AC150 Vancouver International YVR – Montréal Pierre Elliott Trudeau YUL
Airbus A330-300 C-GHLM
Gate C47 Seat 2K
As I took my time to head to the gate, priority boarding has already been completed when I arrived. Still, I had time to take some shots of the plane itself which was emblazoned with the Star Alliance livery. And since the normal boarding line was quite long, I hurriedly handed my boarding pass to the agent on the priority boarding queue which was already empty.
Being still ahead of the main boarding crowd, I turned left to the larger business class cabin, which was in the old herringbone 1-1-1 configuration. It is 1-2-1 in the 777. I knew that the ‘K’ side of the cabin would be the less private one, but somehow I prefer to face a person rather than the wall, just for the feeling of more space I guess. For this configuration passengers travelling in pairs are better off choosing seats side by side or they should get seats G and K. A couple travelling during the flight was seated in 1G & 2G with another couple travelling from New Zealand that was upgraded to 3G & 3K. There were probably around 5-6 upgrades in the end with a full load up front.
On the seat itself, there was a square-shaped pillow which was fluffy enough to hug and a huge duvet. The menu was also left on the seat. I was able to store my messenger bag at the top, though in hindsight, I could have just stored it in front underneath the ottoman. Though some other passengers in Business class had difficulty finding space for their hand carry as the centre section of business class cabin was devoid of any overhead luggage space that gave the overall cabin more space. Probably a perk to be seated in the middle seat here.
Amongst the pre-departure beverage, there was orange juice or water in plastic cups. There was also newspapers on the galley but they were only offered after some time, and by then I had just walked up to the galley to grab one copy for myself. During this time, the crew also came around taking orders for breakfast, and collected passengers’ coats that were hung beside the seat.
Somehow it felt like it took some time for boarding to be completed, but I was just relaxing and taking photos of this cabin since it was my first time on Air Canada’s herringbone business class cabin. These cabins should probably be phased out soon since the 787 features the better reverse-herringbone design looking towards the window. And I just realized had I deferred my flight to a day later, I would have caught the new 787 on this exact same route. Oh well!
After completion of boarding, the taxi was quite short and during this time, passengers in business class need to extend out the personal monitor to view the safety demonstrations as 2 crew members supervised in the front. A video I took during the taxi and take-off can be seen here.
With the partially cloudy weather, there was still some good views of the Rockies during the initial stages of the flight. But because of the seat direction, it really makes viewing out of the plane difficult. Strictly for contortionists only!
After the plane has reached cruising altitude, the crew came around with hot towels in the cabin, and the breakfast service began shortly after. Prior to that, I noticed some passengers with specific dietary needs were given other options from the buy onboard menu as the flight did not load certain food due to the upgrades or something.
Like the way orders were taken, the meal service started from the front of the cabin, Breakfast service began the crew going around to place a table cloth on every seat before presenting a fresh fruit platter and an offer of 3 kinds of bread: white, cinnamon or whole wheat. The serving of yogurt was included in the platter.
For the main course, I had the pancakes with maple butter, chicken sausage and crab-apple compote. The pancakes were quite good and the sweetness was just right. Overall a good breakfast even if the portions were not the most generous. I had apple juice as a beverage with the breakfast.
After the meal service, the crew came around again offering coffee or tea, and I enquired about the herbal teas where she showed me the options to pick from and I got the summer berries tea. It was a kind of fruit tea that I think ended the meal service on a high note. Service throughout was pleasant and the crew served to their best with a smile. I think the crew were even quite fun in this flight!
After the meal service, I reclined my seat to a relaxed mode; I thought the seat was comfortable, and the cabin’s temperature was just nice, without being too cold or too warm. For entertainment, the personal monitor was of a good size and headphones with hygienic earpiece covers that were packed individually were provided on every seat. Though they were the poor quality kind and since I brought my Bose headsets, that was what I used.
The TV screen resolution again was very good so it allowed me to enjoy the movie of my choice, which was Dolphin Tale 2. While I cannot fault the selection of movies and TV shows, they are probably average, not as good as some carriers but not half bad either. Though so far on my flights with Air Canada, I never really got bored since most of their flights have personal monitors even in economy class. Both monitors in economy and business class are controlled using touch screen, though there is also an old-style manual controller which I never used. Usually I have a thing against touch-screen devices on the plane but it worked surprisingly well on this flight.
For passengers still hungry after the meal, the crew usually sets up a basket of snacks by the galley which I spotted on my way to the lavatory. There is nothing much to say about a standard airplane lavatory but it is stocked with hand wash and hand cream from Fruits & Passion, a Canadian perfumery. As for the snack basket, there are some packet of chips, energy bars, some fruits and packs of chocolates.
The crew also went around with a ramekin of warm nuts along with beverage service for guests who are not asleep during the flight. It was great that the nuts was warm and I happily munched on them while watching my movie.
With about 1 hour and a half to go before we arrive, I converted my seat to a fully flat position and set up the duvet. Snugged under the duvet, it was easy to get some shut eye. The cabin is mostly dark even for the early flight as most passengers chose to sleep and even those who were working closed the cabin windows, using their cabin lights instead. So the ambience with the mood lighting was also very conducive for a nap.
An announcement is made as the flight started its descent and the cabin lights are turned on for preparation. This usually signals the time to wake up and freshen up. The crew will also return passenger’s coats during this time, and hang it back by the seat where the hook can also function as a headset holder.
The seat itself is all good but I find there was a lack of some storage space for essentials like spectacles and mobile phones. I always worry of them falling into the recesses, so an enclosure of some kind would have been great. Another thing I dislike was the difficulty of getting the inflight magazines as the space is just so tight. Though when the seat is fully reclined flat, there is another compartment for reading materials.
During the disembarkation, the crew held back the economy class passengers to allow the front cabin to alight first. As this flight continues onwards to Europe, passengers are dropped off by the international terminal and that means a long trek to the arrivals and baggage claim.
As a francophone province, it is not surprising to see 2 Air France planes (one a 747 and another an A340), both bound for Paris docked side by side. There was also a Swiss Air flight departing around this time. Rather it seems many international departures will be around this evening hour.
Even after taking my time doing some plane-spotting, my checked luggage has yet to appear as I descended into the baggage claim area. The conveyor has not even started to deliver its first luggage, but the positive spin to it was that Priority marked luggages were the first to appear as I collected my luggage and the snowboard from the oversized luggage belt.
The experience flying a wide-body jet for a domestic flight is always unmatchable, since it makes travelling so easy and convenient with no pesky TSA officers, or immigration lines to deal with. The fact there was a full-flat bed and a 2 course meal was just icing on the cake, so I would have to say domestically within Canada, there is no better way to fly in a commercial flight. The better one would be your own private jet, so I think Air Canada gets too much flak for the decent service they do provide.