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New food in Plus (737): The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

New food in Plus (737): The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Old Nov 27, 17, 11:47 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Jan 2005
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New food in Plus (737): The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I've just had my first Plus experience post-changeover.

The Good:

They’ve gotten rid of the (IMHO) low quality food that they used to hand out on the 737 Plus service. The old food looked and tasted like it came from the refrigerated shelf of a gas station convenience store.

They’ve replaced it with new Chopped Leaf offerings, which they pitch as being high quality (I agree), fresher (definitely) and healthy (I mostly agree).

I had the Chicken and Sweet Potato Bowl. For a cold item, I quite liked it. Really nice ... I’d even buy it when ‘on the ground’ if I was looking for a quick snack.

They rotate through at least of couple of different menus, so you won’t see the same food on every flight. (I’ve attached photos of two of the current menus below.)

The Not-So-Good:

As “health food”, it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

The chicken/sweet potato bowl is made up of kale and chickpeas. I loved it, but frankly I think Westjet’s customer demographic is probably more “Timmies” than “Whole Foods”. This food is going to be a tough sell for a lot of WestJet's customers, and probably won't have mass appeal.

That was confirmed by the FA on my flight.

Astonishingly, she was dismissing and apologizing for the new food before she even served it! As she worked her way through the Plus section, she asked every passenger if they’d like the meal in the most bizarre way. Every customer got something along the lines of: “We have a new food provider, and not many people like it. Tonight we have the sweet potato bowl. Do you want to try it anyway? I won't be offended if you don't like it.” Wow.

Not surprisingly, about half of the pax on my flight tried it and turned up their noses at the bowl. The woman across the aisle from me tried a bit and shoved it away, clearly disliking it. The FA told her: “Maybe let it sit for a bit to warm up first. It might taste better when it’s not so cold.” (Again, wow. Just ... wow.)

(The service levels in Plus are another issue. While I think everyone agrees that WestJet's standard in-flight service is great - usually genuine, friendly and warm - I really think the FAs serving Plus need to up their game a bit. I don't expect anything near the refined, elegant service of the (awesome) service in AC trans-Atlantic J class. But WS really does need some more polish and refinement when serving their premium cabin -- even if it's 'only' premium economy.)

Also in the Not-So-Good category:

I’m getting a bit nitpicky on this one. They pitch the new food as being “healthy”. But, oddly, everything seems to have a dose of sugar – which is distinctly unhealthy. It’s not called sugar on the menus, but there’s sugar everywhere. “Maple glaze” = sugar. “Mango glaze” = sugar. Processed, sweetened cranberries added to anything = little sugar cubes. The “maple granola mix” = a sugar/carb bomb. Sweet might be tasty, but it ain't healthy.

I try to avoid eating any sugar at all, although I realize that’s not for everyone. But I struggle with them using the ‘healthy’ label when everything on offer is finished off with a good dose of sugar.

I really like the new pre-purchase chicken/spinach salad, but it was packed full of sugarcubes processed cranberries. I found it frustrating that an otherwise really good food item was ‘candied’ up with those things. Blechh. I picked them all out. Why not put those in a separate little dressing container so I'm not forced to eat them (or to pick them out)?

The Bad:

You get one “choice” for your Plus meal. Period.

Don’t like it? Tough. It’s that or nothing.

If kale and sweet potatoes aren’t your thing, Plus guests officially now (only) have the basic “sweet or salty” pretzel/cookie offering to fall back on.

All of the other food on board is now, according to the crew on my flight, only for Economy. And not available to Plus guests.

According to the crew on my flight, they were letting Plus guests have access to “non Plus” food only after the Economy section service is completed -- seemingly as a favour. The exact line was "You can only have something from what's left over after Economy service has been finished." (It wasn’t clear, but it seemed as though Plus guests might have to pay for the "leftovers". Because that food isn't for Plus any more.)

Nothing about that seemed very 'premium'. At all. To me, it makes buying an exit row seat much more appealing than Plus - good legroom, early boarding, and a broader food selection with actual choice, at a much lower cost.

The changes in Plus, I assume, were meant to make the Plus product better and more appealing. But it seems to me that they’ve actually done the opposite (in spite of moving from ‘convenience store food’ to fresher, better quality food).

The Bad, part deux:

The Plus service now seems to only consist of the snack bowl, plus a small dessert.

No side dishes, no appetizer, no snacks (other than the usual cookie/pretzel thing).

Just one smallish bowl of food.

That's perfectly fine for a short flight. But it's frankly really sparse for a longer haul. (Recall that some 737-operated flights - like Costa Rica - are over seven hours long.)

The ugly:

I have some longish-haul 737 flights booked over Christmas for the family. We bought Plus. I know my two sons won’t care for this new Plus food, but they need to eat. I asked the crew on my most recent flight what I could do for them.

Their response: I would need to pre-purchase other food items from WestJet (i.e. that they would like). Or I could buy my own food at the airport to bring on board.

What the?!??

I paid for freaking Plus for my entire family. And now I’m told I need to pack my own food, or pay even more! So, I went online last night and pre-purchased another $50 worth of food for our family flights in December ... even though I already bought Plus fares.

And, apparently, we won’t even be able to buy a Kit Kat or can of Pringles for them once we're on-board. Because those items are now available exclusively to the guests who paid waaaay less in airfare than we did. (Unless there are some scraps left over at the end of service.)

Grrrrrr. Welcome to Plus, folks.

Also in the “Really Ugly” category: the Plus breakfast

The old Plus breakfast was quite pointless. Yogurt, bread, and a fast-food cellophane pack of apple slices. I'd hoped this food changeover would lead to a big improvement in the morning food selection.

As much as I love the new chicken and sweet potato bowl offered for lunch/dinner, the morning options are revolting.

A bowl of chia seed pudding. Yep. Chia. Pudding. What on earth were they thinking?

Not only will my kids not touch that on our upcoming flights, I would never eat that (even though I'm a bit of a health nut, and I love things like kale and sweet potatoes!).

A chia pudding bowl? Ewww. Not-with-a-ten-foot-pole. Never. So before my upcoming morning flight in Plus, I'm now running to a post-security Starbucks to buy my own food.

Again, grrrrrrr.


Overall:

The best way to sum up the food changes in Plus: one step forward, two steps back.

I gotta think they're already getting a lot of pushback from customers. I'll be intrigued to see how they respond.


The current menus:

Here are images of the two 737 Plus menus I've seen so far. (I'm not sure how many are in rotation at one time.)






Last edited by FlyerJ; Nov 27, 17 at 12:54 pm
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Old Nov 27, 17, 1:22 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hmmm, "Chia" as in Chia pet??? Just in time for Christmas!! Sorry, the mental image has been deeply ingrained over the years!!

Yeah, I'm not really thrilled with the lack of choice. I'd rather have a wrap of some sort that seems to be exclusive to the rest of economy now.

And breakfast? If it has to be cold and a bit "fancier," then serve something like a protein box with hard boiled eggs, cheese, fruit, and a some kind of bread or croissant with a spread? I really didn't mind the yogurt or banana bread to be honest, along with my choice of wrap or sandwich, I usually picked the Ham and Swiss croissant for something breakfast like.
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Old Nov 27, 17, 1:43 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2005
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As I posted in another thread, the onboard air hostess told me that change can be tough. In other words suck it up. Their social media folks told me they are getting rave reviews on the new menu. I have no idea how. And I was also told I could not purchase a kit kat as it is seasonal. Go figure.
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Old Nov 27, 17, 2:02 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
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Seems grim. Eat before the trip is a good idea. Taking away the snacks and such from Plus is a terrible idea.

To correct some hyperbole:

AC does not have refined, elegant or awesome service trans-Atlantic in any class of service. Or transcontinental (in J, in both cases) WS is no better but no worse either. SQ, or CX have, try them and compare to the mediocre we're doing you a favour service on AC.

YYZ SJO is not over 7 hours, it's around 5 1/2. Even to Panama on Copa is not near 7 hours and it's a longer flight.
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Old Nov 27, 17, 2:15 pm
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Originally Posted by ricktoronto View Post
To correct some hyperbole:

AC does not have refined, elegant or awesome service trans-Atlantic in any class of service. Or transcontinental (in J, in both cases) WS is no better but no worse either. SQ, or CX have, try them and compare to the mediocre we're doing you a favour service on AC.
.
My experience in Air Canada's J pod was fantastic. It was fantastic service ... I truly felt pampered. YMMV, clearly. (My WS 767 Plus experiences have been 'nice', but more in line with domestic J. My WS 737 Plus experiences have been pleasant, but the crew often comes across as a bit rough around the edges for a premium cabin experience.)

Originally Posted by ricktoronto View Post

YYZ SJO is not over 7 hours, it's around 5 1/2. Even to Panama on Copa is not near 7 hours and it's a longer flight.
LIR YYC is 7 hours 22 minutes.

That's WS 2261, operated on a 737-700.

Last edited by FlyerJ; Nov 27, 17 at 2:23 pm
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Old Nov 27, 17, 3:35 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
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Well, sorry to tell you that AC service generally can't be considered any of those terms you mentioned, so you were lucky indeed. Pleasantly indifferent. It's not coach but it is nothing like competitors like Cathay where such experience is routine. Even on Copa or Avianca their service is better, without being forced. I think the flight attendants have a more service forward attitude of their jobs. More of a "yes" attitude than a "if I have to, OK" attitude.
And I think WS Plus on 737 is not worse, service wise (or better). They are cheery enough for me, not any more or less than AC, for the class of service. The pod (on any airline) clearly is better than a Plus seat but Plus is sold as PE not J so that's reasonable to expect from WS. One of their biggest failings in Plus is sticking with the absurd 3X3 seating with the blocked seat. There is no shortage of 2X2 seating available. Especially for 737.

As for the whole meal conundrum, the snacks are available and free for Plus per this exchange today with WestJet. The one meal choice for now might be itinerant with this new food provider business, I guess we will see. I see there is a "if" we stock the snacks but since it's a business for them I doubt they will not stock snacks on long haul flights. So in a pinch cheese and sausage, Pringles and Twizzlers for lunch.

"Hi (my name), we have recently made changes to our buy-on-board menu and the food services available to our Plus guests, concurrent with our switch to a new food provider. During this switch we are limited to the number of choices we will be providing. However, as long as the aircraft has been fully stocked with other light snacks all Plus guest are eligible to receive them as a perk of flying Plus. We hope this answer yours questions. ~(Ws name)"

I stand corrected on the duration. There's no way I'd fly 7 hours 22 minutes on WS Plus in 737. Food or no food. My trip next week to SJO or flights to YVR are pretty much the limit for PE on any airline.

Last edited by ricktoronto; Nov 27, 17 at 3:43 pm
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Old Nov 27, 17, 4:14 pm
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However, as long as the aircraft has been fully stocked with other light snacks all Plus guest are eligible to receive them as a perk of flying Plus. We hope this answer yours questions. ~(Ws name)"
Then somebody from WestJet HQ should probably let the cabin crews know.

Yesterday evening in Plus, it was an emphatic “no, this is your food, and that is their food” from the cabin crew on my flight. (Other than pretzels and cookies, that everyone gets.) And, as mentioned, the FA handling Plus sure made it sound like she was breaking the rules and doing people a special favour by getting them other food options from the back — once everyone in the back had been served. And then, the additional food was only given to those in Plus who complained the loudest about not liking the chicken/sweet potato bowl — not to everyone.

It would seem there are also big problems in how this was rolled out ... not just what was rolled out.

And even if the response you received was correct (and my FA was wrong) that still wouldn’t make up for offering Chia Pudding as a ‘meal’.
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Old Nov 27, 17, 4:52 pm
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WestJet has asked me to ask the complainant (e.g. you) to contact them about being refused snacks in Plus, so I suggest you do that via Twitter is most responsive. The non-Plus meals, one can see they have to fulfill coach requests first (or they get nothing - just as unfair) but after that they should be as available as anything else. Would you expect a coach passenger gets nothing because you wanted his or her food? Clearly not.

I have an early a.m. flight to SJO and will eat in the Plaza Premium lounge vs. risk chia pudding. Sounds like what you used to spread on those ceramic heads and they grew green hair.

I have to say they step on their hands a lot whenever trying to improve things.
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Old Nov 27, 17, 5:05 pm
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Not to sound like an ....... here, but maybe if you are that picky about your health and what is in your food, you should pack it from home. You are in a metal tube 35K feet in the air. It won't be perfect.
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Old Nov 28, 17, 8:48 am
  #10  
 
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Agree this is an absolute crap devaluation in service. Why not just limit (instead of unlimited) choices from the regular menu of the "health bowl"....mine was served cold not heated at all.
Also got the same apologetic response from the FA.
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Old Nov 28, 17, 10:59 am
  #11  
 
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And I bet neither you nor FlyerJ have complained to them like they asked. No feedback = no change.

WS told me that there's more choice in Plus starting in January. Frankly over Christmas they should have left well enough alone and started something new in January when their supplier was ready which appears not to be the case from what they told me.
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Old Nov 28, 17, 1:47 pm
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Upgraded to Plus yesterday YYZ-YEG. There was one single item for food on the menu - a completely disgusting looking mango chicken rice bowl. That's it. No sandwiches, no salad, no snack boxes. When you have to bring your own food on board for Plus seating, why would I do this over another airline's plus product?
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Old Nov 28, 17, 2:11 pm
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This roll out of improved menu is turning out to be quite a stumble for WJ. Another data point to share - YEG - YQR in Plus. 90 minute flight. Asked for snack box, beef jerky, was told we don't serve that. I can have either pretzel or cookies. Are you serious? For a 90 minute flight? Nothing? It says on the menu any flight over 1.25 hours you can get anything you want - chips, beef jerky, snack box, humus dip. No dice. FA said no. Wow. I asked for Captain Morgan spiced rum and coke. No we don't serve that. Captain Morgan clearly in the cart. I can see it. We only serve wine and water or juice on this flight. You are kidding? I got a white wine in a plastic bottle. Next day - YQR - YEG in Plus. 81 minute flight. Captain Morgan? Sure. Beef Jerky? Yes. Humus dip. Sure. Anything else for you? Cookies. Night and day difference. WJ, you need to get your act together. Is your FA deciding what to serve now? Third data point - YWG-YYC in Plus. FA said you can only pick what is in my basket (in her hands). Not from the menu. This flight is over 2 hours. Why? This is our new menu. Clearly you aren't following what is on your menu then. I want beef jerky and humus dip or snack box. Nope. Only what is in this basket. She had Banana bread, chocolate bar, kettle chips, pretzel or cookies. Again, why have a menu when you don't let your customers choose?
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Old Nov 29, 17, 8:27 pm
  #14  
 
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YEGTigger and Sunny Day need to complain to WestJet more than complain here.
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Old Nov 29, 17, 11:27 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
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I don't know if anyone has ever said this before... But makes me glad I booked Premium Rouge for a flight next month.
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