Journey: Calgary to Gatwick – Westjet – Premium Economy
THE FLIGHT: I was travelling in Premium Economy on Westjet’s flight to Gatwick, departing Calgary at 19.55 and operated by one of the airline’s sparkling new 787-9 Dreamliners.
PRE-BOARDING: The terminal was pretty quiet and dropping off my bag was quick and easy at the self-service kiosks. I had checked in online and progressed quickly through security and to my gate. Westjet built its reputation as a low-cost, domestic carrier in Canada but is currently transforming itself into a full-service, value international carrier. Waiting at the gate it was clear some passengers familiar with the low-cost history were not entirely sure if they would be getting a meal or inflight entertainment, and were busy checking, downloading and stocking up just in case.
THE SEAT: My aisle seat, 7D, offered plenty of leg room, coat hook, two storage areas, charging point, plug and headphones jack. The recline and footrest operated smoothly, and the arm rest included a wood-effect drinks shelf. The smart blue and granite textiles were complimented by leather finishings including indigenous-style stitching on the adjustable headrest. The seat back IFE screen was also adjustable to enhance viewing. My personal space was roomy and comfortable and was set up with Rocky Mountain Soap company washbag, plush high-quality quilted cover in vibrant blue, and noise-cancelling headset.
THE SERVICE: The crew was friendly and attentive from the start and clearly engaged. Sparkling wine or juice, and menus, were served as soon as I settled into my seat and my attendant introduced herself and addressed me by name, chatting pleasantly as she took my meal order pre-departure. She highlighted key features of the seat, made dinner recommendations based on her own favourites, and asked if I had travelled in a Dreamliner before, saying how she loved it.
THE CATERING: Meals were served on a white tablecloth and the delivery tray was a smart wood-effect grey. The beet and goat’s cheese appetiser was fresh and different, served with a good, warm ciabatta roll. I took my attendants recommendation and chose the Signature shepherd’s pie created by indigenous chef Bill Alexander. It was great – full of flavour and very filling with a cheesy spinach, mushroom and vegetable base topped with sweet-potato mash. The dessert was a Sullivan & Bleeker red velvet jar-cake, and there was OKA cheese and crackers. Further snacks were available in the ‘social’ area of the galley and an hour before landing a continental breakfast with egg and a lavish cheese selection was served alongside fresh fruit, yogurt and warm croissant. Lashings of hot strong tea was available in bespoke full-sized mugs.
THE VERDICT: I was already a fan of the Dreamliner aircraft with its airy, spacious feel and mood lighting, and the Westjet team has done much to make it their own and create subtle but valuable points of difference. The cabin colour scheme and finishing reflect something of the airline’s Canadian roots, and touches like the specially-commission boarding music by Sean Jones, toiletries from the Rocky Mountain Soap company, and indigenous menu offerings all add to the Canadian flavour. The service on this flight really was exemplary, friendly and super engaged throughout and the crew genuinely seemed to love their working environment and their jobs. The ‘low fare, high care’ philosophy was clearly in action, and they seemed to take pride in doing a good job.