How to board first on WestJet without elite status or plus fare purchase

On a recent WestJet flight out of Toronto, I selected an exit row seat in economy during check-in (WestJet does not allow advanced seat selection unless you are willing to pony up – not worth it unless you’re an extremely picky traveller), which was free of charge. Some airlines make exit rows premium seats as you get more legroom, but for my flight with WestJet, I was not charged for selecting an exit row seat. Like most major carriers (you can see a complete list here), WestJet boards economy class from rear of the aircraft to front. My exit row seat was somewhere near the front of the plane, which got me right in zone 4 (second last group to board). However, unlike other carriers, WestJet boards passengers in exit rows along with the first group – those with elite statuses, before plus fare passengers (there is no first class on WestJet) are called. So while everyone was waiting for their turn at the gate, I just went up to the counter and showed the agent my exit row ticket, and off to the jetway I went. The plane was completely empty, save for the crew, of course.

I was promptly greeted by a flight attendant when I sat down and he went over the standard exit row safety speech. Evidently they prefer to do this before everyone else is on board. It was almost 1:30am (plane was delayed by 2 hours due to snow), so it was nice to just grab a seat on the plane and relax before everyone else rushes onto the plane and struggle to find room for their carryons – that’s right, if you are among the first to board, you don’t have to worry about overhead bin space, no gate check or baggage check!

So to recap: if you are comfortable with exit rows, and they are selectable for free, get those seats during check-in next time you fly with WestJet, and you will be among the first to board the aircraft.