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.
Thanks for reading!
[Edited 2013-06-25 21:00:48]