I. It was stuffed in its carrier, which was then stuff under a seat – a perfect place for a Pomeranian (Editor’s Note: Kidding! Remember, I had a Pomeranian! And why am I saying “editor’s note”? The writer is the editor is the publisher is the IT guy.). Regardless, nary a yap did it utter. Apparently, the dog likes people, but isn’t keen on being touched by anyone but its owners. It’s a showdog … it’s [expletive delete] hair falls out.
I slept a bit, read a bit and we landed. As we came to a stop at the gate and waiting to unbuckle our seat belts, the FA had one more little quip: “Wait for it … Ding!”
By the way, Toronto Pearson International Airport is a real-deal international airport. You’ll see Cathay Pacific, China Southern Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Transat, Icelandair and many other airlines headed to places all around the globe.
Soon, I was on my way to downtown Toronto to find the Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Center. From there, I set off on-foot to get some first impressions of Toronto.
The Return Trip: WestJet Flight 1186
I was at the airport waaaaaaaaay early for this flight. I made the mistake of going through security way too soon and being cooped up behind the “Going to America” section. So I didn’t get to roam the airport the way I like to do. This whole thing of pre-checking American travelers through US Customs before the flight is kind of nice – but the unwary can get stuck in a small slice of airport. So keep that in mind. The immigrations, customs, WestJet and security officials were all exceptionally articulate and friendly. Smiles and some humor were not in short supply.
Anyway, I wound up hungry and penned into the Going to the US Only section. I had a decent burger at some place whose names I forgot (it was overcooked a tiny bit for my taste) and a decent-but-forgettable IPA to go along with it.
Flight 1186 was about 10 minutes late to show up, and it took the crew a bit longer to turn the plane around. Still, we arrive only about 20 minutes late.
But I’m gettin’ ahead of myself. I ponied up 50 extra bones or clams or whatever you call them for Plus seating again; I didn’t get a whole row to myself, but we had a wonderfully empty middle seat. The flight crew was again friendly, with the two flight attendants both named Ashley making jokes about their shared name.
This time around, I got a chicken wrap (watch out for pieces of chicken slipping from the bottom of the wrap, those wily buggers) that was also decent. I really liked the cheese platter of brie, sliced salami and some sort of whole-wheat crackers. I had filled my infamous 32-ounce Nalgene bottle before boarding, so I was set for drinks. I noticed this place had the fuselage blister that usually means “Internet.” But I didn’t see it mentioned anywhere in the seat pocket information – so maybe it was just for the in-seat entertainment. I watched a few movies and an episode of The Simpsons during the four-hour flight.
We landed. I got off the plane as quickly as people do in the third row. I thanked the crew for another nice flight.
So will I fly WestJet again?
Oh, you betcha. I’m going somewhere served by WestJet, I’m picking them. They’re pretty punctual, the crews are friendly, the entertainment is decent, the food is slightly very good for a glorified domestic flight.
Here’s the thing: It seems like there’s some sort of partnership with American Airlines. I have to figure out the details of that to see if I can make future WestJet flights work well for me from an air miles standpoint. I horde miles like Smaug hordes gold. I never miss a chance to collect more.
From a pure customer experience standpoint, WestJet is a winner across the board – an easy-to-use website, great employees on the ground and in the air, shiny-clean aircraft and competitive prices.
Wandering Justin has another blog project in the works. It would be great if you’d check it out and share it around the Web! I also have plenty of other airline reviews and thoughts. See some of them here.
Disclaimer: IHG provided my accommodations in Toronto.