There are a string of new budget carriers popping up in Canada, but the two major players in the market remain Westjet and Air Canada; with each airline placing the “Encore” and “Express” brands alongside some of their shorter routes. Towards the end of last year, I tried out the service from WestJet Encore, on one of the shorter routes within the Canadian market – from the hub city of Vancouver (where Aussies would arrive on any direct service from Australia), through to Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley, which sits to the East of Vancouver in British Columbia. So how was the service? Find out in today’s Flight Review.
Airline: WestJet Encore
Route: Vancouver (YVR) to Kelowna (YLW) (WS3320)
Seat/Class: Economy – 10C aisle 2-2 Layout
Aircraft Type: Bombardier Q400
On time? Yes
Duration: About 45 minutes
Getting to the Airport
Getting to Vancouver International Airport (VYR) couldn’t be easier thanks to the Canada Line train – which is quicker than driving and only costs $2.95 at most times of the week (leaving from the VYR Station back to Vancouver City does attract a $5 additional charge, however). The train drops you off at the international end of the airport, and then it’s a short walk to the domestic part of the terminal.
Check-in and Baggage
Flying on a public holiday, the airport wasn’t too busy and it was a quick and painless check in procedure, especially if you’d already checked in online and pre-paid baggage (which is a reasonably pricey $31.95CAD including taxes for the first bag). A self service kiosk presented the bag tag and your boarding pass, which was then scanned in the bag drop queue before you dropped it on the conveyor belt yourself. Staff were very helpful, though you pretty much did it all yourself!
What to do at the Airport
The domestic terminal has plenty of food options before and after security. If you didn’t get the chance to try White Spot while in Vancouver I recommend grabbing one at the restaurant before security (though there’s one at Kelowna airport too!). There’s also a good court with A&W, Starbucks, a Japanese take out and more. There are two main security line, one for A and B gates and one for C gates. Signs indicate which ones have shorter queues, so if one is packed try the other one. It took about 15 minutes to get through security for me at the A gates.
There’s no drawbridge for a plane as small as this but there is a ramp to get on the plane, which will assist any passengers that require the extra assistance.
In Flight Experience and Comfort
The short flight time saw the cabin crew deliver cookies and pretzels and water to all passengers who wanted it, and by the time they’d finished that, we were pretty much ready to land.
With about 20 rows on the plane, it’s a pretty small propeller aircraft, but it was a smooth flight even with the constant cloud cover en route and the relatively low elevation for the aircraft. The seats were comfortable if nothing special, and there would have been enough leg room for most. And if not, 45 minutes is hardly an amount of time to worry about.
For a flight this quick, all you need is for the experience to be as easy and possible – and in that respect, WestJet have provided an excellent experience and great service and a comfortable ride. The price to have one bag checked in is a bit much, however – it’s frustrating that bags are not included on Economy tickets for domestic Canadian flights – but that’s the case for their competitors too.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
To book your next flight with WestJet, head to westjet.ca.
The writer flew courtesy of Tourism BC.