Trip Review: WestJet Economy Class Boeing 737-600

Today we’ll go through the experience of flying WestJet’s basic domestic economy service from Vancouver to Montreal on WS542. This four and a half hour flight had its discomforts but there were also some pleasant surprises which made the flight more pleasant than expected.

Waiting at the gate for WS542 Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Boarding

Getting on to the plane was straight forward. Vancouver is one of my favorite airports so I almost always have a good experience here. Seating is plentiful, WiFi works, and there are clean restrooms throughout. And I just generally appreciate the overall vibe of the place: large windows letting in natural light with a calming bluish-green and wood nature theme.

Outside gate B16 at YVR. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
The YVR B Concourse. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Prior to boarding, the gate agents made an announcement that they would need 10 volunteers to check their cabin bags. Like most airlines, the offer was for free. But it was also accompanied by the threat that if there were an insufficient number of volunteers, it would potentially delay the flight. There was also the reminder that due to the nature of the full flight, cabin-baggage size would be highly scrutinized.

Boarding for WS542 Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Passengers were offered the opportunity to check some cabin bags for free. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Inside the cabin

Boarding the Westjet flight. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Front facing view of the cabin interior. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

After getting on to the plane I arrived at my seat: 11B. C-GEWJ is an old Boeing 737-600 at 13 years (delivery was in 2006). The cabin definitely shows its age – especially with the size of seatback screens. It’s certainly a world away from WestJet’s new 787s.

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I was already frustrated by the fact that I had a middle seat because my mixed itinerary (Air France/WestJet) forced me to check-in at the airport and not in advance. I really should have called ahead to ask if I could be assigned a seat. However, doing that will take at least 15 minutes of being on-hold on the phone, I find.

Foiled again by the underseat IFE box. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

What made the middle seat worse was that I had the luck of having the inflight entertainment system’s (IFE) electronics box situated in my leg space. For people not putting a bag under the seat in front of them, this is no big deal.

However, I always keep my larger backpack with me so I can access my laptop and charge my phone if needed (and also have access to many other things). My bag couldn’t really fit because of this stupid box so I stuffed my bag below my knees hoping it would go unnoticed during pre-flight checks. If it weren’t for that box, there would be no issue with legroom – I’m almost six feet tall (181cm).

The legroom was okay. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Looking out the aircraft window. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Inflight entertainment

It’s been quite some time since I flew WestJet and I had honestly forgotten about their inflight entertainment system. With their large fleet of older 737s (with original non-refurbish cabin), the seatback screens are quite old as well.

An old entertainment system. Better than nothing? Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

I was expecting a pay-per-use system as I had experienced on previous flights with FlyDubai and United. However, scrolling through the channels I realized that no payment was necessary to watch a dozen or so Canadian television stations.

Satellite TV was the standard entertainment for the flight. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

These stations ranged from the local news stations of Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, etc as well as specialty channels. Specialty channels included Cartoon Network, a sports channel, documentaries, cooking, and more. I personally watched a TV documentary series on the Canadian border services agency for a good portion of the flight.

Earbuds/headphones were not provided, but there were options to purchase your own (see image below).

Paid in-flight extras. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Food and beverage options

Again, I was pleasantly surprised that there were some complimentary food and beverage options available in basic economy. Me being surprised is probably more of an indication that I’ve been flying too much Ryanair and easyJet recently where nothing comes for free.

In basic economy, passengers were served snacks and beverages twice. The complimentary drink options can be seen in the image below (top left). For snacks, passengers had the choice between cookies or pretzels.

A look at complimentary and paid beverage options. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

I didn’t try anything on the paid menu but things certainly sounded delicious. Prices were the expected inflight premium cost.

Some of the paid food options. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Conclusion

My biggest issue with the flight was the IFE box ruining my already limited legroom and under-seat space. On the plus side, I found the seats to be comfortable enough and enjoyed the small complimentary food and beverage offering. I also was entertained most of the four and a half hour flight with the IFE – even if the image was jittery and scrambled sometimes.

Flight attendants were pleasant and easy to communicate with and we arrived pretty close to the scheduled time. I find choosing between WestJet and Air Canada to be a difficult decision because my own experiences of inflight comfort and service ranks them at about equal (though many AC IFEs are much newer).

That’s it for my review! If you have anything to add, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

5 comments
  1. I think the 600s are the only ones that have the LiveTV IFE left. There is one 600 upgraded to what they’re all going to look like, with the 2×2 premium seating, upgraded Panasonic wireless IFE (BYOD, no screens), and 2 lavs. I think it’ll have ovens as well for hot meals for purchase. Likely would have been done already if not for the max grounding.

    1. Interesting! Yeah it’s been awhile since I flew WestJet but I had the assumption all their aircraft were BYOD. Thanks for your comment!

  2. I think you were unlucky. There are very few B737-600 still operating with WestJet, but those 600’s won’t get any upgrades because they were supposed to be already gone. Actually, they haven’t sold those aircraft due to the Max grounding, so these few birds will be flying regional for a bit while their Max’s are allowed come back. WestJet’s fleet is mostly comprised of Q400’s (Encore), B737-700 and 800, B767-300 (soon to be replaced by Dreamliners) and B787-9 Dreamliner, of course. Plus, many grounded B737-Max 8 and several other undelivered Max parked in Seattle). I fly WestJet a lot —I NEVER ever fly Air Canada, and my experience is always the best. I do love their service and I really like where they are going with their conversion to a full-service airline.

    1. Thanks for sharing Joseph! While I was raised in Canada, I’ve been globetrotting for the past two years so I haven’t experienced much of AC or WestJet since 2016. I remember AC having new and response seatback IFEs which made my flight more enjoyable. But as far as I can remember, WestJet’s corporate culture and standard of customer service is far better than most airlines.

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