Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1803 posts, RR: 9 Posted (5 months 3 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 4923 times:
Westjet Encore Trip Report
Just want to file a trip report on Westjet Encore’s Inaugural service to Nanaimo airport today (June 24, 2013)! As you all know, I love inaugural flights and can’t really miss out on the chances to fly the inaugural flight of an airline, even thought it is technically an airline within an airline. Westjet Encore, as Encore CEO Ferio Pugliese said, is the second coming of Westjet, and aims to bring affordable travel to smaller Canadian communities. It is committed to 20 firm orders of Dash 8-Q400s with 25 options. Of course, today’s inaugural flight and the return to YYC were slightly delayed due to just unfamilarization of the regional operation by the ground crews. Everyone is in a learning curve and mileage-runners, please pad your schedule accordingly for the next few months. JetBlue has spoiled me for its inaugural festivities and great gifts, and despite this Westjet Encore inaugural has a celebratory theme with parties in both ends, there was no special in-flight services, except sparkling wine, and there were no certificates, posters, and even stickers. I think a commemorative sticker or pin will be nice. That’s why I actually have mixed feelings about this inaugural, but regardless, it is good to see a potential strong regional carrier in Canada, and today’s experience reminds me of Horizon Air. Westjet Encore is definitely here to stay, and yes, their services are almost the same with Westjet Mainline service, but there are a few surprises a la “Horizon Air.”
As we all know, Calgary has been going a rough patch for the past week due to the flooding, and my thoughts are with those who lost loved ones and are trying to pick up the pieces that mother nature has left. Nonetheless, it is great to see how the residents here are not going to let the flooding to affect their daily lives, and you can see the strength of the city through talking to various residents in the hotel and listening to conversations at the airport. However, traffic to the airport is slow and please arrive there early, as the security line is under-staffed and due to the construction around the airport, things are slower. Allow yourself more time, and the security line is SLOW.
By the way, Nanaimo is my 200th airport too.
June 24, 2013
WS 3109 YYC-YXD (Nanaimo) Lv1100 Arr1143 Dash 8-Q400 Next Gen C-FHEN “402”
I bought the ticket before the plus fare is introduced, and have spent USD$10 for a regular seat for this segment. For Dash 8-Q400, I don’t think it is a worthy investment, as it is a 2 by 2 seating arrangement, and as a solo traveler, you will either get a window nor an aisle. Unless you are traveling in a family or in a party, I don’t think you need to pay for a seat assignment if flying on Encore. There are no special seats that have extra legroom, except the Plus section. If there are plus seats available to purchase at the 24 hours online check in deadline, I will go for it, as seats are more comfortable in the plus section. You will see the pictures later at the seating section. Anyway, wesetjet website is pretty easy to navigate and online check in is pretty straightforward and you can change seats easily and pay for various services 24 hours prior to departure.
Busy FDIS at Calgary
Interesting flower arrangement in the entrance of YYC
Check-in area at Calgary was very busy on this Monday morning, as expected. The Westjet check-in area is pretty busy, but things are under control. There are kiosks all around, and there are two Westjet staffs guiding passengers to the correct lane. There is no special Encore check-in line this morning, and the Encore operation is pretty much considered the same as Westjet.
Busy Check-in area
Next come the low point of this inaugural flight! Dealing with CATSA “Canadian Air Transport Security Authority” is an interesting experience. There were five lanes here at a very busy Concourse D, and only three lanes were opened initially, and one more lane was opened later. I knew about the issues with Calgary and was sure that many workers were stuck at home. However, the process was so inefficient and not sure why the worker guiding the queues, like most US airports, did not first check boarding passes. The workers, who handled the actual screeners, could focus on guiding passengers on what to put in the tray and what not to do. With summer travel and many unseasoned passengers, even the NEXUS fast lane was slow. Once there was a bottleneck formed, the CATSA workers did not know what to do and ended up making a bad situation worst. Many passengers were whining (but honestly people should allow more time at the airport and given the possible traffic issues at Calgary, people should arrive airport earlier). But these CATSA workers showed zero sympathy and aimed to annoy than to help. Enough whining…
D35 is the new home for all Westjet Encore operations, and it will lead passengers to a warehouse type structure that hosted various gates for all Encore operations. No jetway will be used for these regional operations. The gate is fairly spacious with many seats, but they definitely need more seats if they plan to expand the Encore operations in the future. An inaugural party was being set up this morning by Westjet with a continental breakfast buffet including cinnamon rolls, sliced breakfast breads, muffins, and fruit salad, a cupcake tower, a beverage station with bottled waters, juices, and coffee, and a podium with a model of a Westjet Encore Dash 8-Q400 Next Generation.
Giant Celebration card
C-FHEN fleet number 402 will operate the first even Encore flight today.
Gate D35 was also decorate with many stickers promoting the new Encore service to Nanaimo and Fort St John.
Westjet Land here at D Concourse
The gate area became busier, as we got closer to our scheduled departure time of 11am.
Special Entrnce today – D35
As expected, Westjet CEO Greg Saretsky and Westjet Encore CEO Ferio Pugliese were there to celebrate Westjet Encore’s inaugural flights. They both made speeches regarding the importance of Westjet Encore operations, but I could not believe that Ferio would promote the Westjet Visa card. Yes they had some special promotions, but not sure if this is tasteful for an inaugural flight, unless the Visa card is giving out some free tickets and something more significances than giving you five times the normal introduction points. Rather lame promo! Stephen Poirier, VP and Chief Commercial Officer of Calgary Airport Authority, also made a speech welcoming Westjet Encore to establish an operation here at Calgary, which provide more jobs and reaffirming Westjet’s operation at Calgary, and thanked all the staffs in setting up these new structure to accommodate Westjet Encore operations. Pugliese presented Poirier two gifts – one is a special drawing of a Dash 8-Q400 and then a plane model of course.
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1803 posts, RR: 9 Reply 1, posted (5 months 3 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 4924 times:
Boarding began at 10:31am with special assistant passengers first. We had three wheelchair passengers, and it took almost ten minutes to board them, as there were many walking involved, and everyone was getting used to the new ramps used by these regional jets. Gate D35 actually lead you to a warehouse structure, which was bare bone and very cold. Westjet really needs to warm this place up with some pictures or posters or some plants.
Both front and back are used for boarding.
The only sign that reminds you that it is an Encore operation
I think the plane can use maybe a different logo or even include the “Encore” sign to remind everyone that it is a regional operation. However I feel that Westjet really does not want you to know that Encore has its own operation and CEO. It is just like a Westjet with propellers, not engines.
BTW, roller on bags will have to be valet checked gate side, but there were no tags though separating the normal carryon and check-in bags.
New ground equipment assisting regional operations.
Close view of PW150 Turboprop engine
All economy seats – there are three rows of plus cabin, and then the rest of the seats feature a typical legroom of 31 inches. These next generation models feature larger overhead bin and updated overhead panel.
Encore CEO Ferio Pugliese mentions that their Dash 8-Q400s are equipped with seats made by a new California company, and the seats all feature recline function, unlike most regional operators. The pictures can’t really show recline, but I try. I recline the seats and the bottom cushion will slowly slide forward. They are quite comfortable. The magazine pocket is located on top of the seat, like most new generation of economy seats.
Plus cabin – best seats in the house 1AC
1DF is also equally good with many legroom but these seats at Row 1 are slightly narrower due to the location of the tray table in the armrest, and there is no under-seat storage.
New location for magazines
Seats in recline function.
Door was closed late at 11:07am, as there were issues with the final loading, and everyone was in a learning curve. Encore CEO Ferio Pugliese was onboard this morning, and here was he welcoming everyone onboard.
We finally pushed back at 11:14am and taxied towards R/W16.
Goodbye from ground crew but there is no typical water canon salute on departure.
We took off at 11:28am, and our flying time was an hour and twenty-six minutes with a cruising attitude of 24,000 feet (we climbed slightly to 25,000feet for a short while due to turbulence.)
Shortly after takeoff
Safety card and Encore Buy On Board Menu
Onboard service started twenty-five minutes after takeoff, and the whole service was similar with Westjet. There is a simplified buy on board menu, but they did not do an extra buy on board trolley run due to the shorter flying time. Despite today is the inaugural flight, everything works normally and the only special item is the sparkling wine being available. However, when I read the Encore menu carefully, I noticed something interesting.
Here is the interesting part – complimentary beer, red and white wine – I heard someone ordering white wine behind me, but cannot verify if this is just a special offering during the launch periods. If free beer and wines are offered on all Encore flights like Horizon Air, this can really make the product attractive. Let’s be honest! Regional flights in Canada are expensive and limited free beer/wines are not expensive to serve, although I will prefer more substantial snacks. That is why I feel that Westjet Encore seems to follow Horizon Air’s operations. That’s why the ground operation is also similar to Horizon Air with no jetbridge is used and dual door boarding is also adopted too.
Anyway it is too early for alcohol and I had a cup of Coke Zero with a choice of savory or sweet snacks. The offerings are same with Mainline Westjet – Corn Chips with Flax or Cookies.
I took a short nap and descent soon began at 12:33pm, and it was a cloudy day at Nanaimo.
Some scenery on approach
We landed on R/W16 at 11:54am, and it was a short taxi to stand 1.
There was no water salute on arrival either.
Air Traffic Control Center
Lots of guests welcoming us at Nanaimo
The “Welcome” sign at Nanaimo Airport
Nanaimo Airport Collishaw terminal
C-FHEN at Nanaimo
New Valet Luggage Cart at Nanaimo
Nanaimo is a pretty small airport but there is free wifi, as well as a café.
Check-in area at Nanaimo
Westjet and Air Canada are the only operating carriers along with a few local carriers!
Some local aviation history
Today there is a party across from the Parking Lot. “Fun in the Sun” is the theme and the volunteers welcomed all the arrival guests to join local residents for free hot dogs, cold drinks, and there were face paintings and slides for kids. Quite a nice thing to do!
Tarmac at Nanaimo – Air Canada Dash 8-Q300 C-GVAT and Westjet larger Dash 8-Q400
C-GVAT heading to YVR
The return flight to Calgary was slightly delayed, as the ground staffs were still getting used to the operation here.
In conclusion, Westjet Encore seems to model against Horizon Air, which is definitely a good regional airline model here in North America. I flew two Air Canada Express/Jazz Air flights after this inaugural flight, and was not impressed with how Air Canada Express operations these regional hops. Of course, Air Canada Express operates older Dash 8 models, and Westjet Encore has the benefits of starting new. The ground operations will be a bit rough for now, but once everyone gets familiar, the operation will go smoother. I will still advice travelers for more transit time during this introductory period. Encore definitely has lots of potential to be successful and I honestly don’t think the fares will drop significantly, but at least people will get better service and a bit better values out from these services. It will force Air Canada Express to improve its cabin service and to reintroduce newer seats.
CdnCactus From Canada, joined Mar 2013, 92 posts, RR: 0 Reply 2, posted (5 months 3 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 4767 times:
Whoa, you're quick with the report! Thank you.
Good to see Westjet expanding. I remember when they first started back in the 90s with their 732s (correct me if I'm wrong). A little competition for the regional routes is not a bad thing, though I'm fully cognizant of the fact we may never see really cheap fares up here because we simply don't have the population base.
I was planning on a trip to Calgary just as the flood happened. Quite a shock to see places I'm familiar with underwater. I have no doubt though that Calgarians will bounce back quite okay.
abrelosojos From Venezuela, joined May 2005, 5000 posts, RR: 55 Reply 4, posted (5 months 3 weeks 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 3542 times:
HEY! I saw you! I wish I knew who you were. I was sitted ahead of you. You were sitted next to the Board member with Ferio right across right? You got off at YCD and took pictures?
BTW, HUGE sad news from WestJet. Their manager of network planning who oversaw the single most profitable expansion in their history and help with WestJet Encore just quit the company. I know this guy and this is a huge loss. I wonder where he is going and what this means for the company. My bet is that growth slows down and they become another airline in terms of taking risk.
j-bird From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2001, 104 posts, RR: 0 Reply 5, posted (5 months 3 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 3392 times:
Another great report as always, but this one close to home... literally. I grew up about 2 miles from YCD (which, by the way, refers to the "district" the airport is located in: Cassidy)... spent first 20 years of my life there. It was always a sleepy little airport so seeing a TR here means it has really arrived!
My first memories of aviation were shaped at this airport. They used to hold an annual airshow in the '70s, so I would get Voodoos, Snowbirds, Buffalos and Hercs soaring over the house. I also flew from here to Vancouver - I remember flights on Twin Otters, especially when I was in the Army, departing out of the airport on tour or course (perhaps part of AC?... Can't remember), Burrard Air on Cessna 340s I believe to the South Terminal and of course many flights on Schweitzer 2-33 Gliders, which I used to fly as an Air Cadet! YCD used to be a summer training school for Royal Canadian Air Cadets glider program - long since gone. I also remember a DC-3 in scheduled service sometime in the 70s for a brief period as well. The first picture you showed after landing at YCD (the old looking shack) used to be the terminal, believe it or not. The place you de-planed was built in the 80s or maybe even early 90s (can't remember, I was gone by '88).
Nice to see it's evolved - Calgary I think is the first "real" service that YCD will have (commuting to Vancouver doesn't count!).
Thanks for the TR and bringing back all the old memories!
EA CO AS From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 12961 posts, RR: 62 Reply 6, posted (5 months 3 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 3057 times:
Quoting Carfield (Reply 1): I think the plane can use maybe a different logo or even include the “Encore” sign to remind everyone that it is a regional operation. However I feel that Westjet really does not want you to know that Encore has its own operation and CEO. It is just like a Westjet with propellers, not engines.
That's exactly the idea; you want the exterior of the regional aircraft to show the same brand as the mainline.
Quoting Carfield (Reply 1): If free beer and wines are offered on all Encore flights like Horizon Air, this can really make the product attractive.
It's not surprising that they're doing some of the same things that QX does; after all, Gregg was once EVP of Marketing and Planning for Alaska Airlines.
"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem - government IS the problem." - Ronald Reagan
kiramakora From Argentina, joined Aug 2006, 539 posts, RR: 0 Reply 7, posted (5 months 3 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 3043 times:
Quoting abrelosojos (Reply 4): BTW, HUGE sad news from WestJet. Their manager of network planning who oversaw the single most profitable expansion in their history and help with WestJet Encore just quit the company. I know this guy and this is a huge loss. I wonder where he is going and what this means for the company. My bet is that growth slows down and they become another airline in terms of taking risk.
Arik is leaving?! WTF?! He is a super bright man. I have heard him speak a few times and was absolutely blown away by how articulate and passionate he is. We tried to poach him a year back to join one of the Middle Eastern airlines but he seemed very content to see Encore through and was saying great things about Gregg's leadership and his team. I guess in light of that, I am not entire surprised that someone has lured him away. Does anyone know where he ended up?
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1803 posts, RR: 9 Reply 8, posted (5 months 3 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 3025 times:
OMG it is such a small world... Yes I was sitting next to Ron Brown, the honored board member and that's why I did not get to walk around the plane. But I guess that is a price for sitting in a window seat. Are you in the "plus" section?
Yes I flew back to the US via SEA on Air Canada Jazz!
I hope you will write a report too, so it is interesting to see how you view this inaugural flight?