Monday, June 22, 2009

Westjet Direct Flight Toronto to Kelowna (YYZ to YLW) Rules! (Security YLW Sux)

I had booked a direct flight on Westjet from Toronto (YYZ) to Kelowna (YLW) (see earlier post) and I want to go on record here and now as saying, for me, this is the best way to get from the East to the West!

The main reason I booked Westjet to Kelowna is I swore I'd never fly to Kamloops again via Air Canada. Westjet now flies to Kamloops (YKA) but it's a puddle jumper flight from Toronto. I like direct flights so I went to Kelowna and had a friend meet me there instead.

I absolutely LOVE being able to be out west in just over 4 hours! BUT, even better! On the outbound flight, apparently there were no headwinds or jet stream to fight or anything, and we landed 45 minutes early! (I can hardly keep from using all caps!)

This flying time HAS to be a record! We left Toronto on time (9:30 a.m. EDT) and about three hours into the flight, I realized that according our location on the seat back map that we were way further west than we should be, and ahead of our 4 hour-35 minute flying time.

(It's always a longer flight across Canada when going east to west due to jet stream, etc. When flying west to east, you can almost count on landing a half hour ahead of the posted time.)

Mind you, the flight speed was showing 699 mph to 712 mph (1125 mph-1146 kph) so I knew something was up, and we were at 40,000 feet for much of the flight. However, the top cruising speed of Boeing 737s is not this fast by a long shot, so perhaps the seat-back map reported kilometers per hour as miles per hour.

If not, we were in some super secret new plane, and I for one loved it!

Cabin crew confirmed we were indeed ahead of schedule, and all of us were happy. My flight (WS 631) outbound becomes WS 632 inbound, and the Ontario-based crew do a daily turnaround, so it behooves them to keep on schedule.

As we were going over the Rockies, I snapped this picture with my little Canon digital. That it came out at all is another miracle!

Canadian Rockies from Boeing 737 window

The time of day when I snapped this was about 10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (11 a.m. Mountain Daylight time).

A word about airport security:
In Toronto, airport security was pretty much as expected. Empty my water bottle (refill from fountain in boarding lounge), put jacket and purse and backpack on belt, and walk through the machine. No beeps, no probs. Small amounts of liquids in small bottles placed in a clear ziplock bag. Shown to person at entrance, and not to anyone else. Backpack opened after x-ray and operator ran wand over contents.

In Kelowna (sigh), airport security caught a beep from three dimes in my jeans pocket (had forgotten them) and also from my lipstick in a pocket -- the same lipstick I had in same pocket in Toronto -- I am a creature of habit. My watch beeped, my bra hooks beeped, my beltbuckle beeped and the female guard put her hand inside my waistband, on my own personal tummy skin, to check for Lord knows what.

I told her I usually get dinner and dancing first, but she was not amused. Then she had me take off my shoes. In all my travel days, I have NEVER been asked to remove my shoes. My beloved Chang Sha's are so unthreatening! I suggested that perhaps the settings on her little wand were too high by far. She said all standard. I said no way.

Anyhow, my theory is that these small airports get so much less traffic that they need to jerk passengers around just to keep from going blind with boredom.

My mom is flying Air Canada to Kamloops next month (see this blog entry), as she does each summer. She knows she will get her mid-80s person annoyed and hassled by Kamloops security. They have to be the most miserable crew I have ever seen anywhere. At least, the Kelowna security people were a bit nicer.

I can only imagine the impression given by these security dragons to first-time visitors to Canada. And no, don't tell me that they are keeping our airplanes and airports safe. Canada airports are a tragedy waiting to happen.

Anyone can walk into any Canadian airport without any sort of screening whatsoever. No one is watching what's in their bags, or checking to see if they have a ticket or are just bringing in some device likely to make a huge BANG!

In Addis, Ethiopia, in Bangkok, in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, in Hainan, China (likely more but that's all I can think of right now), anyone entering an airport is immediately screened, as is their luggage. (Heck, even the Addis Hilton screens like this!) No one gets in with any iffy packaging. Bags are tagged/marked that they have been screened.

Yet in Canada, they continue to allow anyone to wander in and around airports with impunity, all the while hassling the paying customers for bits of creams and gels and a bottle of water.

Okay -- rant over! Let me know your experience at airports and with Westjet / Air Canada. For my other posts about security, google security on this blog.

Update June 23/09
I totally forgot to mention the comfy seats on this plane! The pitch - distance between rows of seats, I believe - is about 32 inches - which is considerably more than many charter flights who try to squeeze us into 27 inch deep rows.

I' 5'8", and had a lot of room to stretch out. The fellow across the aisle said he's 6'3" and was doing just fine.

The seats are leather, and the head rest curves a bit to cuddle your head.

Treating passengers like guests makes a huge diff to customer loyalty and that's what Westjet seems to do very well.

And no, I am not a shareholder and yes, I paid for my own flight :-) (though I would be happy to accept flight coupons if offered)