Flight Review: WestJet’s “Simplicity” route from Toronto to New York City

Two months back, I talked you through the transfer process at Toronto’s Pearson. One way to bypass some of these difficulties is by flying one of the WestJet “Simplicity” routes, which are their short haul services between Toronto and either New York, Ottawa or Montreal. They promise priority access in the queue, a snack with a beer or wine on board and the ability to jump on an earlier service without a fee (pending availability and you arriving early at the airport). It makes them a strong competitor to Porter’s service of the same routes, and one that attempts to attract business travellers looking for an affordable, flexible service. So does this service live up to what they promote? I jumped on board to find out.

Flight: WS1206
Seat: Economy, 17D (Aisle 3-3)
Aircraft: 737-600
Flight Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
On time? Yes

Getting to Toronto Pearson

The UP Express train, which launched for the Pan American Games in 2015, is now a fast and highly affordable way to get to the airport. I’d say it’s the only way to get there in a rush, especially if you have a Presto card. My WestJet flight departed from Terminal 3, which you connected to once you arrived (if by train) through a connecting Monorail service.

Boarding

As with most airlines in North America, checked baggage costs extra. On the plus side, this does encourage you to fly with carry on only if you’re only travelling for a short time. And then you don’t have to worry about dropping your bag off. But you still need to line up for security and clear US customs. Thankfully, you have an expedited version of the former, which I was counting on, arriving under 2 hours before my flight. The lines weren’t too crazy but there was no one serving the priority line, so they had closed it off, which was disappointing. I made it through through just in time for scheduled boarding, though boarding was delayed slightly – which they seem to do somewhat deliberately at Pearson due to regular delays for passengers going through customs.

The boarding area at the WestJet gate also doubled as a seating area for the Nobel Burger Bar, you there are benches with iPads you can order food (and pay directly there), play games and browse the Internet. There’s also a Starbucks in the boarding area. I recommended the poutine!

They board by zone, and it’s a very organised and speedy boarding process.

In Flight Service & Experience

There was just enough time for one service through the flight, with complimentary drinks and a granola bar. Several options for tea (including Green), and served by McCafe. They advertise beer and wine as being complimentary though I didn’t see anyone ordering it. It was an lunch flight though. They let passengers use the toilets before takeoff and were very helpful. An excellent staff experience overall.

Comfort and Entertainment

This was an old plane. The screens on the back of the seats were those square satellite TVs I haven’t seen on a plane in a while, with headphone jacks in the headrest. The seat is worn and dated, though with movable headrests, flaps and all, it’s still comfortable enough. Only a couple of the satellite channels actually worked, and there were two active “PPV” channels that had a medical TV series on one channel and Arrested Development on the other. Reminiscent of the way we travelled barely a decade ago…

On Arrival at LGA

Unlike JFK or Newark, there’s no train from LGA terminals. But you can jump on an express MTA bus to the E train at Roosevelt Station. You use your Metrocard to prepay the $2.75 before you board (you can top up your card inside the terminal and then you dunk the card into a machine near where the bus picks you up). Honestly it’s a bit of a confusing process. It seemed like it was a transfer that didn’t cost you an extra $2.75 when you got to the station though, and it only took 10 minutes to get there! So definitely the affordable option.

Final Verdict

The quality of the WestJet “Simplicity” experience is only as strong as the quality of the airport it departs from. Sadly, Pearson Toronto has a lot of work to do, and closing off a priority lane because there isn’t an attendant available isn’t a great look. Still, I made my flight and it was a pleasant, smooth and comfortable trip only amplified by great service from the WestJet crew. I would love to see some of their older planes updated, however!

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

To book you next flight with WestJet, visit WestJet.ca.

The author flew at his own expense.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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