Friday, October 13, 2017

The unveiling of WestJet's 737 Max 8 with photos and flight video

This is a repost from my article on Rewards Canada

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending the unveiling of WestJet's newest aircraft, the Boeing 737 Max 8. Over the past few weeks the Calgary based airline has taken delivery of two of the 50 aircraft they have on order. Fin 302 was on display in one of their hanger bays in Calgary for the media and WestJet employees to walk through and of course be able to take pictures and videos of it as well. Fin 301, was in the next bay over getting ready for the 1st Canadian flight of a Boeing 737 Max aircraft, that is a flight wholly within Canada with passengers on it. The event was mainly attended by employees but also the Calgary media, some of Calgary's best known plane spotters and Rewards Canada!

The new plane ushers in the latest technology and services for WestJet and the airline is really excited to be adding the planes into their fleet. While many features that the plane provides are huge for WestJet the recurring theme was the 14% increase in efficiency the plane will provide over the existing next generation fleet. Hopefully the decrease in costs for fuel are passed along in the fares..... ;-). Outside of it being way more efficient, the plane is much quieter! I sat in row 23 behind the engines and can attest to it being significantly quieter than the current 737NG fleet. This will be much appreciated by not only those on board the plane but even those on the ground who aren't fond of planes flying overhead.

Some other notable changes are the Boeing Sky Interior which boasts LED mood lighting with four different settings (Sunset, sunrise, WestJet Blue & anight time ambient service) and of course the larger overhead bins that on average will allow for 60 more carry on bags to be stored on the aircraft.
Overhead bin
Mood lighting in the ceiling
These will also be the first narrow body aircraft in WestJet's fleet to have ovens in the galleys which means hot meal service will be available!
 For seating WestJet is moving to hybrid three cabin style. You still only have two main cabins, Plus and Economy but there is also now an Extra Leg Room section at the front of the economy cabin right after plus. You'll know you are in these seats as they have the white headrests but not with 'Plus' embroidered on them. Seat pitch on these MAX aircraft are 34" for Plus and Extra Legroom sections while the rest of Economy will range from 30" to 31". While in the air we were told that Plus will actually be increased to 36" pitch sometime here in the near future to match the rest of the 737 fleet. The new seats in Plus and Extra Legroom sections feature a quilted back to further distinguish them from economy.

Plus Seating
Extra Legroom Seating

Regular Economy Seating
I had tons of room in the regular economy seat but then again I'm only 5'-9" (or 5'-8" as my kids claim)
View across row 23 in the economy section

Once through the plane on the media side we boarded fin 301 for the sightseeing flight that took us over the Rockies, unfortunately it was mostly cloudy over most of Southern Alberta and B.C. however the mountains did peak through on occasion.

Actual sightseeing flight path in green

During the flight there were speeches from Gregg Saretsky (WestJet's President & CEO), Boeing's Jeff Edwards and others.  There was lots of praise for the aircraft, the WestJet employees and more. Some more details will also revealed on more changes coming to Plus service. Primarily WestJet is working to add a cabin divider between Plus and Economy and they have set up a partnership with Giusti Wines of Calgary to serve Prosecco out of big bottles to all passengers seated in Plus.
Prosecco being served on the flight!
 It really seems WestJet is ramping up it's higher end service and they need to since they will be offering a full business class on their 787 planes. The better the two integrate the better and smoother it is for the customer. Overall the flight was an awesome experience to have and we have to pass along a big thank you to the WestJet and WestJet Rewards team for allowing me to join them on this special occasion. What follows is a Youtube video compiling some of the photos and videos taken during the event.

Finally yesterday saw the first commercial flights of the plane (Flights 662 and 667) between Calgary and Toronto. Let us know if you were lucky enough to get on one of those flights and share your thoughts below! If not, feel free to comment anytime in the future when you do get onto one of the new Max aircraft once they start flying full time on November 9th!

Please note that some of the statements we pass along here from WestJet are subject to change!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WestJet Rewards: Earn up to 1,000 bonus dollars for flying across Canada!

WestJet has launched an amazing flight bonus offer for travel within Canada. We are particularly excited about it as it was nice to work with WestJet Rewards to develop the promotion! Rewards Canada (well our parent company, FFB Group Inc.) developed this bonus offer concept and pitched it to WestJet Rewards as a great promotion to use to celebrate Canada's 150th Birthday. WestJet worked the concept to fit perfectly with their needs and budget. Heck they even made it more rewarding than we originally proposed as WestJet will reward you with that flight back to your home province on your first round trip! I can say we did not have that in our proposal so be thankful WestJet wants to reward you with even more WestJet dollars!

On to the actual promotion!  

To celebrate Canada's 150th Birthday, WestJet Rewards will reward you with lots of bonus dollars when you fly across Canada to different provinces. The more provinces you fly to the more dollars you earn. Make it to 10 provinces or territories and you'll earn a total of 1,000 WestJet dollars. That's right one thousand dollars. Since WestJet Rewards works like cash that's a hefty amount of dollars to use towards future flights. So all of you traveling salesmen, consultants and such who travel coast to coast to coast - now is the time to register and take advantage of a huge potential win fall on your travels! Even if you aren't that frequent of flyer you should register as you'll earn at least 25 WestJet dollars on one round trip flight within our great nation!

Offer details
Earn up to 1,000 Bonus WestJet dollars when you fly WestJet across Canada. Register Online (Registration is required) May 2 - Dec 31, 17

Fly to another province or territory, and you'll earn 10 bonus WestJet dollars. Fly to another province or territory (going back home, for instance), and you'll earn 15 bonus WestJet dollars. So, one round-trip excursion out of province earns you 25 bonus WestJet dollars. Pretty exciting, eh?
  • Province or territory 3: 15 bonus WestJet dollars
  • Province or territory 4: 20 bonus WestJet dollars
  • Province or territory 5: 25 bonus WestJet dollars
  • Province or territory 6: 30 bonus WestJet dollars
  • Province or territory 7: 35 bonus WestJet dollars
  • Province or territory 8: 40 bonus WestJet dollars
  • Province or territory 9: 40 bonus WestJet dollars
  • Province or territory 10: 40 bonus WestJet dollars
And why not make your WestJet travels even more rewarding and enjoyable by taking advantage of our Exclusive offer for WestJet Rewards Silver Status when you apply for and receive the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earn 2,000 Bonus Rewards Points for stays at the Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel

One of our favourite hometown hotels is offering bonus points to stay there! Right now you can earn 2,000 bonus Marriott Rewards points for stays at the Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel. We checked to see if this was one of those boost the rate and offer bonus points type of promotions but it is not. The bonus points rate is the same as the best flexible rate. You can get cheaper rates but those are the advance purchase non-refundable rates that many of us tend not to book unless we are 100% sure that we are completing that stay.  You can read a complete review of our stay at the Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel here!

Offer details:
2,000 Bonus Rewards Points for stays at the Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel. Full Details and online Booking Until Jun 24, 17

Find the best list of Marriott Rewards bonus offers here.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Flight Review: Air Canada AC901 Calgary - Kahului, Maui (YYC-OGG) Business Class

We like to enjoy our time with family when travelling so I only review our odd hotel stay or even less frequently review a flight. One such flight where I did take just a couple of pics and felt was worth reviewing was from our Family Day vacation trip to Maui. I think a review is worthy since it is the only flight between Canada and Hawaii that has a true international business class. Air Canada's other flights from Vancouver and Toronto are on Rouge aircraft and WestJet's are 737's out of Vancouver with their regular Plus seats while some of their Alberta-Hawaii flights are 767's which have the larger Plus seats but aren't considered a true business class. The reason why Air Canada's Maui flights are utilizing an internationally configured Air Canada 767 is that it is the same plane being used for the Calgary-Tokyo flights, which of course would not be utilizing a Rouge aircraft. So as we mentioned in our podcast a few weeks ago, if you are flying to Maui and want to travel in style without connecting via the U.S. you'll want to connect via Calgary.

The flight was schedule to depart at 5:30pm but ended up being delayed by a mechanical issue. Just as most people had boarded the plane the power went out from the APU. Within a minute or so power came back on but of course they wanted and needed to check it out.  You don't want to be stuck in Kahului with a malfunctioning APU but rather make sure whatever the issue was that it was corrected in Calgary. The resulting delay was about an hour as we waited for AC maintenance to diagnose and fix the issue. The flight ended up departing around 6:40pm and thanks to a bit of shorter flight time then scheduled we arrived about 45 minutes late into OGG.

We did a one way Aeroplan mile redemption for our entire family for the business class flights to Maui. On the way back availability was scarce for the number of seats we needed as it was during the Alberta Family Day break so the return flight was in Economy. Still I'll take Air Canada International Economy over Rouge. Not to mention the flight back is overnight and typically under six hours so you don't get to enjoy the business class as much except (and this is a big exception) the lie flat seat for sleeping.  

For the flight to Kahului I had seat 6F which is in the middle on the right hand side of the aircraft:

The menu for this flight:

I went for the BBQ Chicken with Grits and it was pretty good.... good enough that I also got it on my LAX-YYC flight a week ago!

and finally Rewards Canada being featured in the American Express ad on Air Canada's in flight entertainment

That's it in a nutshell! We can rarely say there is an advantage of flying out of Calgary but this is definitely one of them!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Fly British Airways to London for as little as $626 all in!

British Airways is offering some amazing economy class fares between Calgary and London. Fares start as low as $623 all in round trip!  Find out more and book here.

For example Sep 26 - Oct 3 is at the lowest price of $626 for travel on BA's Boeing 787. Premium Economy fares are pricing out pretty decent as well with the same dates pricing out at about $1,300.

WestJet announces intent to launch ultra-low-cost carrier

In what probably can been seen as another strike at ultra low cost carrier newleaf, WestJet surprised many today with their announcement that they intend to launch a new ultra low cost airline!
WestJet today announced its intention to launch a new, ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) in Canada subject to agreement with its pilots and any required regulatory approvals. Service is expected to start in late 2017 with an initial fleet of 10 high-density Boeing 737-800s designed by the airline that first brought low-cost air travel to Canada in 1996. The ULCC will provide Canadians with no-frills, lower-cost travel options.
"We have built WestJet from its low-cost, regional roots into a renowned, international airline with service to 21 countries and today it's all about disrupting at the price-sensitive end of the market," said Clive Beddoe, co-founder of WestJet and Chair of the Board of the Directors. "Launching a ULCC will broaden WestJet's growth opportunities and open new market segments by offering more choice to those Canadians looking for lower fares."

"The worldview on low-cost airlines has changed since the launch of WestJet in 1996 and we are responding," commented Gregg Saretsky, WestJet President and CEO. "The complete unbundling of services and products in order to lower fares for the price-sensitive traveller has created the ULCC category and our new airline will provide Canadians a pro-competitive, cheap and cheerful flying experience from a company with a proven track record."
I really don't know what to say but if history in the Canadian airline marketplace is any indication then WestJet will have an uphill battle with this one. Remember Air Canada's Tango? Air Canada Zip? JetsGo? CanJet, Greyhound Air? They all were attempting something similar, although at the time it would have been only called low cost carriers (LCC) which WestJet was and still calls themselves but in reality they are now a full fledged regular airline.

There are still lots of questions to be answered and we'll get those when they release more details but are newleaf and Air Canada's Rouge really having that much of an impact on WestJet that they need to go this route? Are they being proactive about Jetlines? Do they want to lower labour costs (ie move certain flights/routes over to the new ULCC) Other questions will be can you earn and redeem WestJet dollars on the new ULCC (the smart move would be yes, but probably at a lower earn rate), will you be able to interline between the ULCC and WestJet (probably not as that adds costs) and many more!

Read the whole press release here.

What are all your thoughts on today's announcement from WestJet?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

YYC Celebrates National Pet Day

(Calgary, AB) - YYC Calgary International Airport is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Pre-Board Pals Program with an in-terminal celebration and opening of its first post-security pet relief area. The Pre-Board Pals program, introduced last year in partnership with the Pet Access League Society (PALS) has been embraced by both passengers and YYC employees. In less than a year, the pack of furry friends has grown from 12 to 36 and have provided over 1,200 hours of comfort to visitors, travellers and guests.

“The Pre-Board Pals program has brought a lot of smiles to our passengers and we’ve received fantastic feedback from guests, staff and travellers alike since introducing the program,” said Peggy Blacklock, Manager, Airport Community Engagement for The Calgary Airport Authority.

Today, pooches from the program will celebrate the anniversary with a ‘Pooch Parade’ through the airport terminal, showing off 26 pups — some dressed for show in aviation-themed costumes — with their volunteer sidekicks in tow. The parade will begin in the Domestic Terminal at 6 p.m. as they wag their tails throughout the Arrivals Level until they reach the International Terminal.

With a focus on improving the travel experience for all passengers, including those travelling with pets, the airport also unveiled its first post-security pet relief area today. The in-terminal pet relief area makes it more convenient for passengers with pets to take their furry travelling companions and/or service dogs for a bio-break, without having to leave the post-secure area.

“We serve a large and diverse passenger mix at YYC and are always looking for ways to make the experience through our terminal even better for our passengers – that, of course, includes our furry friends and their owners,” said Debbie Stahl, Director of Passenger Experience for The Calgary Airport Authority.

Complete with turf intended to mimic fresh cut grass and a scented fire hydrant, the pet relief area sits next to Gate B34 in the Domestic Terminal Building.


The Calgary Airport Authority is a not-for-profit, non-share capital organization, incorporated under the Alberta Regional Airports Authorities Act, and is responsible for the safe, secure and efficient management of the YYC Calgary International Airport (YYC) and Springbank Airport (YBW) under long-term lease from the Government of Canada. YYC's mandate is to advance economic and community development by providing improved airline and transportation services for the benefit of the public. The Authority has invested over $4 billion into the continued development of YYC, opening Canada's longest runway in 2014 and a new International Terminal in 2016. YYC is a key economic driver for Calgary and Alberta, generating more than $8 billion in economic activity annually and creating 48,000 jobs.

Friday, February 24, 2017

New YYC Calgary Transborder Aspire Lounge Review

Transborder Aspire Lounge Entrance - Photo courtesy of Swissport
 To start our latest vacation the Rewards Canada family recently visited the new Transborder Calgary Airport Aspire Lounge. This lounge opened up on October 31, 2016 along with the entire new International terminal at YYC. This is the only transborder lounge in YYC as the old Rocky Mountain Lounge is now closed and is one of four lounges available in Calgary. The other three are the Aspire Lounge International, Chinook Lounge (Domestic) and Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge.

The Lounge
The new lounge has a much more open feel than the old Rocky Mountain lounge with lots of seating in booth areas, bar seats and bench seating. The lounge also has some loungers in semi enclosed areas where you can watch TV. The seats in the booth areas all featured cubbies for small carry on items and more importantly individual plugs for charging all your electronics!

Here are some general photos I took of the lounge:
At the check in desk!

Middle of the lounge seating with bar stools to the back

These are the seats with the cubbies and plug ins to charge your electronics

Food & Drinks
Outside of the peace and quiet of lounges the biggest draw for many to business class lounges are the food and drink options. Previously at the Rocky Mountain lounge (and in the current Chinook lounge) the food options are quite limited, in particular the hot food options which was usually just soup. The good news that the new transborder Aspire lounge has hot food options! When we arrived the options were chicken fingers, grilled tomatoes, fried rice and carrots. The bad news was the food wasn't very good. Later on the tomatoes were replaced with hashbrowns but we didn't try those out. We ended grabbing some food from Burger King (yes, BK - don't judge) to consume in the lounge. Perhaps we were just unlucky with the food that day but if not hopefully it will be something they work on and provide some better hot food options. The drink options were decent with several beers and hard alcohol options available along with wine. For non-alcoholic drinks there were your usual cans of soda, bottles of Juice and water (still & sparkling) on tap. As a reminder then bring an empty water bottle to fill up if you used to be used to taking water bottles out of the old lounge to your plane!
The hot food options

The alcohol options - there is also wine but not in this picture

Entering the lounge was easy as we simply provided our J Class Air Canada boarding passes. Flying AC Business Class you can also choose to go the Maple Leaf lounge first but you'll have to clear security first for that lounge and when coming back for Transborder you'll have to go through U.S. customs and then security again. Kind of a pain hence AC's access to this lounge for their Transborder flights. Had we not been in business class we would have reverted to the other options our family has and those are The Platinum Card from American Express (which provides access for the whole family), Priority Pass (from The Platinum Card) or at the very least our Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard but the last would only have covered 2 of the 5 of us that were travelling. You can pretty much access the lounge with any lounge program as mentioned but also Dragon Pass or you can buy single entries. To find out more about all the different lounge options read and bookmark Rewards Canada's Guide to Business Class lounge access

Overall this new transborder lounge is very nice, much better than the old Rocky Mountain Lounge. We look forward to using it lots and also can't wait to try out the International lounge as well. We just hope the hot food options get a working to something better!

Have you visited this lounge? What do you think of it? What do you like and what do you think could be done better?


For the best access to this lounge no matter what airline you are flying or what fare class and want to have your family get access look no further than The Platinum Card from American Express:

The Platinum Card from American Express

New Platinum Card® Cardmembers, earn 50,000 Bonus Membership Rewards® points by spending $1,000 in purchases in the first three months of Cardmembership.
• Platinum members are automatically enrolled in the Membership Rewards First™ Tier and earn 1.25 points for every dollar in purchases charged to the Card
• The Platinum Card gives you access to exceptional lounge benefits such as the Canadian Platinum Lounge Benefit, Airport Club Program and access to the Cathay Pacific Business Class lounges and oneworld® alliance airlines Business Class lounges.
• You will also have access to elevated status with many Hotel & Car Rental loyalty programs, $200 Annual Travel Credit for Travel Bookings through Platinum Card Travel Service, lodging benefits at a collection of over 700 Fine Hotels & Resorts around the world, access to special events and unique opportunities and a dedicated concierge team
• You can use Apple Pay on your eligible device to pay for goods and services at participating American Express contactless merchants
• American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link.
• *As a Charge Card, the balance must always be paid in full each month. 30% annual interest rate applies to balances not paid in full.
Conditions apply
Apply Now