First of all be aware that this entire article falls under ‘first world problems.’ By no means am I complaining about a terrific lie flat seat on a 8 hour flight.
Just a couple of days ago, I finally got the chance to fly Air Canada’s Signature Suite from Copenhagen to Toronto on the 777-300ER connecting to Dallas on a CRJ aircraft. This was the first time I had flown Air Canada since 2012 so it’s has been a while. In the mean time, I’ve pretty much tried all the possible hard products from United, American, and Delta (some even multiple times) and found that Delta was the superior airline of the three. I was quite eager to find out how Air Canada measured up to its other North American rivals.
The seat itself was a reverse herringbone style seat (much like the ones American offers on its 777s) with plenty of storage and decent privacy. Outlets were located in the right spots and the seats were very comfortable with a good sized pillow and blanket. For this specific flight, I was seated in 1K and my sister was in 2K.
As soon as we sat down and settled in, a friendly FA walked by with a drink, menus, amenity kit, and water bottle. Choice of drinks included: water, sparking water, and champagne. She also confirmed an Asian Vegetarian Meal I hadn’t ordered, but given that the only vegetarian menu item was pasta, this was fine. I asked for the express meal service though looking at what happened later, I’m not sure they heeded my request. In fact if you looked at the menu, no aspect really looked all that impressive:
About 30 minutes after take off, our meals were served. I have to say that this meal service was surprisingly inefficient and slow. While the FAs were all friendly and helpful throughout the flight, they were always in a rush during the meal service. It started off with the usual drinks and warmed nuts. Being in front of the row, I was the first to receive a refill on the nuts, but it looked like they didn’t bother to offer it to a lot of others since they were in a rush to get the next part of the service started.
It took about 30 minutes for the the appetizer to come out and it was served with a choice of white or garlic bread. As it is with most airline salads, this one didn’t really have much substance other than some garbanzo beans and zucchini. Though this is somewhat better than others I’ve seen before.
After the appetizers were served, it took yet another 30 minutes for the main course to arrive. And having had little to no sleep the previous night, I was beginning to doze off. I even mentioned that I didn’t want lunch anymore. Well it turns out I couldn’t stop the meal service once it started. The main course consisted of some rice, fried okra, bell peppers, and beans. This didn’t taste bad, but it certainly had no salt in it and lacked flavor.
Anyway I left my food alone after trying it and watched a movie on the IFE. It took the FAs at least 30 more minutes to clear away the tray. When they did clear it away, the purser left my drink and table cloth in place saying I should wait for cheese and dessert which was on its way. About 20 minutes later, the cheese cart came by, but there was no dessert to be seen. By this point it looked like some passengers had just given up and nodded off to sleep. I waited for another 20 minutes (until the end of the movie I was watching) and just fell asleep.
So in the end, the meal service took over 1.5 hours to complete and it didn’t look like most people ate dessert at all, which might I add was just boxed ice cream. It was very interesting to note that Air Canada claimed that they had packaged snacks in the galley, but I saw no such thing while I was onboard. I’m assuming they forgot to arrange it in the galley?
With just 5 hours left in flying time, I nodded off and woke up about an hour outside of Toronto. Despite my being asleep, my tray table already had the pre-arrival snack on it. This was just a repeat of the appetizer given for lunch with two wedges of cheese. There were also a few slices of bitter oranges. Needless to say not really that impressive.
Anyway before we knew it, we were on the ground in Toronto where after a long walk and wait (so that our bags would be offloaded from the plane), we finally made it to the Maple Leaf Lounge near the F Gates. Now this lounge would be perfectly ok maybe 5-10 years ago, but it is certainly showing its age. And to top it off it does get quite crowded as the afternoon progresses with nearly every seat being taken (more on this lounge later).
At around 4 pm, we made our way to our gate for our flight to Dallas. Boarding was a bit chaotic, but we managed to get on fairly early. I was surprised to note that the age of this Embraer E175 aircraft. It was precisely the same cabin I had flown between Houston and Toronto back in 2012. And seven years can be a long time for an aircraft if it hasn’t been updated. Things were certainly falling apart:
Air Canada was one of the first airlines to offer IFE screens at every seat on a majority of their flights, but they haven’t really invested so much in their product ever since. While the systems have all the movies and shows as the long haul version, there is like a 25 second lag between touching the screen and getting a response out of it. If your movie stops for the announcements, good luck continuing what you are watching later on.
Impressively enough, a full meal service was provided for every business class passenger even on this short 3 hour flight to DFW, but I skipped the meal knowing that I would have dinner once I land in Dallas.
Air Canada definitely fell short of my expectations overall. While the seat itself is stellar and the staff are extremely friendly, I didn’t find it to have much of a competitive edge over its North American rivals in any department. I haven’t been to the Signature Lounge in Toronto, but I have seen enough of their lounges to say that they aren’t really close to a United Polaris Lounge or AA Flagship Lounge. Service efficiency on my particular flight wasn’t too great, but this might be an anomaly altogether. The IFE on my flight was fine, but all the major US Airlines and both BA as well as LH had more options. With that being said all my flights were on time, if not early, which can’t be said for AA and UA as of late.
The main problem I have with connecting through Toronto or Montreal for my international flights will likely be the aging Embraers they are using for destinations in Texas. So unless the price is right as it was in this case (I paid $1200 roundtrip from Oslo – DFW), I don’t really see myself frequently using Air Canada as my carrier of choice. I do hear however that Air Canada will be renewing its fleet with Bombardier CS300 series aircraft by the end of this year. So hopefully these planes will make there way to Dallas.
Given this, I think Delta is still the best North American airline in the sky in all cabins and United on the ground with their Polaris Lounges. Credit to Delta for running such a great airline, if only they ran a better frequent flyer program. But you can’t have everything I suppose……
What are your thoughts on Air Canada? I would love to hear which airline you guys prefer to fly…..