A few weeks ago, I was very excited to embark on a work-related trip from Calgary to Fort McMurray. This would be my first time travelling to the northern Alberta city, and I was fully expecting that air travel would be the way to go. Fort Mac isn’t exactly a hop, skip and a jump from Cowtown – in fact, Google Maps tells me it’s just over 740 kilometres!
Because I work for Pacific Western Transportation (parent company of Red Arrow and dozens of other transportation services across Canada) my boss informed me that I would be experiencing the round trip a tad closer to the ground. Red Arrow would be my ride!
He explained that this highway adventure would provide me with valuable perspective on how our customers and passengers travel across this great land of ours and I agreed it was a great idea. I immediately checked out my travel options at redarrow.ca, booked my seat and was all set to go in under five minutes. Easy-peasy!
It was time for me to experience firsthand what the Red Arrow Difference was all about!
The Incredible Service Started Right Off The Bat
I arrived at the downtown Calgary stop for the first leg of my journey 20 minutes before departure, but an immediate scan of the area found no Red Arrow motorcoach. Looking like a lost puppy as I rolled my suitcase up and down the sidewalk, I was starting to think I had missed the bus! No worries – a friendly voice behind me saved the day.
“Excuse me, but are you going to Edmonton?” A polite young man dressed in a Red Arrow jacket was on the spot to inform me that the bus was parked just around the corner at the end of the block. My mind was immediately put at ease because right off the bat, I experienced helpful service. Before I knew it, the driver had stowed my luggage and checked me in. I was primed and ready for departure.
I Just Knew THIS Bus Ride Would be Different!
I’ve been on numerous public transit buses, bumpy school buses and even rickety old Greyhound buses (back in the day). However, as I stepped onto my first Red Arrow motorcoach, I sensed this would be quite different from a stereotypical bus ride. Mere moments after stowing my backpack in the overhead compartment and plopping down into my seat, I had a feeling I was in for a fantastic trip.
The cushy, reclining leather seats were extremely comfortable – what a treat! I’m not a small man, so one of the first things I thought to myself was. “Wow, I can actually cross my legs!” I definitely can’t do that when squished into an airline seat.
Before we set out, I watched the safety video and listened to the passenger experience representative explain the onboarding instructions – the entire process was clear and concise. With my seatbelt fastened, I felt 100% safe, secure and ready for my first Red Arrow ride.
Amenities You Don’t See Anywhere Else
The morning of my trip, I was running late and in a bit of a tizzy as I rushed out the door. On my way to the downtown Calgary Red Arrow stop, I realized I had completely forgotten to pack my water bottle. I also planned on bringing a few snacks for the ride, but I forgot those as well. I was kicking myself, but as it turns out, my forgetfulness wasn’t an issue. Shortly after boarding, I noticed Red Arrow’s great selection of complimentary drinks and snacks!
Travelling on a motorcoach full of passengers, I figured I had better grab my drinks and snacks before they were all gone, but there was no danger of that. The fridge was fully stocked with water, juices, coffee, tea and soft drinks, with a great selection of treats. I tried the chocolate chip cookie (a classic) and then the apple turnover (super soft and delicious). My trip was off to a great start!
It Was Time to Get to WORK
Once the driver made his final passenger pickups at the northeast Red Arrow stop and then at the Calgary International Airport, we zoomed past the city limits – and that’s when my journey really got rolling. After settling in, I was tempted to watch the onboard movie, but I was a man on a mission. This was still a workday, and I had a boatload of tasks to complete.
Plugging in my device and logging into the free onboard Wi-Fi was a snap! A few minutes after pulling out my laptop onto my fold-down tray table, I was already checking emails and putting a dent into my lengthy to-do list. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and before you knew it, we were pulling into the downtown Edmonton Red Arrow stop.
I had a layover of an hour and a half in the Alberta capital, so before I walked down the street to grab a coffee, I chatted up a few of my fellow passengers to see what they thought of the Red Arrow Experience. Every single one of them had a positive experience, and talked about the punctuality, complimentary onboard amenities and exceptional level of comfort that Red Arrow offers.
However, here’s some full disclosure – I actually work in the Marketing and Communications department at PWT, so of course, I’m contractually obligated to play up the great passenger reviews. But in all honesty, I didn’t have to look very hard to find them. Here’s the bottom line: people really appreciate Red Arrow!
On the Home Stretch to Fort McMurray
Before we departed for our final destination, I watched the Red Arrow passenger experience representatives in Edmonton expertly load and secure a wheelchair passenger. It was just another example of the Red Arrow Difference – ensuring safe and reliable travel is available for everyone. Speaking of safety, while the bus was in motion, moving to the rear of the vehicle was more of a task than I had anticipated. Holding on to the safety rail situated over the overhead baggage compartment while I made my way down the aisle actually made a big difference. Yes, I WAS listening to the safety video!
As the afternoon sun started to wane, we rolled into the Grassland, Alberta stop, giving everyone a chance to stretch our legs and grab a quick dinner. We were still a couple of hours from Fort McMurray and several hours from our departure from Calgary, but I didn’t find the journey draining or uncomfortable by any means.
Instead, because of the comfy seat and my ability to stay connected to work, my first Red Arrow ride was really humming along. Another unexpected perk of my trip struck me when I needed a break from my laptop. All I had to do was turn my head ever so slightly to the right to take in some pretty spectacular scenery through the extra-large windows.
The downtown Red Arrow stop in Fort McMurray was conveniently located across the street from my hotel, so I didn’t have to travel far when we arrived. When I first imagined this intercity bus journey, the first thing that popped into my head was a boring and uncomfortable bus ride. What I experienced could not have been more different.
I Experienced the Red Arrow Difference – and I’d Definitely Book Again
After wrapping up my stay in beautiful Fort McMurray (and I’m not kidding – it is quite lovely), it was time to head home to Calgary. Once again, the onboarding process was exceptionally smooth. I worked on my laptop the entire way home (noticing a lot more passengers were doing the same), and I think I might have eaten one too many of those delicious apple turnovers. I’m pretty sure I munched down four of them, but I couldn’t help myself!
As we approached the downtown Calgary Red Arrow stop, I could only think of one way to describe my journey: a premium experience. From check-in to arrival, this was first-class travel – but on the ground!
In the end, I’m quite pleased my boss passed on booking me an expensive and cumbersome airline experience. Instead, this professionally driven journey across the province allowed me to take my first Red Arrow ride and I have to say – it certainly won’t be my last.