For the first time that I can recall, I enjoyed my flight. I flew from Vancouver to Toronto yesterday on WestJet. I haven’t flown on WestJet since its early days, but I recall it being fairly pleasant, if not a little basic. But it never really struck enough of a chord with me to fly with them again. Usually I fly with Air Canada (who has somehow managed to find a way to progressively get worse in the face of stiff competition) because I have a points card. I decided to go with WestJet this time because of the departure time available and it was cheaper.
Not expecting much, I was first struck by the difference in their departure gate at YVR. A screening room with lounge chairs to preview upcoming movies, a children’s area anchored by an over-sized cartoonish-looking television, racks of complimentary newspapers, and plenty of seating. After the pre-boarding of children and persons with disabilities, I was expecting the usual “Group 1” being called upon, then “Group 2”, “Group 3”, etc. Does anyone else ever find this annoying? It’s bad enough you’re not in “first-class”, now there’s a class system amongst coach. Maybe I’m just peeved because I always seem to be in the last group. Where’s Sister Rosa?
Instead, the WestJet lady announces over the PA system for all other passengers to please begin boarding now. Single-filed, we all got in without a hitch. When I sat down in my seat, I was excited to see a TV screen looking back at me – my own individual one of the seatback variety. Cool. Never got that on Air Canada or AmericaWest or United Airlines or America Airlines. I’ve gotten use to straining my neck to try and make out the 10-inch washed out screen hanging from the ceiling five rows in front of me. I’m pretty good at it.
Flipped through the channels expecting to see some canned programming, instead I got live Wimbledon quarter finals play on TSN. Very cool, WestJet was broadcasting live television from a Bell ExpressVu satellite. Surely this costs extra? No. Just the movies, which at $5 a pop on a four hour journey is more than reasonable.
After settling in and watching Serena Williams get over-matched by Justine Henin, I started jonesing for a coffee. I didn’t have time to pick up my usual before the flight. The in-flight crew came by with their beverage cart, I asked for a coffee and they gave me cookies with it. And the coffee was actually good. So good, I inspected the cup to see if I could find the culprit: Fratello. Nice.
I was in a groove, and before I knew it, the time had already passed and they were announcing over the PA system that we would be arriving into Toronto 20 minutes early. And then the banter, humour and singing begun. It was such a pleasure to see the staff break away from their usual tired scripts, and entertain their guests. I’ve never seen so many smiling faces in a plane before, particularly before touch-down. From what I can see, WestJet has captured lightening in a bottle. Let’s hope many of the other airlines can find some too.