Ok everybody get ready for the toilet paper race!
Well I have to admit thats the first time I ever heard that yelled out on an airplane, at least by one of the flight attendants. Mind it was also the first time Ive ever flown on Westjet.
I was presently surprised when I found out that the carrier for our recent trip to Sint Maarten was going to be this upstart little Canadian airline. Actually I was shocked, as I didnt know that they had any international flights. Contrary to popular belief Fort McMurray or Grande Prairie in northern Alberta are not international flights, they just seem like it some times.
This summer though Air Transat Vacations, which is part of Air Transat, hired some of Westjets planes complete with crews for some of their southern destinations. If I thought I was happy about it, imagine how the crew were. They literally raced us off the plane at Princess Juliana International Airport to make the most of their 45-minute layover and hit the duty free. Hey it beats grabbing a coffee in Fort McMurray.
Westjet is a western Canadian based airline that started operation in 1996 with three planes offering services to five western Canadian cities. Since that time they have expanded to a fleet of 14 aircraft all new Boeing 737/200s or 737/700s and 26 destinations across Canada. True to their origins most of their service was/is geared to Western Canada.
In 2000 they began somewhat limited service in eastern Canada with Hamilton as a hub. Since then they have gradually expanded their service in the eastern half of the country. In 2003 with the addition of regular flights to Gander and St. Johns Newfoundland they are now truly a national airline serving Canada from coast to coast.
Westjets success and growth have been phenomenal. Much of this is the result of offering what their chief competition Air Canada has been unable to do, reliable and friendly service at a reasonable cost. They also seem to really enjoy tweaking the government subsidised official carrier's tail feathers too.
Our flight from was Im sure a typical Westjet experience. Toronto to St Maarten is about 4 ½ hours and we were on a 737/700. The flight down left and arrived on time. The return flight was late by about 15 minutes and then a couple of late boarding passengers delayed us further. Considering that delays on Air Transat the carrier I expected to be are the norm, this was more than acceptable.
Westjet is a budget or no frills airline and this was evident on the flight. The plane was configured with only one class, no separate business class, with seating for 141. I was impressed by the overall cleanliness of the plane and the fact that all the seats were leather rather than cloth.
The first thing I did notice was the absence of any video monitors for in flight movies and even plug in receptacles for headsets in the arm rests. Westjet it turns out does not offer these features. Thats ok for a quick business hop, but a four-hour plus flight can drag a bit. They did offer Toronto papers on the return leg. I have a feeling that this rather than standard procedure was the result of the initiative of some of the cabin staff who probably picked them up at Pearson for us.
Another thing they dont usually offer is in flight meals. They do however have a full bar service and snacks. For our flight a sandwich box lunch provide by Air Transat was served both down and back. Talking to some of the flight attendants I discovered that they of course are not used to serving meals, but they seemed to improvise just fine.
So what do you do on a four-hour flight with no movies or music? Well if you didnt bring a good book or feel like catching a nap, dont worry the crew will entertain you.
Because there are no video screens, you are spared the standard boring safety video that has become the industry standard. This one is done live completed with jokes and ad-libs that actually have you paying attention.
The ad-libs and jokes continue throughout the flight and I wished I had a tape recorder, as some of it was the funniest material Ive heard in a long time. Who else can refer to the toilets as "aromatheraphy spas?" On the flight home we were even serenaded by one of the flight attendants.
In addition to this there were the games. Guessing the combined ages of the flight crew, and/or their names provided you with a bottle of champagne or a secret loot bag. Dont want to play along, well you could always ask the flight attendants for crayons. They have a supply and colouring books too.
Then there was the toilet paper race. The right and left sides of the plane competed to see who could unroll and then re roll a whole toilet paper roll by passing it hand over hand from the front of the plane to the rear and back to the front. The prize made it a serious contest. The winners got to deplane in Sint Maarten first.
This casual attitude appears to be a company policy and it too fits with the image they present. Flying is fun, and of course cheap. All the crew were introduced by their first names only, including the flight deck. For some there were added the occasional smart comments.
Talking to a few of the crew, I was advised that theyre excited by their expansion, not only into Atlantic Canada, but also into the lucrative sunshine destinations, and not just as a leased aircraft for the competition. By excited I do mean excited. On the way down they were looking forward to getting there more than the passengers going on vacation.
There are plans to offer a regular service from Calgary to Cancun next year and then perhaps more. Theyll need to modify the planes a bit, by adding entertainment systems and facilities to serve hot meals, but those are minor adjustments, and should not affect their style. Im personally looking forward to using them in the future, especially considering the present alternatives.
Read all 54 Reviews
Write a Review