WS1696 Vancouver YVR – Los Angeles LAX
14 Feb 2011
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 0830-1114
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 0846-1125
Seat No: 7D
Los Angeles looks like a nice place to escape the dreariness of Vancouver in winter and it was where our family of 5 decided to spend spring break in. Opting for an early morning departure so that we may have an extra day in Los Angeles proved somewhat challenging as we needed to wake up real early to head to the airport. Upon reaching Vancouver International in this rainy morning, my brother and I dropped off our parents and my sister before leaving the car at the long term parking lot, and taking the shuttle back to the terminal. The Westjet counter was easy to find under the US departures area and signs were clear on forms to fill and what to do on checking in. There was also no queues here and we were served promptly by this great guy on the counter. It was my first time travelling to the States by air ever since 9/11 and so it was new to me on the horror stories of airport security. The check-in took a while and was perhaps the longest in a few years for me. I am not sure what was lacking or maybe it was the need to check in for 5 persons, all of which requires a US Visa which we had in out passport. We even took the trouble to head to Point Roberts a day earlier to get the white form attached for visitors to the USA.
With US Departures in YVR, the baggage drop was located behind the row of check-in counters where a video shows the person dropping off the baggage on the conveyor. This was why it was important that the person responsible for the baggage places it on the conveyor, even for the 5 of us who were bringing 3 baggage. Security screening followed soon after the baggage drop which was uneventful and fortunately no need for the x-ray screening since those machines didn’t seem to be operated for this morning flight. The problem lies with passport control where we were quizzed on the amount of money brought into the States and it took a while, where we were asked to proceed into the separate room to fill in an additional clearance form. It was close to our required boarding time by the time we completed the security clearance and since it was an early morning departure little of the shops at YVR were open and with WestJet, no lounge as well – not that we had time ayway. Looks like sparing 2 hours for the check-in, security and passport control is really tight for what is a casual flight out of Vancouver to Los Angeles.
When we arrived at the boarding gate at 08:00, boarding has already commenced, and it was an orderly and clear boarding. Suprisingly we were still early and amongst the first to board as we took our pre-selected seats on rows 7 and 8. With a 3-3 abreast seating, it was on a plane I was familiar with since Garuda’s main fleet utilizes 737s as well. I didn’t like the dark and sombre leather of WestJet but the whole plane was clean though not that bright unlike the crisp and clear 737-800 cabins of Garuda Indonesia. Row 8 on the WestJet also does not seem to have any window and since we had the aisle and the middle seat on that row, it was alright, though not a pleasant place to be for the passenger on 8F. Seat pitch was decent and the seat was comfortable while the pilot interestingly broadcasted his call to the control tower as we pullback at 08:27 and headed towards the runway. The rainy weather overnight persisted with an overcast sky this morning though I got to observe that YVR is made up of a combination of large widebody jets like the 777 and 747 of Cathay, JAL and Korean Air in addition to various small jets like the Embraers of Air Canada and the Dash-8s of Air Canada’s Jazz division. The earlier spring break in Vancouver meant families on vacation makes a large portion of passengers on this flight and it made for a noisy take-off as the children gets excited of the take-off which occured at 08:46. Passengers had a nice view of Richmond and the Olympic Oval during take off as we steadily gained altitude before disappearing into the cloud cover.
Once we reached cruising altitude, the steward of the flight started offering headphones for sale, as WestJet has a variety of movies and channels on a pay-per-view basis on the small albeit personal inflight entertainment system on the seat. Buy-on-board snacks were also offered before the drinks tray came last as complimentary pop or juice were offered to passengers, as well as a choice of nibblers or cookies. I went with a cup of orange juice and a packet of mixed nibblers was given along with the juice. Overall the service provided by the crew was friendly and there was a kind of relaxed atmosphere throughout the flight. Fortunately the commotion made by the young ones during take off died down during the flight and I started on my own version of inflight entertainment on my MacBook Air. With the early morning departure though, I fell asleep shortly and managed a short nap of around an hour or so before I got woken up by my Mum as they started a second round of beverage service.
That was to be the last service of the flight as moments later, the plane started its descent and passengers on the window got to have a clear view of the arid landscape surrounding Los Angeles. The clear blue skies made the difference here I think and gave way to excitement as the passengers seemed to be happy to be here from the gloomy weather at Vancouver that morning. Being my first ride with WestJet, I thought they offered a nice service throughout the flight which was comfortable enough at the price point. Their positioning seems close to that of a Legacy carrier though they allowed free check in of bags and included complimentary snacks and drinks onboard. Both of which truly matters to the traveller and makes the difference indeed!