Economy flight on Air Canada to San Francisco – Spring Snowboarding in Colorado

So this would be my first flight of the journey for spring snowboarding in Colorado. This flight would be operated by Air Canada and I have actually taken a similar flight on the opposite direction in the Business class cabin so it would be interesting to compare notes regarding the flight.

AC560 Vancouver International YVR – San Francisco International SFO
Codeshare: UA8253
STD-STA: 0905-1129
Actual: 0918-1123
Embraer 190 C-FHNL
Gate E82 Seat 19A

Being dropped off at the airport by my brother, I headed straight to Air Canada’s US Departures check-in counter. Surprisingly it was quite quiet in the morning and I was able to check-in one free luggage even with a Star Alliance Silver Status. (I am traditionally a oneworld flyer but AA does not seem to have much flights to Colorado) The check-in was fast and as usual for Canadian-based flyers to the USA, they had to personally drop off their luggage and with my oversized ski luggage, it had to be screened further and opened up for inspection.

With the slight hassle, it was time to head into security and past through the US immigration so passengers from Canada are treated as domestic arrivals. Sometimes this can represent more time but for the most part I have used the service from YVR, it was quite acceptable. And this time it was no different since the queue was not that long and I was soon in the Maple Leaf Lounge in no time. I had access to the transborder MLL as US Airways were still part of Star Alliance then and that meant my US Gold was acceptable for entry, though I credited my miles to another Star Alliance program.

Magazine rack
Magazine rack in the Maple Leaf Lounge

Having visited the lounge a few times earlier, I would be posting just some photos of the amenities in the lounge. Somehow that morning the lounge seems to have new arrivals of magazines as all the shelves are stocked up with different issues. On some of my past visits the shelves were empty. And the breakfast staple was actually quite decent with muffins, pastries and fruits. If Air Canada has been investing in their lounges, that is good news!

Muffins and pastries
Muffins and pastries for breakfast

I picked up some cappuccino and a banana for a light breakfast before grabbing some newspaper and magazine to read for my flight. One of them was the celebratory issue of the Canadian Men’s Hockey Team winning the gold medal in Sochi. (Yes, that was how long ago this trip was!). I left just enough time to head for the boarding gate and again boarding was orderly, which I always find to be case in YVR. I had been assigned an exit row seat and that was really much appreciated since I had lots of space and I even had the window seat. If there is one thing I like about Air Canada, it probably was the fact that they use Embraers for many of their US flights from YVR. This means 2-2 abreast seating on Economy and 1-2 abreast seating on Business. Even with the seat mate, the seat felt comfortable enough, probably due to the added leg room and that was indeed a lot more space than I expected. (Maybe even on par with Business class)

Exit row seat pitch on Air Canada's Embraer 190
Exit row seat pitch on Air Canada’s Embraer 190

Thus even with the limited overhead space on the Embraers, I really prefer them for Economy class travel compared to the 737s or the A319/320/321s. And not to mention the touch-screen inflight entertainment onboard Air Canada which does offer decent entertainment for a short regional flight. Another nice touch by Air Canada was the service as I did remember the crew coming around with newspapers even for Economy class passengers after boarding was completed.

WestJet Boeing 737
WestJet Boeing 737

For an early Spring weather, it was sunny in Vancouver and the taxi into the runway offered prime spots to look at the numerous Chinese airlines docking at the airport. Vancouver’s International Airport has the distinction of being the airport in North America to receive the most flights from China, and probably the widest variety too.

China Eastern A330
China Eastern A330 at YVR
Air China Airbus A330
Air China Airbus A330 at YVR

The beautiful weather also made for a great flight throughout the morning. I started using the inflight entertainment after take-off and before long the flight attendants made their rounds with the beverage service. Food is not served onboard as they are buy-on-board (BOB). The service onboard this flight was above average compared to the other North American carriers and the flight attendant were generally friendly and approachable but that is about it for economy class service.

Apple juice for inflight beverage
Apple juice for inflight beverage

Being a morning flight, passengers were generally awake and just watching their own IFEs with the supplied headphones. With the entertainment system, it was easy to pass the time in what is otherwise a standard West Coast flight that took just slightly more than 2 hours. The views along this flight were pretty good too with nice weather throughout, and that meant we descended into a beautiful day in the Bay Area.

Inflight moving map
Inflight moving map display as we approach SFO

With the clear weather the route taken seems to be a direct southern one before veering east towards the bay. Passengers even got a nice view of Clear Lake on descent. This of course included views of the Golden Gate, downtown SF and the Oakland Bay Bridge, so my eyes were definitely glued to the window all the way until we landed.

View of Clear Lake in northern California
View of Clear Lake in northern California
San Francisco and the bay area with Golden Gate bridge just on the lower right
San Francisco and the bay area with Golden Gate bridge just on the lower right
San Francisco and Oakland
San Francisco and Oakland Bay Bridge
Foster City and the sloughs
Foster City and the sloughs

Upon landing it was straight to the gate as the plane docked beside another Air Canada Airbus A320, with a Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-400 on the adjacent gate. Definitely a great way to end the flight as I didn’t expect to still see the 747-400 operated by Cathay in SFO as they are being phased out.

Alaska Air Disney-themed 737 with a China Eastern jet
Alaska Air Disney-themed 737 with a China Eastern jet
Air Canada A320 from Toronto
Air Canada A320 from Toronto
Cathay Pacific Jumbo Jet
Cathay Pacific Jumbo Jet at SFO

This flight might be in Economy but it certainly was more memorable than the last time I took this route in Business. Perhaps it was the lower expectations and that since there was no meal provided, I was not disappointed when I did not get one of my choice. Or generally it could be the great weather during the flight. For what it is worth, I really recommend taking Air Canada’s Embraer for short flights across North America!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Moritz says:

    Very nice review. Seems like Air Canada has a really promising service on this route. I’ll definitely prefer them over the other North American carriers!

    1. quirrow says:

      @Moritz, Thank you for reading! I truly recommend Air Canada compared to the other legacy carriers in the United States. The Embraers are usually quite comfortable too, except with limited overhead bin space.

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