Flying WestJet with an In Cabin Pet!

On March 28th, 2012 I had the chance to fly to Toronto from Ottawa to be a part of the filming process for the “Pet Spoilers” promo. The concept of the show is for people who spoil their pets to compete for a prize based on who has the “Best Dog”.  I think it’s a fun idea even if I am a little unclear how that would all actually play out.

Being Interviewed for Pet Spoilers Montecristo Travels

Being Interviewed for Pet Spoilers

It was a wonderful time! We met some fantastic people and got to see how it’s all done.  Mom and I have always been interested in how things work behind the scenes.  We love to know what really happened versus what the camera ends up showing once 90% of the recorded material ends up on the cutting floor.

How much is made up or staged? How much is reality?

If anything comes of it – we promise we will keep you posted; but for now let us begin our WestJet airline review.

WestJet Airlines Ltd was founded in 1996 and is a Canadian “low-cost” carrier providing scheduled and charter air service to 76 destinations in Canada, the USA, Mexico and the Caribbean.  In the early days it only operated in Western Canada – hence the name WestJet.

WestJet is a public company with over 8,000 employees, and is a rarity in the airline industry as it is non-unionized and operates only one type of aircraft – the Boeing 737 Next generation planes.

Telling jokes is a long-standing WestJet tradition; in fact, they are so serious about being funny that they produce a joke book titled “just plane fun” for staff and update it regularly. There is a copy on every aircraft.  Rest assured, telling jokes however is not compulsory for flight attendants.

The WestJet motto is “We take our jobs seriously but we don’t take ourselves that seriously.”

The cheesy jokes offered up have been known to elicit an eye roll or two from passengers.  If you are the kind of person that likes things done in a stringent, conservative way, the carefree attitude of the WestJet staff may take some getting use to.  But on the whole we found the humor harmless and a nice change from the classic boring approach we hear on every single flight.  Although they seem to be having a great deal of fun, they never appear to take it to the point where you worry about their ability to do their job.  The uniforms are clean, crisp, sharp and the smiles genuine.

We heard some fun ones including:

“Ladies and Gentlemen as always WestJet is proud to offer a non smoking flight. For those of you that might light up, we will escort you to our outdoor seating area where you can smoke at your leisure and enjoy our feature movie: Gone with the Wind”

“In the unlikely event of a loss of pressure in the cabin these areas (points to the part above people’s heads) will open and release Tim Bits! (For my non Canadian readers this is a small round pastry made from donut dough) …. Just checking who is still with me. Pull down the oxygen masks….”

“Thank you once again for flying WestJet. Remember that it is faster than taking the bus and if you marry one of us you fly for free!”

Being Interviewed for Pet Spoilers - West Jet flight

Under the seat!

The aircraft was comfortable and clean and there was plenty of room for my Sleepypod under the seat.  It is important to note that WestJet is particularly tough on keeping your pet in the carrier. At no time while in the aircraft is your pet allowed to even poke its head out.  The zero tolerance for this extends even to service animals. The staff enforces this with a kind “no nonsense from you” look.

Here is what the WestJet website says about reserving a space for your pet:

  • For your pet’s comfort, we recommend that you consider non-stop or direct flights, as well as early morning or late evening flights in the summer and midday flights in the winter.
  • Space for pets cannot be reserved online. To add your pet to your travel plans, please contact us at 1-800-581-9499.
  • We strongly recommend requesting space for your pet as soon as you have completed your booking and a minimum of 48 hours prior to your scheduled departure. If you check in without requesting space for your pet(s) 48 hours prior to departure, you may not be permitted to travel with your pet(s) as we limit the number of pets permitted on each flight. See below for fees and kennel information. WestJet cannot assume responsibility for pets that are not accepted for travel.
  • To add a service animal to your travel plans, visit our service animals page.
  • Pets travelling unaccompanied: WestJet Cargo accepts pets travelling unaccompanied on domestic flights only. If you wish to transport an unaccompanied pet within Canada contact WestJet Cargo for rates and information at 1-866-952-2746 (1-866-WJCARGO). If you wish to transport an unaccompanied pet to a U.S. or international destination, you must make arrangements through transportation companies and/or commercial businesses that meet specific shipping and administrative criteria.

The charge for a pet in cabin or for cargo is the same and is currently $50 each leg of your flight. As far as the fees go they are on the low end for airlines and rather affordable. Service animals go free, including Emotional Support Animals (ESA).  They do require proof that your companion is indeed a service animal.  This documentation must be sent to them by fax (1-855-648-8166) 48 hours before departure.  This means you can’t fly with your service animal last minute without possible complications.  In fact you need to alert them of your pet joining you in cabin 48hours in advance as well.  The reason provided is that they limit (they do not say how many) the number of animals allowed in cabin on each flight.

These are there conditions for acceptance of a pet on board:

  • Your pet must remain in the kennel at all times for safety and operational reasons.
  • If you remove your pet from the kennel (carrier) while onboard, you may be banned from travelling with your pet in the cabin on future WestJet flights.
  • The kennel must be stored at your feet at all times.
  • Pets that appear to be aggressive, unruly or in distress may be denied for transport at our discretion.

WestJet has an extensive page dedicated to Pet Travel on their site and I have to say that although I don’t agree with service animals having to remain in their carrier at your feet (most airlines allow service animals to be in the carrier on your lap after take-off) I am rather pleased that WestJet has a “Pets are our guests too. Here’s what you need to know to fly with your best friend” attitude.


Up up and away (from West Jet website)

In review: Like in every situation you will have those that love animals and those that do not. We met some of each among the WestJet staff during our round trip. We had those that kept smiling and asking about my well-being gushing and just wishing they could take me out of my carrier and squeeze me.  We also had those that you knew would much rather not have to deal with an in-cabin pet. But those individuals always remained professional. So, we give WestJet a 4 Paw rating.  One paw removed for not allowing service animals “in carrier on the lap” like many other airlines in order for the animal to be able to do provide its service. Given that WestJet is pet friendly and have lower fares the odds are very good we will fly with them again.

18 Comments on “Flying WestJet with an In Cabin Pet!

  1. I think I’ll fly WestJet just for the humour 🙂

    I agree with animals being kept in their carrier; some animals get nervous, are not well trained to follow commands or have owners that aren’t responsible, so having the animal stay in the carrier is the safest option for all concerned.

    • I agree Cyn – in carrier is fine. It is the fact that it extends to service animals I have trouble with. If you are an emotional support animal, or a diabetes alert animal – you need contact with the human to alert them and do the job. Keeping them at the feet and not on the lap for example … seems counter intuitive. Most service animals are highly trained and as such would not run around the cabin. On air France I am allowed in my carrier on the lap … what difference does it make if the carrier is on the lap, versus on the floor at your feet?

      Thanks for the comments!!

  2. Very good article! Full of helpful info for people using that airline!!

    • Always a pleasure Marlene! Hope the humour made you laugh!

  3. Great post Monte! I have traveled with WestJet around Christmas and it was really funny 😛 they had a WestJet christmas song that made me cramp up from laughter. I will agree with your ratings, i mean if your service pet must be contained while on flights and if somehing happens to you, your pet can’t do it’s job.

    • Indeed … that is the only “Oh really?” I had. A service animal is there to perform a duty – a task. Many times the way they alert is by putting a paw on the arm or some other such tactile alert (versus a bark) to put the service animal out of arms reach seemed odd to us.

      In addition… a pet IN a carrier at the feet or on the lap … as long as it is IN the carrier …. what is the difference? for landing and take-off it makes sense … safety issue. but after? In any case … good crowd works there.

  4. Very interesting Monte… It’s time to educate. Quite often, when I speak about flying with my pet, people comment about service animals. Some say it’s just a way for the pet owner to get away without paying the cost to fly their animal. If you are not a guide dog people assume you are a pet.
    Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public is prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. WestJet should let the service animals do their job, not keep them from doing it.
    As you know, service animals perform the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform. Guide dogs are only one type of service animal. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. There are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include: Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds. Pulling wheelchairs, carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments. Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance. Alerting a person about an oncoming seizure! A service animal is not a pet. The laws obviously change from country to country. That discrimination…is indeed no laughing mater.

  5. We prefer flying WestJet ’cause their positive attitude. 🙂

  6. OMG… I laughed out loud at the non-smoking joke. Hilarious! I heard so many good stories about their humour in the past. It’s so nice to see that some people can still manage to put humour into their job. Way to go WJ!
    p.s. I agree that service animals should be allowed out of their carrier to “do their work”.

  7. Pingback: Flying Delta with an In-Cabin Pet | Montecristo Travels

    • I don’t either … ECXEPT when it comes to service animals. The odds are good that the owner needs the animal to travel without anxiety etc. To deny that is not something that sits well with us. I absolutely agree that the staff are lovely. I just find that there needs to be a revision regarding service animals and ESA’s.

  8. Did you fly using the sleepypod small, or medium? Do you know the heigh measurement? I’ll be flying this September with my cat on westjet using a sleepypod air, and am a little nervous about it!

    • the small … the sleepypod air is bigger you should be fine! I recomend you do little mini trips in the meantime. Cat in pod … go for a car ride or two for example. 🙂 Good luck!!

  9. I have flown West jet many time with pets in the cabin including my Emotional support animal and West jet is one of the best. my ESA sat in my feet and West Jet gave me extra seat because it was uncomfortable to have my feet on top of my dog
    I did call them in advance and faxed the letter from my doctor and they e mailed me right away approving my request and after my first trip I learned to call them in advance and request extra seat so the dog can have space
    I think if you need your ESA in your lap the letter from your Psychologist must state that
    I agree on the other hand it would be better if they allow the small dogs to sit on your lap if they are in the carrier

    • Thank you Mimi for your comment! I have since flown with them again and it seems to be a bit of a hit and miss. Sometimes they allow me on the lap (as our ESA letter states) and sometimes they don’t. We have called to ask and their policy is to allow me to remain on lap with our letter. But it seems that the staff are not always trained on the difference between the ESA rules and pet rules. Having said that, I still think just allowing all small pets to be on lap as long as they are in the carrier should be allowed. That is what Air France, KLM and Delta do. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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