Review: Westjet Airlines B737-6, Abbotsford – Calgary.


Our first flight for this trip would have us departing from one of Vancouver’s smaller regional airports located in the suburban Fraser Valley and outer Lower Mainland regional district. Canada’s second airline: Westjet Airlines came in as an underdog and has pretty much emerged as Canada’s second national carrier. We’d be flying with them extensively on this trip on a carrier that I don’t typically fly on.

This post is one chapter on our trip to the isolated country of Cuba. This trip was planned through Westjet Vacations. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Westjet Airlines B737-6, Abbotsford International Airport – Calgary International Airport.

After a 3 AM wake up, we left the house at about 4 AM for the 40-minute drive to the Abbotsford International Airport. Abbotsford is a bedroom community; a suburb of Vancouver that is about 1 hour and 20 minutes drive from downtown Vancouver. Westjet and Air Canada have attempted flights out of here over the last twenty years with only Westjet surviving with any real frequency. It was absolutely pouring with rain on the drive to the airport. It’s also worth nothing that at the time of this trip, it had rained in Vancouver for 26 out of the last 28 days . We were ready for some dry and sunny weather.

Abbotsford is so small, that there is usually only one flight departing at any one time. We parked the car at the front loading zone and were able to unload the luggage AND check in without worrying about being towed or being detected by an over zealous security guard. I can’t say that it’s always like that, but it was quiet enough at 4 AM that it wasn’t an issue at all. Abbotsford Airport is also a clean and bright facility, which has been spruced up since my last trip through here.

Arriving to Abbotsford International Airport
Entering the Departures Hall
A quiet Departures Hall
A Quiet Place at this Time of the Morning

Checking Into Westjet Airlines:

There were the usual three outstation staff working on this date. We used one of the six kiosks (3 of which partially out of order and were unable to print baggage tags) and self tagged our bags. Westjet was quite strict on the weight and one of our fellow travellers had to re-pack when they were 6 lbs over to usual 50 lbs weight limit. The kiosk was offering upgrades to Plus; the Westjet business class equivalent in an economy seat with a blocked middle seat for this segment only for $50 per person.

Yep – that clock reads 4:45 AM!

With only one restaurant in the public concourse area, we proceeded straight through security to the holding area. There was free wifi in the terminal.

This was one of the last flights where a complimentary printed newspaper was offered

The airport had an unusual flat screen display that featured a display of the runway operations.

Abbotsford Airport Runways
A Small Food Cafeteria on the Secure Side

There were only a few flights on the board today, with the furthest one being Puerto Vallarta, Mexico by Westjet. It’s amazing to think of an airport with only six departures a day.

Six Departures a Day

When it came time to board the flight, Westjet called boarding was called by zones. Our seats were assigned at check in. With seats in row 7, we were in the last zone to be called.

YXX-YYC (Abbotsford International Airport – Calgary International Airport)
WJ 450
November 5, 2016
Booked: Bombardier Q400
Flown: Boeing 737-600
Departure: 6:00 AM
Arrival: 8:20 AM
Today’s Boeing 737-6 YXX-YYC

We were scheduled to be on a Bombardier Q400, but they up gauged the plane as we got onto an older, and quite worn, Boeing 737-600. For about 15 years, Westjet followed the Southwest model of having only Boeing 737 aircraft. They have recently branched out and acquired some used Boeing 767’s and some Bombardier Q400’s for their smaller markets.

Time to Board

On Board Westjet Airlines:

The Westjet Airlines do not offer a true business class seat in their mainline aircraft. They offer a European styled product with a blocked middle seat. I took a glance at their business class “plus” seats as we shuffled back to our assigned seats.

It’s certainly a seat that I can’t get too excited about but similar to the business class offering in Europe. The up charge to plus for our package was $1,100 CAD per person, although they were being sold at the kiosk for $50 CAD for this short segment at check in.

Westjet Plus Business Class

We found our seats in Row 7. The seats were leather covered and reasonably comfortable.

Westjet Economy Class Seating

The seats had in-back television screens, along with an older credit card machine reader.

In Back Seat Entertainment

There was a somewhat dated in flight moving map display. The map contained a lot of low resolution detail. I had not seen the Geo Nova brand on other carriers before so it was refreshing to see something a little bit different.

GEo Nova Moving Map Display

We had a slow departure today. The poor ramp attendants on the apron must have gotten completely trenched as it was pouring with rain outside.

Rain Everywhere this Morning…

Along with the wet climb, we seemed to have a bit of sleeting snow on the way up. The departure spotlights from the plane lit the snow quite a bit for a cool effect.

…along with some snow

There was free television today from the seat back monitors. I settled on something light.

Easy Watching Cartoons

Food and Beverage Service: A Hot Beverage & Pretzels

There was a coffee and water service with pretzels and water offered. I was pretty sleepy so I didn’t partake.

We had a morning light landing in Calgary with a nice sunrise over clear skies.

Sunrise in Calgary
On Short Final into YYC

We landed at Calgary International Airport. We taxied to gate D70 in the brand new international terminal.

We had carry on’s and for the first time in as long as I can remember, we were run over by mothers and grandmothers in the aisle as they pushed past us from rows behind us to get off the plane while we were bringing our carry ons’ down from the overhead bins. It made me somewhat long for the orderliness and familiarity of the business travellers on Air Canada.

Views of Calgary International Airport Marriott

We would disembark and get head onwards to Westjet Airlines Calgary – Varadero on a connecting flight.

My Thoughts on the Air France Experience:

Overall, Westjet has a more cheerful attitude than the legacy carriers. Most of its employees own stock in the company and their motto is “Owners Care”. The compensation system really shows through in the service levels. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be catering to the business travellers all too much. As such, the flights are filled with family travellers, which can tend to make the seasoned traveler like my self a little irritated – especially on these 4 AM flights!

If you’ve fly within Canada, is Westjet your choice over Air Canada ?

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