Friday, 9 January 2015

Another Air Canada Versus Westjet Blog (My Perspective!)

Yes yes, I am aware on how excessively in depth this topic has been discussed and debated, with no clear cut winner, and yet I still feel compelled to share my perspective on this matter, so without prejudice, here are my findings...

Before it becomes blatantly obvious, I will state this for the record now...I am a fan of Air Canada (AC), and no matter how many times you try to tell me how much better WestJet (WJ) is, you will not be able to convince me otherwise.  Seeing WJ has so many supporters, and seeing I live within their hub city Calgary, how the heck could I see it this way right?  Well, here are many of my compelling arguments...

1)  Air Canada's jets compared to WestJet's

WJ has based their entire fleet around the Boeing 737.  In general, not a bad choice.  They have a great safety record, Boeing is a great company, and the newer editions coming out are cheaper to operate.  The problem is how I, as a customer, perceive the benefits from these planes personally and directly.

typical 737 seating
The 737-800 Series...their newest!

First off, ALL of their 737's (including the 600, 700, and the newly 800 edition) come in a 3 x 3 seating.  This drives me nuts.  I hate having to know there may be a chance I will be stuck between 2 people. No one likes middle row, yet it costs the same.   I'm sure its good for business, but for the key factor of comfort, it gives me that crammed feeling.  Not to mention, getting in and out can be a bitch.

Jazz Jets always better then old propeller planes
AC has dozens of different jets, including Airbuses, Boeing's, Bombardiers, and Embraers.  The point I want to make here is this...the Embraer 190 is my top jet to fly on.  AC has purchased lots of these, so there is a good chance you will fly on one when booking on a mid range destination.  When I book, because AC has so many flight options, I am usually able to pick and chose my jet pending on time of departure.  Other points to make on embraer are...they are quieter and faster.  They also have the 2 x 2 seating arrangement. These points alone make it a no brainer for me to fly AC...but wait, there is more!

My favourite...their Embraer 
2 x 2 seating with screens..the best option for me
 The Bombardier CRJ and Boeing 330 are great backups for short and long hauls respectively.  I love the idea of having a choice.

Then we have the Dreamliner. You must of heard of it at some point.  It is considered the best jet to date (though this can be debated on a whole other post).  Everything from its jet power, to its seats, to its futuristic first class cabins, to its fine finishings, have been greatly enhanced.  I am personally looking forward to flying on this beast...sooner then later.

The much talked about DREAMLINER

Another thing you might of noticed...or not noticed for that matter, is the recent lack of 747' know the ones I'm talking about....they have the upstairs, 4 jets, everyone used to want to ride one.  Well, in AC's case, they have been replacing them with 777's.  These hold just as many people, and are more fuel efficient.  Both have great safety records, but the 777 just made more sense for both the customer and operator.  

The Boeing 777...bigger then it looks!

WestJet has recently purchased a ton of Q400 bombardiers.  This was good for the stock I hold in it, but as a flyer, I personally don't like these (smart right haha).  You may have remembered a slight crash in Edmonton recently (this was a jazz flight, but my point is on the heavy investment on the Q400's). They have made the news a few times, but overall, they are promised to be a great workhorse.  If you fly short distances within Canada, there is a very good chance you will be put on one of these...with zero options.  Just another reason I avoid WJ.  

But as a customer, they are cheaper to fly on right??

WestJets Q400 Bombardier...they just bought a ton of these

2) Prices are Very competitive between the two

This is something else that really drives me nuts.  Everyone states WJ is a discount carrier, cheaper, one with the people so to speak.  This was the case pre 2000, but this  is NOT the case any more. They do still cling to this ideology, and for the most part, people still assume it is the case.

If you do a broad search, WJ will have several locations appearing at cheaper rates...usually at their sponsored all-inclusives, BUT AC has these as well, just at different spots.  It all depends on where you look with regards to sun destinations.

WJ is continually adding new destinations to its portfolio.  They are continually growing their fleet, raising their prices, and have recently added the "plus" section.  All this is making them quite similar to the dreaded AC competitor don't you think?  I will admit both have a long way to improve on their business model, but to say WJ is ALWAYS cheaper is just plain wrong...and if it is the case, its a few dollars, not hundreds.

3) Air Canada caters to the business/regular traveller, WestJet to the tourists

This is one of my biggest reasons for chosing AC over WJ.  I recently travelled over the New year to visit family in Saskatoon with WJ.  The entire flight was interesting to say the least.  First off, people don't comprehend the idea behind "boarding by sections".  As I sat back, I was amused by the large clump of passengers all trying to board immediately after section "1" was announced.  Once my section was called, and much of the line had dissipated, I checked in, only to find myself in another stagnant line.  Why?  The people currently on the plane (who were out of order) were struggling to load their purses, oversized bags, and what not, all while not aware of the mess created behind them.  To me, it just baffles me that to this day, people have very little forethought.

Once on, the babies  chimed in on cue.  Why does there always seem to be more babies on WJ flights then AC.  I'm sure there are no stats on this, but from my personal experience, this seems to always be the case.  Maybe its because younger families choose WJ based on the perceived notion its cheaper and more family know..because of all those lovely jokes everyone seems to enjoy from WJ attendants (eyes rolling).

Once I finally settled into my window seat near the front of the plane that I had easily selected the night before with the allowed 24 hr pre-check in, I watched in amusement as the attendant went through the cabin reminding literally everyone to take their headphones off, put their seat belts on, bring their chairs back to its original position, stow luggage properly...the list goes on.  For how common flight travel is now, its shocking  how many people still don't get this.

Could you imagine!?
Once the flight took off, the person in front of me immediately slammed his seat back.  A regular passenger, or at least considerate ones, would either recline it slowly, or not at all.  Another inconsiderate move that comes to mind, is when someone gets up to go to the washroom,  and proceeds to garb the headrest in from of them, and in the process, reefs on it,  not aware they are shaking the hell out of your own personal comfort zone...drives me nuts.

Getting off is exactly the same as getting on...a very long wait for people to get their belonging in order...all while others stand crammed in the hallway waiting...not using the time to get their own crap ready.

On AC, everyone seems to be well travelled.  Either they travel on a regular basis for work, or they are able to get away more frequently.  AC is able to draw these seasoned travellers based around their incentives.  The more you fly, the more status you build...status that is actually worth collecting...for example, priority/ maple lounge access, free upgrades, more food options, just to name a few.  Because AC has way more destinations, more jet options, more everything, it allows the regular traveller to have freedom  to chose their own preferences, something that can be more appreciated over time.

Please remember, these are not official recorded occurrences, these are experiences I have experienced on a regular basis...fact to me, maybe not to you;)

4) Aeroplan points/first class versus WestJet points/plus seats

With WJ, you recieve points towards future travel..usually through the means of a credit card.  Thats it.  WJ  also has added the plus section.  For an additional $30 (on short flights), you can get 4" of extra leg room, and sit closer to the front of the plane....hardly an incentive for me.

AC has aeroplan points, which has the opportunity to build status attached to it.  AC is also part of the Star Alliance brand, a world wide membership dozens of airlines are part of.  This in itself has many benefits including shared lounges, points, etc.

I can admit Aeroplan can be a hassle, with its crappy flight options and black out dates; I'd be the first to discredit this aspect of it, BUT the points do add up fast.  They also add up towards status that is regarded to many regular flyers as key factors when choosing an airline.  Priority bag check-in, expedited security lines, great opportunities for first class upgrades, free access to lounges while you wait for your flight...all hold so much value, and when taken into consideration personally, it made the world of difference in flight travel for me.

With regards to first (business) class...lets just say...I love knowing the fact its there, and  if I felt the urge to splurge a bit, I have the opportunity to do so.  Once you do it once, just as a forewarning...its hard to go back...that's all I'l say on that.
Firstclass...if you have the points...worth EVERY penny...or point

5) Air Canada movies versus WestJets live TV

Agg, where do I start.   This to me seems so obvious, yet appears to not be a main consideration to most WJ flyers.  Any flight over 2 hours, I will take a movie selection over live TV any day!

First off, WJ's live TV sucks.  Half of the channels are not available, and when they are, there is a risk of the signal being lost.  Sure, they offer pay-per-view...but at an attached fee.  With AC, the movies that are available are great...all newly released options, with great selection, and all for free.  It's the best way to make time fly by (literally).  If your not in the mood for a movie, they have pre-recorded TV...usually just as good as WJ's live TV.  You may be thinking to yourself...what about live sports...isn't that better?  Well, in my case, the Canada hockey game was on, but I was unable to watch it because, you guessed it, the channel was unavailable.  Another thing I noticed seems more  WJ flights I get stuck on don't even have a TV screen at all...what's that all about.

So much better on AC

6) Air Canada's routes versus WestJet's

AC has more options, especially internationally.  With all those aeroplan points you have been collecting, the options are just better.

7)  Air Canada/Priority lounges globally

Just look at them.  Would you rather sit in row seating on the main floor, waiting for the flight to arrive, all while getting hungry, annoyed, and tired?  These lounges have opened up my eyes since I began to use them.  They are cheap!   If your a status AC flyer, they are free.  If not, some lounges like Priority Pass are only $20 if you aren't a member.  They offer unlimited drinks, snacks, soups, magazines, everything you could basically want before a flight.  The chairs are great, the mood is relaxing.  AC is known for theirs.  Emirates out east are known to be the best world wide.

Changes the way you look at flying

8) Everyone falls for their advertising campaign

I'm sure you have seen them.  Videos of WJ arriving at an airport, carrying a father who has never seen his son before.  WJ pays for everything, films it all, and posts the loving reunion on YouTube.  There are several variations of this now, all with millions of hits.  Media then gets a hold of these, puts it on the news, and all of a sudden, Bam...WJ is once again a thoughtful brand, and AC is the money hungry evil corporation.  Well, I don't fall for this.  Its a great marketing campaign, but AC has a soft side as well...they just suck showing it haha.  In the end, all I'm concerned about is my confort when I fly...period.

1) Air Canada workers are old and rude

True, to some extent, though this is slowly (very slowly) changing.  The old union workers at AC are slowly being replaced as they retire.  Pretty young attendants and politically correct young male attendants are now becoming more common on both WJ and AC...but this does not equal friendly service.  In my experience, if you take away the corny jokes from WJ, the service in the end is quite similar.  In the end, all I want is my drink and snack in a reasonable time, that's not asking for to much, right?

2) Air Canada always loses my luggage.

Well, I guess once they lost my luggage.  Maybe I'm just lucky?  I went to the desk, told them, and was told to go home and they would look for it.  I literally was home 30 minutes when I heard a knock on the door.  They found my luggage, and had already brought it to my front door.  So as you can see, my experience is quite opposite to what I hear in the streets.  Many do still post complaints regarding this, but because this has pretty much been non-existent "personally", I don't see this as an issue.


I am one to always look at both sides of the story.  I will say this though, WJ DOES have a better terminal wing in the Calgary Airport (their hub!)...I particularly enjoy the Chillis lounge and the Starbucks which has lots of comfy chairs.  On the flip side though, AC's hub airport in Toronto is way better than WJs...funny how that works eh.  Another small point I will give WJ is, their "Encore" routes are slightly better then AC's "Rouge" routes.  I flew Rouge once, and hated every second of it.  Both are bad, and both should be avoided, but if forced to chose one poison, I chose death.

As you can see, I have a strong opinion on this topic.  It's totally understandable if you still disagree, or even hate me a little more; it just turns out we just have different travelling styles.  I want comfort and speed, all while at a better than average price...that's it.  I think we can all agree on one thing though...air travel has a LONG way to go in Canada when compared to many other parts of the world.

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