For our most recent trip to Cuba, we booked online with WestJet Vacations.
This is WestJet’s first year flying into Cuba (Varadero, Cayo Coco & Holguin), and the first thing that struck me was how civilized the flight times are. Typically for Cuba you’re looking at an at least 7am departure, with 8pm departures home becoming more and more common (VERY difficult with a baby or toddler in tow). We left for Cayo Coco at a very reasonable 10am and our return at 2:45pm worked extremely well with our little passengers.
The last time I flew WestJet, they had still only just entered the Eastern market and were flying out of Hamilton. It was a work trip that had me following the Barenaked Ladies for 3 dates in the West on their cross-Canada tour. Sound glamorous? Consider it was mid-February, and the cold in Regina was so extreme my nostrils stuck together when I inhaled. It was a gruelling schedule with 12+ hour shoot days, and I was exhausted. The flight “home” to Hamilton from Edmonton took 11hrs as we had to stop in Regina, Winnipeg & Thunder Bay. I remember landing feeling shattered and starving, as WestJet was the first to offer only cookies and juice instead of real meals The idea of flying them again anytime soon was quickly dismissed.
But WestJet’s presence across Canada has grown, and they’ve managed to achieve the nearly impossible by being a profitable airline. Now I know why. Heading down to Cuba, even in the midst of ramped up security and delays at the airport, was a breeze.
WestJet’s luggage allowance is (still) generous – two pieces per person for a combined weight of 50lbs. Our one suitcase was over and we somehow (somehow!) were able to switch stuff around to equalize the weight. The fee for an overweight bag is $50. We had no difficulty checking our 6 pieces – 3 suitcases, a playpen and two car seats. They even supplied the bags to put the kid stuff in.
They do a pre-board for families, and the seat pitch is decent. This is a big consideration for us as on our first (and last) experience with a charter jet, my husband was unable to sit properly (he’s 6’7″). WestJet has live satellite TV (for free) on the seat backs (channel 1 is Treehouse – the preschool channel) and accepts regular headphone jacks. The flight attendants were very friendly (no more groan-inducing jokes, thankfully), they introduced themselves and said to ask if I needed any help. They even provided a baggie for the diaper-bomb released mid-flight AND there was a change table in the rear washroom (hear that SouthWest?)
There were complimentary drinks and snacks (cookies & juice!), plus a number of food and snack options available for purchase.
It cost about 10% more to go with WestJet Vacations instead of some of the other tour operators, but for flight times and service, for us it was well worth the money. As with our experience with Porter Airlines, we’d go out of our way to use them again.