WestJet Review and Flying During COVID

Outbound Flight Segment: YYJ-YVR-CUN
Return Flight Segment: CUN-YYC-YYJ
Aircraft Flown: DHC-8-400, Boeing 737Max8, Boeing 737-800
Total Distance Travelled: 9,358 kilometers (5,815 miles)
Price per km: Not calculated as trip was purchased as a vacation package.

So, spring break comes along, and next thing we know we are on our way to Victoria International Airport (IATA Code YYJ) for our first post-pandemic trip. This was our first time flying out of Victoria International Airport, so I’ll talk about that experience briefly. YYJ is a lovely little airport located on the Saanich Peninsula, 25km north of Victoria, near the town of Sidney, BC (sometimes mistaken for Australia). The year before the pandemic, YYJ hit just under 2million passengers, dropping to half a million passengers in 2020 and a marginal increase to 673,000 passengers in 2021. Of note for how the airline industry is recovery, YYJ had 107,000 domestic passenger movements in April 2022 compared to 135,000 passenger movements in April 2019. Its likely that it’ll be 2024 before passenger volumes recover or possibly surpass 2019, but things are looking good.

YYJ has 10 gates, 4 have jet bridges while the rest you load from the tarmac. Personally, ramp/stair on and off boarding to the tarmac is pretty cool and, in this day, and age it’s not often you get to do that at major airports here in Canada. In 2008, YYJ developed a 20-year master plan with plans to increase its capacity.

Our YYJ-YVR was a 7-year old DHC-8-400.

We boarded our first WestJet flight of the day, a short hop to Vancouver on a WestJet Encore De Havilland Canada Dash 8-Q400. This lane seats 78 passengers in a 2-2 configuration. WestJet Encore states it has 68 economy and 10 premium economy seats, but there is no difference between the two aside from being seated in the first 2.5 rows and getting a bottle of water upon boarding. The flight was 30 minutes delayed due to “heavy traffic” coming into Vancouver International. Funny enough, this is one of Canada’s shortest routes, and our airtime for the flight is only about 20 minutes, so spending more time on the plane on the ground was a little ironic.

Very envious of being a kid flying. Every seat is premium!

We made it to Vancouver without any further issues though and easily transited through to international departures. Now, after 2 years without and travel, I had a couple companion vouchers that were not going to be used, so I exchanged them both for lounge vouchers. This got us into the plaza premium lounge which was quite lovely, and we all enjoyed a nice breakfast and some coffee.

Comfortable 3-3 seating on the 737 Max 8, flight was only about 70% full.

Our flight down to Cancun today was on a Boeing 737 Max 8, the first time being on one, so I was pretty excited! The latest generation 737 has Boeing’s new Sky Interior. The overhead bins are reshaped so you end up with a more airy, open cabin that feels less like you’re riding a pop can to your destination. Of note, the Max 8 is also significantly quieter than the previous “Next Generation” aircraft.

We were seated in economy standard seats, just behind the wings, this is laid out in a standard 3-3 configuration. Standard economy on WestJet’s 737 Max 8 offers 30 inches of pitch and 17 inches width, an industry standard. Economy preferred seats offer about 34 inches of legroom for a nominal charge. There was no buy on board food service at the time, but they did come around several times with snack and drink service, luckily we had brought along lots of snacks, but for a 5 hour flight, I wish we had known there’d be no on board meals to buy ahead of time. The flight continued on uneventfully and we landed in Cancun on time to start our vacation.

For our first pandemic-era flight, we felt totally safe and satisfied with safety measures on board. For the trip, I did purchase N95 masks, including child-sized N95 masks for the extra layer of safety. They’re also more comfortable as the straps don’t go around your ears.

Flying over the beautiful Gulf Islands to/from YYJ is a beautiful approach.

Overall, WestJet service was okay, it wasn’t bad and did certainly didn’t stand out as anything amazing or “wow”. It was a bit annoying to have no buy on board service on a 6-hour flight. I hope that changes soon as the world opens back up. The crew were helpful and friendly though, and as usual, they were great with the kids. We definitely will fly them again in the future, ticket price dependent. We flew with the WestJet World Elite MasterCard which entitled us to free checked baggage.

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