It’s not very often that I manage to put together an itinerary that ends up being so easy. This flight up to YYC on WestJet qualified as one of the easiest travel days I’ve had in a long while, and the entire day I spent wishing that it could always be like this. Let me explain…
This flight was scheduled to depart SAN at 1:25pm, which meant that for the first time since…well…heck, I can’t even remember…I was able to sleep in the morning of departure. Even better was the fact that this was a Friday. Normally I’d be at work, but taking the day off to fly on a new-to-me airline to a city I’ve never been to before made it all that much more sweet.
So I slept in a little, went for my normal morning bike ride, came back and ate breakfast, packed, and then leisurely made my way to the airport via Uber with enough time left over to have a nice slow lunch once I arrived. Never once did I feel rushed this morning, and it was the perfect way to kick off a long weekend of travel.
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Calgary, Alberta (YYC)
Friday, September 16, 2016
Duration: 2 hours 55 minutes
Seat: 6F (main cabin / economy)
My boarding pass said that boarding for this flight would begin at 12:45pm, but the inbound aircraft from YYC wasn’t due in until 12:40. Hmm.
They were still promising an on-time departure even though there would be no way to board at the scheduled time, so it was fun to watch them turn that aircraft around as fast as I’ve ever seen it done.
The ground crew (with the help of the cabin crew) really hustled, and they were able to start boarding just about 15 minutes behind schedule. While not exactly on time, it was impressive nonetheless.
WestJet boards by zone numbers, and the “ZONE 4” stamp on my boarding pass meant that I would be one of the last to board. Not that it really mattered anyway, as my backpack is small enough to fit under the seat in front of me so it’s rare that I ever have to fight for overhead bin space.
I was thinking that the gate area seemed rather empty just before they started the boarding process, and I was expecting a fairly open flight based on the number of other passengers waiting to board. My suspicions were confirmed when they called for zone 1 and nobody came forward. They jumped straight to zone 2 and the boarding process was underway.
I really had no idea what to expect before stepping foot onboard, as WestJet is an airline I know very little about. Are they considered mainline or a low cost carrier (LCC)? How large of a network do they have? Do they serve many other destinations in the US? I really didn’t know before this trip began, so it was fun to get to know this airline a little bit better today.
The boarding process was very quick, and the forward door was shut with the middle seat open next to me. Yes! I don’t mind sitting in economy class if there is an open seat next to me, so I was feeling pretty good as we pushed back from the gate – on time no less. They did it. They were able to turn this aircraft around in record time (or so it seems that way) so hats off to Westjet for having such a well-oiled system here at SAN.
The flight attendant asked me to remove my earbuds for the safety demonstration, which ended up being a very entertaining live performance. Yes, “performance” is the best way to describe it – it was really funny, and they had my attention the entire time. The demo was also done a second time in French, but the voiceover was a recording.
The pushback and taxi out to the runway were more interesting than normal for several reasons:
- First, they started one engine at the gate with an external APU. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that happen. Engine problems perhaps? *GULP*
- Second, the ground/tug crew held up a sign and waved to us as we pulled away and began our taxi. I’ve only seen this sort of thing in Japan, so it was a fun an unexpected little bit of flair here at SAN.
- And third, the taxi out to the runway was FAST. I mean really fast. It’s not like we were way behind schedule or anything, so I don’t know what the rush was all about.
Speaking of being fast and rushing, the pilots really gunned the departure as well. After what seemed like a normal liftoff from runway 27, they applied full throttle, shooting us up at a very sharp angle and banking left as we crossed over the shores of Sunset Cliffs.
In all my years flying out of San Diego, I’ve never experienced an aggressive takeoff quite like that. It also surprised me that we turned left (south) out of SAN – since this was a western/northern flight, I was totally expecting we would turn north.
The flight attendants came through with snacks 10 minutes after departure, offering “sweet” or “salty” (their words, not mine). I knew I didn’t want sweet, so I took a ride on the wild side and took my chances with salty – with a cup of water of course. Business class passengers (the first rows of the cabin) were served complimentary sandwiches.
There are no personal video screens on these WestJet 737-700’s, but they do have a mobile app for both iOS and Android that passengers can use to stream a large variety of movies, tv shows, and news programs – all free of charge, which was nice.
I played with a little bit, and overall I was impressed. My only disappointment was the fact that there was no moving map feature, which is always my favorite part of an in-flight entertainment system. There was a “flight time remaining” indicator on the app, but unfortunately, it’s just said “0:00” for the entire flight.
I spent most of the flight with my nose glued to the window (which was horribly dirty and scratched up), watching the ground below turn from summer to fall the farther we pushed north.
The skies were clear for nearly the entire trip up, and our descent in YYC was as beautiful as I had expected it to be. Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the aircraft to get a good look at the front range of the Canadian Rockies, but the rusty yellow and orange fall colors of the landscape below was very pretty. A very nice welcome to Calgary.
Landing was smooth and the taxi took us around the airport (giving me a pretty good look at all the airlines that serve YYC), and it was shaping up to be a beautiful sunset out there.
Unfortunately, knowing that I had Canadian border agents to get past soured my mood a bit as we were pulling up to the gate. I hate going through Canadian customs (they are always so aggressive and mean), but I put my best foot forward, had a positive attitude, and marched my way to passport control. Welcome to Canada!