Getting to international destinations from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport isn’t easy. There are few nonstop flights to Europe, and they tend to be to the same places — for example, American Airlines and British Airways have nonstop flights to London, and Condor Airlines flies nonstop to Frankfurt, Germany.
Otherwise, a flight to Europe from Phoenix involves a stop somewhere, usually like Chicago, New York, Atlanta or some other similar major hub.
There’s another sneaky way to get to Europe from Phoenix that doesn’t involve stopping at a mosh pit of a hub. That’s WestJet, an overlooked Canadian airline.
WestJet flies from Phoenix to Calgary, Alberta. From there, they have flights going to the UK, Ireland, France, Spain and Italy. Many of the flights use the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, while those to cities in Scotland appear to use the Boeing 737-MAX.
On a recent, thrown-together-at-the-last-minute trip to Europe, I booked legs to and from Phoenix on WestJet through Calgary to Paris, with the return leg being Condor through Frankfurt. Here’s everything I learned.
How This Trip Came Together
In the month before our daughter’s school year ended (she’s 7), my wife and I decided to take advantage of a good break in our work/school/soccer schedules. I started looking into flights to Europe because destinations were starting to open post-COVID-19. I really wanted to go to Taiwan, but that’s not possible except for business travel just yet.
I started looking for flights based on destination, airline and aircraft type. I favor smaller cities, but that’s not always possible. Flying through major hubs can be a massive headache for customs and immigration control, as well.
I avoid US-based carriers — I just don’t rate them highly for intercontinental travel, so I avoided the American Airlines nonstop flight to London (especially since I didn’t really want to go to London). And I’ll be damned if I’m going to fly more than 4 hours on a narrowbody plane. I do extra homework to avoid that sort of nonsense from any carrier. I also like good deals, so I opted against the British Airways flight to London, which is rarely ever a decent price. And again, I wasn’t very interested in going to London. Plus, connecting to other cities via London Heathrow is not a good idea — it’s often just a donkey show of an airport.
I’ve had WestJet’s European destinations tucked away for future reference ever since I flew Westjet from Phoenix to Toronto and absolutely loved the experience. I was also excited to give Condor a shot since they brought service to Germany back to Phoenix; I was sad when Lufthansa left.
Phoenix To Paris On WestJet
Our trip would start with a 3-hour flight to Calgary. We had a slight hiccup of not being able to print boarding passes and the self-serve kiosks at Sky Harbor. The WestJet agent had that handled in seconds (it was because we had a second leg to Paris).
The first flight was on a nondescript 737NG. The flight was uneventful — everything worked, from seatback power outlets to arriving on-time. No complaints!
Calgary also proved to be a spacious, clean airport with all the necessary amenities. Checking through immigration control for WestJet Flight 10 to Paris was also a breeze.
This was my daughter’s first experience on a 787 Dreamliner, and it’s funny how people who don’t really even get nerdy about airplanes notice how different it is from other aircraft. Within moments of being seated just over the wing, she decided it was the best airplane in the world. Some of this had to do with the plane’s features, especially the huge windows, the dimming feature on them, and the seatback entertainment that included plenty of children’s programming and games. But it was the first time she remembered having a blanket, pillow and water bottle waiting for her upon boarding.
WestJet Seats, Food and Crew
The seats were the slimmer new variety, so they offer more room than the rated 31-inch pitch indicates. They were comfortable, with my butt only getting a bit numb in the later stages of the flight.
The meal included chicken with potatoes and veggies, potato salad and some sort of chocolate-coconut dessert that is apparently well-known to Canadians. It was all perfectly palatable, if not as memorable as spicy squid and bi bim bap on Asiana Airlines flights.
The crew was prompt and professional if a bit detached. I don’t remember a single thing about any of my interactions with them.
Arriving At Charles de Gaulle
This has little to do with WestJet, but I have to say I’ve never arrived at an international hub and gotten through immigration and customs so swiftly and easily. Since we were all whooped, we opted for a cab to our hotel rather than navigating the Paris metro system.
If you’re nerdy about aviation, take note: Charles de Gaulle is a monster of an airport, and you’re likely to spot all the cool aircraft. Also, watch for the pair of Concorde aircraft mounted on pedestals.
Copenhagen To Phoenix Via Frankfurt On Condor
After a few days in Paris, we took an SAS flight to Copenhagen, where we spent a few more days. When our trip came to an end, we hopped on a Lufthansa flight (a Condor Airlines partner) to Frankfurt.
Arriving at Frankfurt International Airport was wholly unpleasant next to our experiences in Calgary, Paris and Copenhagen. It was hard to even figure out where we needed to go to find the Condor Airlines gate. Also, we couldn’t check in online or via the app, for some reason. We had to leave the security area, check in, get boarding passes and then go through security.
The Lufthansa information desk was overwhelmed, and the Condor info desk was short-staffed and somewhat indifferent. She didn’t really want to get the full story from me about our Condor Airlines check-in issue.
On top of all that, boarding for Flight 2026 was delayed by two hours. There was also a long line at the gate that nobody explained to us. We found out that it was some sort of COVID-19 paperwork check. There were no signs or announcements about it.
Condor Seats, Food and Crew
I rather like flying on the 767. It has more aisle seats by percentage than any other widebody aircraft. The only problem is that a family of 3 has to take the center seats because there are only two seats near the left and right banks of seats in each row.
Still, that’s not a big deal. It’s OK to not have a window seat every time. I was looking forward to enjoying an aisle seat instead of the middle.
And then, we arrived at our row to find a pair of boomers roosting in the seats I paid extra to reserve. When we pointed out that they were in the wrong place, they assumed a typical entitled stance and blamed the flight attendant. He quickly went to work trying to sort things out.
While we waited, another very nice flight attendant passed the time by talking to my daughter and showing her pictures of her horse. (I don’t know what it is about German flight attendants, but they seem to be uniformly great with kids. They’re quick to dole our coloring books, stuffed animals and motherly attention … I’ve found this at both Lufthansa and Condor.)
Anyway, the other FA moved the boomers and got us in our appointed seats. We were toward the back with an unused row behind us, which allowed us to ease our seats back in comfort without infringing on anyone else’s space. That was nice.
Also, props to Condor Airlines for the condition of the plane. Although 767s are on the old side, this one was in great condition.
Unfortunately, the seat pitch was the worst I ever experienced on an intercontinental flight. According to Seatguru.com, the seat pitch is 30 inches but it felt even smaller. If I hadn’t been sitting next to someone who’s less than 50 inches tall, I would’ve had a terrible ride.
Food and Other Amenities
Dinner was a vegetarian bolognese, some sort of potato salad that none of us finished, a roll and chocolate pudding. Breakfast was some sort of flatbread rolled with cheese and pizza sauce. I honestly don’t pick airlines based on food, but the meals definitely aren’t an asset for Condor Airlines.
The seat-back entertainment was a pretty weak selection for economy class passengers. You could upgrade for $9 to get premium content. We only did that for our daughter so she could watch Encanto and Inside Out to pass the time.
The Bottom Line: WestJet Versus Condor Airlines For Flights to Europe From Phoenix
WestJet comprehensively outclasses Condor Airlines in every category except for flight attendants. In this case, I’d rather make a stop in Calgary to change planes rather than grab the nonstop flight.
If you liked reading about how to fly to Europe from Phoenix, here are some hints about how to get to Asia from Phoenix without stopping at LAX!
This post just might contain affiliate links. Fear not, they’re non-spammy and benign. Hey, I have to keep this thing running somehow!