Toronto T-Storms (part 2): LGA ramp agents walk off and abandon luggage, but WestJet has loads of legroom

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Wife dashing to LGA, I calling to reset my car and hotel reservations that I had shifted to Saturday, the weekend getaway to Toronto continues.

The Capital One car rental worried me a tad as the terms state that a reservation can only be changed once. Now I needed to change it back to the original. I explained the situation, and though the process took some time, the agent spoke with Budget, took note of the contact at Budget and got it sorted out. Otherwise I would have needed a new one-day rental to get me to Saturday. Hotel was no issue since it was prepaid with Priceline and the money was paid either way.

The interesting thing about the AA rebook on WestJet was AA got a ticket number but no record locator, advising me to call WestJet to reconfirm. That hold time was stated as 25+ minutes, so I went to the WestJet website, which required a record locator or a profile with them. I tested the original AA code and it worked, though check-in could not be completed for my wife due to the need to verify her green card, not unusual for trips involving the US.

By now the flight was already delayed to 10:08 pm, enough time for us to meet at Astoria Blvd and take the M60 bus to LGA, lamentably not enough for a stop for my wife’s special at the Neptune Diner: grilled octopus and milk shake.

Been in and out of LGA since I was 3 years old but never in Terminal C, now under lots of construction as Delta moves in. The WestJet agent seemed heavily sedated and unfamiliar with her duties, though wore a smile. She proffered $10 dining coupons for each of us for the delay, which I guiltily accepted, just grateful that WestJet took us in. The flight was only delayed 2.5 hours at that point, which seems a standard NYC flight and it’s been a long time since anyone gave me a meal voucher for that level of delay. The $20, $20.19 to be exact, bought two slices of pizza and two tacos from the limited dining options. We supplemented with plums and peaches we had in tow.

WestJet is a bootstrap operation at LGA, the gate screen was blank and the staff had no uniforms, just their own casual t-shirts. We boarded ahead of schedule.

First reaction to flying WestJet, a 737-800 LR, is that the legroom is huge. I had several inches clear from knees to seat. Second is that the crew was incredibly chipper.

WestJet 001

Loads of legroom

Passengers boarded amiably, doors close, cross-check and the rest, then sat for about 20 minutes. Eventually the Captain came on in a fatherly Canadian voice, “Good evening. We are all set to go but have a problem. The ramp crew has not been paid overtime and they have walked off. Your luggage is still on the runway. We have located another crew and they are on the way. Sorry for the delay, we understand it has been a long day.”

LGA never fails to exasperate in both mundane and novel ways.

A half a hour passed and then a racket never heard before for luggage loading commenced. Not sure who the new crew was or if they had ever loaded luggage, but by all accounts, the luggage made it on board. Our little carry-on was safely overhead.

The flight attendants gave several cheerful updates, noting that the ramp agents are through a contractor and not WestJet employees. The gates are sublet from Delta, so it might be Delta’s contractor.

Flying itself was smooth, the flight attendants served water, beer and wine, though no soda. Something rather refined about that. I was a limp rag after squeezing in nearly six hours of various rebooking activities among a busy work day.

WestJet 002

Water while ramp crew jumps ship

If Delta can establish a full partner relationship with WestJet, not just codeshares, I would be happy to consider them as a regular option. Would be awesome to be able to redeem SkyMiles on their network.

Upon parting was a welcome to Canada and reminder that the ramp crew was not WestJet.

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