Experiencing @WestJet as a @Delta Frequent Flyer

Over the recent weeks I have had the opportunity to fly WestJet from Toronto-Pearson (YYZ) to LaGuardia (LGA). On these flights, I was able to experience both their Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737-600 cabins, as well as the check-in process.

Check-In and Perks

Since I purchased these tickets through Delta, the Passenger Name Record (PNR) from Delta was not the same as the one that WestJet sees. Because of this, I had to reach out to Delta ahead of time to get my WestJet PNR to check-in. If you purchase the ticket directly from WestJet, this step won’t be necessary.

As WestJet is a “low cost carrier” (LCC), seats are not assigned prior to check-in unless you call in and purchase the seat in advance. This was a pretty big change from what I was used to from flying with Delta – granted, I was fairly spoiled by Delta. On both my flights, the WestJet Plus (the premium economy cabin, similar to an inter-Europe business class cabin) cabin was completely booked, so I wasn’t able to purchase an upgrade at the time of check-in.

Though no Delta representative was able to offer details on what benefits are available to Delta Medallion flyers on WestJet flights, even with the widely publicized “transborder joint venture”, WestJet support on Twitter was helpful enough to explain that I would receive free checked bags if I provided the agents at the counter with my Delta Medallion information to show my status. I was slightly disappointed that free seat selection for preferred seats was not available for WestJet operated flights as with SkyTeam partners (AirFrance, for example).

In-Flight Experience

YYZ-LGA

A curious fact – with how short my flights were, liquor purchases were not allowed. The beer and wine were offered complimentary, however, which was a nice touch. I sampled both of the white wines offered  between my flights and was pleasantly surprised by their quality.

On all WestJet flights, you will be asked to remove all headphones and pay close attention to the safety demonstration prior to take-off, so don’t be surprised if you are asked to take yours off when they start to demonstrate things.

B737-600

WestJet currently has 13 Boeing 737-600s in service. This and the 737-700s (of which there are 54) make up the bulk of WestJet’s fleet. Both the -600 and -700 share similar layouts within the cabin with no seats having any power. Thankfully, my flight was a relatively short 350 miles, so it wasn’t a huge issue. This would be rather frustrating on a longer flight, though. With how common USB outlets are on planes, I have definitely been spoiled.

The satellite television was a little spotty because we were crossing the border, but I was able to catch the tail-end of an episode of Murdoch Mysteries before we lost signal.

B737-800

In stark contrast of the smaller -600, the -800 (non-MAX) variant offers individual power in every seat. This is very different from what is available on most planes in the US because each seat has their own 110V outlet, instead of having to share two between three seats. This was a very nice surprise. The downside is that there were no in-seat screens for entertainment, but with available power it is much less of a concern. There was also more under-seat storage on this plane than the -600. As I have been traveling with two laptops and associated accessories, this has become a major concern for me, and was also a very pleasant surprise.

Closing Thoughts

Overall I quite enjoyed my WestJet flights and I can see myself using them again in the future. I will be paying close attention to the further developments for the joint venture between Delta and WestJet for any new perks for elites of both programs (particularly around seat selection). I look forward to giving WestJet’s Plus cabin a go, as well!

A Bay Area Jaunt – Hyatt House San Jose/Silicon Valley

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the  San Jose area for work. Spotting a conveniently located Hyatt property, I jumped at the opportunity to diversify my points (having spent most of the last few years between Marriott and Starwood properties).

The Hotel

Located in a convenient cluster of restaurants and  stores, the Hyatt House provides a great deal of convenience to travelers. Though the parking is complimentary – there is a sizeable parking structure behind the hotel – there is shuttle service offered to and from the airport as well as other locations nearby. There are quite a few restaurants within a mile or so, as well, which makes for a nice walk when it comes to dinner!

The rooms are just what you would expect from an extended-stay property – a comfortable bed, sitting area, and kitchenette. Nothing that really stands out, but not a disappointment by any means. The fitness center, located behind the in-house restaurant, offers cardio equipment, free-weights, and a cable cross machine.

The in-house restaurant also offers a breakfast buffet as well as an omelette bar. Though you can build your own omelette each morning, they do have a daily special as well.

The Rok

Next door to the hotel was what grew to be one of our favorite dining spots: Rok Steakhouse and Grill. Local to San Jose, Rok is known for offering a grill-your-own experience at your dining table… on a rock. Though a little pricey, I can’t recommend it enough. My coworkers and I wound up going back twice. It certainly didn’t hurt that they had WhistlePig Old World.

A nice touch with their drinks menu is that they list the notes you can expect with their liquors, making it easier to get a feel for what you might like to sip on with your meal! They also offer whiskey flights (which I regret I wasn’t able to sample during this visit).

Sendo Sushi

A short (2/3rds of a mile) walk from the hotel is Sendo Sushi, which we discovered purely by chance. Very reasonably priced having excellent food, I’m very confused why the ratings are averaging to 4.2/5 on Google. Don’t let that number dissuade you! The portions are adequate and the presentation will blow you away.

The Club at SJC

After a very long week, I was finally flying home. Unfortunately the TSA Pre-Check line was closed when I got to the airport, so we had to use regular security at the time.

The San Jose airport has only one lounge, but it is easily accessible between Priority Pass and a variety of other partnerships. As with other “The Club” locations, everything is complimentary. This is a nice change from some lounges that insist on up-selling you for everything.

Though the number of outlets was severely lacking and the WiFi wasn’t the greatest, the lounge itself had a nice atmosphere and the attendants were very friendly. I can definitely see myself returning here on future trips to the area.

Surprising Offers from @United

This week I received two curious promotional emails from United. One was for a mileage promotion where I could spend $400 for 7,800 (bonus) miles, or $900 for 19,900 (bonus) miles. Certainly not bad for topping off an account! Granted, I have a hard time rationalizing flying on United where my status is complimentary thanks to their relationship with Marriott versus Delta where it’s earned with butt-in-seat miles.

If I were Premier Gold, where the Economy Plus seating was available at booking, and Economy Plus offered the same perks as Delta’s Comfort+ Seating I would definitely be open to taking United up on this offer. It certainly doesn’t hurt that SFO, IAH, and LGA have Centurion Lounges in their United terminals.

Not a bad boost!

The second email I received was from a new partnership between United and BP that allows you to earn miles whenever you fill up your tank. The frustrating thing here was that even though I attempted to register, it insisted that I couldn’t. Guess I’ll stick to discounted gas at BJs!

Has anyone else received these offers? Going to take United up on their offers?

[24]7.ai Cyber Incident and @Delta ‘s Response

Delta has been sending out letters to inform customers that they have been notified of a security breach of [24]7.ai, the chat service they (and other companies) use. At this moment it’s unclear just how many customers were affected, but there is the potential that it could be several hundred thousand customers.

Incident Timeline from Delta.com

The good news is that no passport or government ID information was impacted, and the scope of the breach is limited to the customer payment information. The culprit seems to be malware present in [24]7.ai’s software that was present between September 26 and October 12, 2017 that allowed for unauthorized access to form-fields when manually completing a transaction on any delta.com desktop platform at the time. The specific form-fields that were targeted were: name, address, payment card number, CVV number, and expiration date. This breach was limited to the desktop platform. The FlyDelta app, mobile delta.com site, and other systems were all unaffected.

The better news is that Delta has informed us in a timely manner (they were told on March 28th, they released the response website on April 5th, and they have been sending letters to SkyMiles members since). They have also reached out to AllClearID to offer complimentary two year credit monitoring for all SkyMiles members as a precautionary measure.

AllClearID Details

As always, keep a close eye on all your credit card statements and get in touch with issuers if you see anything questionable!

The Oncoming Storm: Marriott/SPG Merger Information

As much as I was upset by the news of the merging of Starwood with Marriott, and I’m still not thrilled by the prospect, the recent news really is the best case for what we could hope for from an SPG member perspective. There are definitely some frustrating points involved, particularly for partner members (Delta and United alike), those that receive status from credit cards (American Express Platinum, for example), and those that focus on stays over nights to attain status.

Adding a spend “qualification” to receive Ambassador service does make sense given the property footprints of Starwood versus Marriott, but putting the price in USD is questionable as Gary points out. For those that spend a lot of time in countries with drastic currency conversion rates, it might require a ridiculous number of days to attain this tier of status. Bundling Your24 with this tier is also a little frustrating, but again with the substantially increased footprint, I can understand wanting to make this more exclusive.

Given Marriott’s relationship with United, the announcement that the relationship with Delta will be ending soon isn’t really a surprise. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed earning points with both at the same time, so this will be missed. With old Platinum Premier Elites, when this tier was invitation-only, receiving Untied Gold, it’s unclear if there will be a new influx of United Gold members as well.

I appreciate that the new Lifetime Status qualifications are based on nights and years, not on points/spend. Plus: breakfast at more properties which can save a decent chunk of change. All things considered, it could be much worse!

Global Upgrade Certificate Success! Thanks, @Delta!

Sweet!

I’ve gotten some concerned looks in the past about some of the routes and mileage runs I’ve done to maintain my status with Delta, but believe me when I say it pays off.

I posted earlier about some excitement regarding an extremely affordable trip to Paris later this year, and after having received my Global Upgrade Certificates I had one of the smoothest certificate-related calls to date. There was space available on the outbound flight, so I was immediately confirmed for Delta One! I’m still wait-listed for the return upgrades, but all things considered I’m not too worried.

One of the nice things about booking the flights separately is that my upgrade for the JFK-CDG flight is not dependent on any other space. This makes it much more straightforward to monitor with services like ExpertFlyer.

Noise-Canceling Headphone Reviews from Reviews.com

I was recently contacted by Elizabeth Reynolds from Reviews.com regarding their analysis of active noise-canceling headphones. For the upper ends of the price range, the headphones listed are definitely solid purchases. As someone partial to Bose, I certainly can’t argue with their placement!

There are a few more affordable headphone options for consideration, though, for those not able to spend $200+ for headphones. I’ve listed a couple of my personal favorites below. All the links below are for Amazon’s Smile, where a portion of your purchases will go to a charity of your choice at no cost to you.

Over The Ear

ATH-ANC7B

Audio-Technica ANC7B is my go-to pair when it comes to affordable over-the-ear active noise-canceling headphones. While they go for ~$200 new, you can get factory refurbished headphones for less than half that price. I picked my pair up for $67, and they’re going strong more than a year in! Reducing background noise by 90%, these are amazing for long flights. An added bonus is that you can use the headphones with a dead battery by leaving ANC off. The headphones come with a carrying case, and extra adapters to use them on old-fashioned airline outputs.

Audio-Technica also released an ANC9 version which has 95% reduction. These headphones also have three distinct settings for sound isolation, allowing for greater control over your experience.

TaoTronics

TaoTronics also has an over-the-ear offering that is even more affordable coming in at $54. This can further be reduced, for a limited time (with use of coupon code KINJA22J), bringing the final price to $37. In addition to these headphones being wireless (Bluetooth), they have an integrated microphone so you can take phone calls while you use them.

QuietComfort25

Bose’s QuietComfort25 headphones are currently marked down from $300 to $170, which is an excellent price for a pair that my coworkers have been using since their introduction to the market in 2014. I can safely say you will not regret this purchase.

In The Ear

Bluetooth
Wired

TaoTronics also has a pair of in-ear headphones. The nice thing about these headphones is that you can charge the embedded battery while using them. This is not common for most ANC headphones, so this is a very nice feature. As with their over-the-ear headphones, this pair has an integrated microphone. For those that want to go wireless, a Bluetooth version is available. Both pairs come in at under $60.

ANC23

It should come as no surprise that I also mention Audio-Technica’s ANC23 in-ear headphones. Offering an in-ear 90% isolation solution with a comfortable fit, it’s hard to say no for $40!