Trip Reports - Canadian Flying Part 2: Pacific Coastal Airlines, Westjet and Comox
Jun 20, 12, 7:50 pm
Part Two: Pacific Coastal Airlines
Full Album including both Air North and Pacific Coastal Airlines
Pacific Coastal Airlines is a major regional airlines serves mainly the Vancouver Island and nearby cities in British Columbia. It has a fleet of seaplanes, B-1900Cs, Short 360s, and Saab 340s. Of course my eyes are on the Short 360s, as it is difficult to find a flight on Shorts 360 these days. Why I chose Comox? Westjet has recently started a number of flights to Calgary and Edmonton from Comox and Comox makes a reasonable destination and I can do an one-day thing without long layover. One of the major issues is what to do at these regional destinations when you have no car and don’t feel like fishing or spending days there. Comox Valley airport is small but at least it is brand new with a coffee shop and free wifi. Two airlines fly to Comox from Vancouver – Central Mountain Air and Pacific Coastal. CM Air basically runs the flight for Air Canada and you can fly from the main terminal. Pacific Coast airlines is more local and actually uses the South terminal, along other smaller regional airlines flying to smaller Vancouver island communities. I settle with Pacific Coastal, as I want a regional flavor, and since I am no longer Star Alliance gold, I don’t want to bother with AC. Plus I saw 8P actually operates Short 360, an interesting aircraft type that is hard to fly within the US now.
8P 705 YVR-YBL Lv1145 Arr1230
8P 705 YBL-YQQ Lv1245 Arr1255
Pacific Coastal Airlines has a comprehensive website and I am able to find a flight that departs at a decent hour and scheduled using an aircraft type that I like. Since it is open seating at Pacific Coastal, I don’t need to worry about seat assignment. There is no online check-in but who needs it when you are flying a regional airline, which operates from small airports? It is a very easy booking process.
South Terminal Shuttle from Main Terminal at YVR
These airlines use South Terminal
Entrance to South Terminal
South Terminal has an aura of general aviation to it, and there is a coffee chop outside of security, as well as a gift shop. Flights run out from three gates – 1&2 requires security check, and gate 3 does not have to deal with security.
Lovely small airplane in the rooftop
A Nice bear Statue
Entrance to Check-in
Complimentary newspapers including Vancouver Sun for all 8P passengers
There is quite a line of passengers but the process is pretty efficient. Pacific Coastal airlines definitely weigh every check-in luggage and it is not a surprise. But future passengers, please be aware of the allowance. The agents were efficient and polite, not super friendly nor personable, but pleasant enough.
BTW, this flight has a stop at Campbell River before going onward to Comox and than back to Vancouver. It runs a triangular operation.
Gate 1 & 2
Lots of old Vancouver Airport photos in the wall
Our load to Campbell River was light with only six passengers (only three went to Campbell River this morning), and boarding began at 11:43am. An agent scanned the boarding passes and the first officer, a very handsome Darren, led us to the plane. It is designed to be a more personable experience, or flying these regional flights, these pilots really have to do more things than flying a Boeing 737. First officer is sort of like the flight ambassador and Darren is a friendly person.
When I arrived at the airport, I had already noticed that there was no sign of any Shorts 360 aircraft, except a few B-1900s and Saab 340s. I checked flightaware for any Shorts 360 flights arriving into YVR, and there was none, so I was not surprised to see C-FPCO, a Beechcraft 1900C being used. Anyway it is still a new aircraft type for me.
South Terminal from the plane
Lovely weather and a lovely plane
Door was closed two minutes later and Darren gave us the welcome speech and did the safety talk. They both made it clear that if there were any issues, it is okay to tap on their shoulder on the open cockpit.
Darren was doing the welcome speech on the second flight
Jun 20, 12, 7:51 pm
Cabin & Seat Shot
B-1900C is a regional aircraft and has no bathroom or galley facilities. There is no service performed in these short flights, and there is no flight attendant. The plane has basically nine row of seats – two abreast seating with a middle seat in the aft row. There is not much headroom and I have to lean forward to avoid bumping into anything. It also makes taking photos a bit difficult.
Individual lights on the overhead panel
Air Vent and Oxygen Mask on the side panel
Newspapers are available at check-in counters
Reading materials in the seat pocket – Inflight magazine, Pacific Coastal Promotional material, Safety card and Disposal bag
Of course the best entertainment is the scenery especially on a sunny day like this Monday morning.
Unfortunately I apologized for not getting the cruise attitude, as I expect to find them later at flightaware, but for some reasons only the return flight from YQQ to YVR has record, not the outbound flight. However I have a feeling that our cruising attitude is not too high at all especially the last flight from Campbell River to Comox.
Startup was straightforward and we taxied towards R/W26L within minutes. There were a bit of traffic including a Cathay Pacific 747-8 Freighter taking off, along with the usual Air Canada mix.
We finally took off at 11:54am and our flight time was twenty-six minutes.
A last look into YVR
A last look into Vancouver City
The rest will be a selected few scenery pictures along the flight and I will let the pictures do the talking – lots of interesting beaches, bays and mountains.
Jun 20, 12, 7:52 pm
Approaching Campbell River
We landed at R/W30 at Campbell River at 12:20pm, and taxied towards the terminal building shortly after. Once again Darren is in charge of opening the cabin door and informing passengers whether they could deplane. I am sure that you can use the facilities at the airport if you want to.
Campbell River Terminal Building
Both the cockpit crews – Captain Dale and First Officer Darren – were busy helping out with the unloading in the cargo hold during the short fifteen minutes layover. There were lots of Federal Express packages this afternoon.
First Officer supervising the process
Central Mountain Air B-1900C here too
Boarding resumed again at 12:35pm and eight passengers joined us at Campbell River, and they were all heading to Vancouver. Boarding took two minutes, and door was closed at 12:37pm. We took off from R/W12 at 12:42pm for the short seven minutes flight. I doubt we climbed anything above 3000 feet.
Goodbye Campbell River
The route took us inland and then out towards the Bay, before landing at R/W18 from the Bay.
Lovely scenery and nice beaches along the way
Comox Valley Airport
Final approach (Darren made an announcement at 12:47pm)
We landed on R/W18 at 12:49pm and parked at Gate 2 two minutes later. Deplaning was quick with three passengers. Nobody bothered me about the picture taking
Lovely YQQ sign at the arrival area
Jun 20, 12, 7:53 pm
Baggage Claim – there were two baggage claims and 8P uses the one furthest from the terminal. This area can easily be closed off and used as a temporary international immigration/custom area. They have charter flights to Mexico.
I was the only passenger with check-in bag – lonely bag.
I like this decoration – pointing to different cities.
C-FPCO going back to Vancouver and when will I see you again?
Comox Valley airport is a very small regional airport, and these pictures pretty much all the major aspects. They basically have two gates with three parking spots – one for Pacific Coastal, one of Central Mountain Air and one for Westjet, which has the largest operation in Comox. The free wifi is also a courtesy feature from Westjet – a great way to promote the airline.
F/O C. Cottingham Terminal
Coffee Shop – pretty good food – I had a lovely Turkey Panini and cauliflower soup for lunch
I really love these plane-themed chairs and tables.
Jun 20, 12, 7:53 pm
Tourist information center
Westjet Comox commercial
Marine Life to decorate the gates
Largest Marine Reptile
Skeleton of the largest marine reptile
Ancient Sea Floor
C-FPCO arriving from Campbell River and Vancouver again – short turnaround too
WS 304 YQQ-YEG Lv1600 Arr1825 Boeing 737-700 Winglet C-GWBJ/ “215”
Gate 2 getting ready for the arrival of Westjet 737
C-GWBJ arriving from Edmonton
Complimentary newspapers from Westjet
Boarding began at 3:26pm, and pre-board included passengers that needed special assistance and those seated in the exit rows. Priority boarding was strictly reinforced and there was a couple behind me, who questioned the agent on why I was allow to pre-board, and she smiled and said that he was in the exit row. I guess paying for exit row will give you priority boarding, and extra time for the F/A to brief you, since the Canadian government required a more thorough explanation on how to open the door. The flight was very full and exit row was 100% full this afternoon. Door was closed early at 3:52pm.
Jun 20, 12, 7:54 pm
View of the YQQ terminal building
Central Mountain Air again C-FCMV B-1900D Third aircraft at the tarmac this afternoon
Three friendly F/As welcomed everyone on board and the different between flying Air Canada and Westjet is that the employees are definitely happy about their jobs and proud of their companies. They will go the extra mile to help you and the greeting is more sincere.
Few more cabin shots
We had the traditional Westjet seat with the adjustable headrest and personal television. There is a newer version of slimmer seat with sliding headrest on the Boeing 737-800, but no more personal television.
There was no push back here at YQQ, and the engines were started at the gate and then the plane followed the curve line and did an one eighty and taxied towards the runway.
We took off from R/W12 at 4:01pm and flight time was an hour and fifteen minutes with a cruising attitude of 39,000feet.
Beautiful scenery after takeoff
Too bad the weather was cloudy all the way Edmonton and only a few shots prior to our descent into Edmonton
Service began with the F/As selling headsets including a fancier noise-reduction version. Please note that Westjet doesn’t provide free headset but you can use your own headset. Buy On Board was not offered on this short flight, but alcoholic beverages were available. Beverage includes the usual complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and a cash bar. You can choose between a pack of Ranch flavored Crispers or brown sugar blueberry cookie, as snack.
Here is my choice today:
A Live TV powered by Bell was turned on after the safety demonstration, and you are sort of force to watch some commercials after takeoff. I guess it is reasonable to watch a 3 minutes ad considered the TV is free. The reception is much better on this flight than the Whitehorse to Vancouver flight too. I have no issues watching various shows. However I am saddened to learn that the new Boeing 737-800s will not have personal television and for US bound flights, Live TV will no longer work. Westjet will instead rent out tablets. My personal point of view is that Live TV is something special and the ability to watch live news and sports is a good selling point. Wifi will perhaps be a permanent feature in the future, but the current technology is still limited and reliable high speed wifi may still be decades away from possible. It won’t be a while till everyone can turn on their individual wifi devices and able to stream audio and video all at once. Live TV should remain a good selling point. I don’t even mind paying $5 to $15 depending on the length of flight. The weight is of course a concern for the airline, as well as the maintenance, but with the relatively high cost of traveling in Canada, these personal televisions are good to keep. I hope that Westjet will really think this though.
We landed on R/W02 at 8:16pm local time (Edmonton is an hour ahead of Vancouver) and parked at gate 54 seven minutes later.
Air Canada Boeing 767 C-GHOZ just arrived from Heathrow
Air Canada E190 heading to Vancouver
Jun 20, 12, 7:54 pm
Canjet Boeing 737-800 parking at the tarmac
In conclusion, it has been an interesting journey to fly all these interesting Canadian carriers and I hope I can fly First Air and Canadian North in the near future, and of course I am not going to give up flying the Shorts 360. Maybe Canadian aviation enthusiasts or any Pacific Coastal insiders can give me a few tips on many chances in securing the Shorts 360. I may fly up there in August. Anyway, it is nothing fancy, but I hope you enjoy these short reports.
Also, this trip has provided the opportunities to visit various large and small Canadian airports, with the exception of Whitehorse, they are all renovated nicely with clean and modern facilities all around. Free wifi are available in most airports, and the toilets are all clean and properly maintained. Most airports use lots of natural light and high ceiling to illuminate the spaciousness and the décor has lots of local cultural themes, as well as aviation related. Food outlets and shops are readily available, along with plenty of seating room for waiting passengers. Even baggage claims are decorated with local cultural motifs and animals that promote the particular city or state.
Anyway I hope you enjoy this two part report and the next report won’t happen for a while, as I don’t really have special flights to report back till possibly in August, when I am going to fly Virgin America’s inaugural flight from San Francisco to Washington DC National airport, and a more exciting trip to Asia on CX First.
Jun 21, 12, 10:22 am