Day 1: LAX-YVR on Air Canada, Vancouver, and YVR-LHR on Air Canada - 28 Dec 2009
I was apprehensive about flying three days after the alleged Christmas Day bombing attempt on Northwest Airlines not because I feared for my safety, but because I was not looking forward to additional security measures that were being discussed on the news, including further restricting hand baggage and pat-downs for everyone.
I arrived at LAX an hour and a half before my flight and waited about five minutes for an agent to check me in. She was pleasant, though she had trouble checking me in for my connection to London Heathrow. The security lines were fairly long at T2 and there was no special line for premium passengers. To my great delight, the TSA was pleasant and the security experience was no different than normal. 15 minutes later I was seated in Air Canada’s Maple Leaf lounge enjoying a light breakfast before the flight.
Quite an improvement from the old Maple Leaf Lounge at LAX
All was well until boarding, when a gate agent rudely demanded (as if I was an idiot for even attempting to bring aboard a second carry-on) that I check my second bag. I didn’t argue, but instructed her to short check the bag to Vancouver. She agreed. Onboard, I was greeted by a very friendly FA who offered me a beverage of choice. This was my first time on Air Canada so I took some time to acquaint myself with their AVOD system. While certainly not as expansive as Emirates or Singapore Airlines, there was enough material to keep me occupied for the flight to Vancouver. It was also my first time on a ERJ-190 and just like the ERJ-170, I found it to be a comfortable and well-designed aircraft. We departed on time and breakfast was served shortly after takeoff. Omelet or waffles. I always choose the omelet and while it was good, I did not think it was any better than UA’s egg creations. Additionally, the potatoes were tasteless and the bread was not warmed. But, overall breakfast was satisfactory.
After breakfast, I watched a British movie from the 1930’s. Prior to landing, the purser offered another round of beverages and some almonds. And that was the flight. Just the way a two-hour flight should be.
Immigration took one minute to clear at YVR, but I had to wait 20 minutes for my bag. I checked my two bags with a concierge service outside baggage claim and hopped on the Metro into town. Apparently if I had traveled a few months earlier, the Metro extension would not have been opened. I was pleased to be able to so quickly get into town. It made me look forward to the future construction of the Silver Line on the DC Metro into IAD.
I got off at the Canadian Pacific Railway Station and spent the next few hours walking around the city.
Nothing really caught my fancy, but I would like to return to Vancouver again in the spring or the summer. It was a cold day. I returned to the airport, cleared security (two minutes, shoes stayed on), and entered the Maple Leaf Lounge. It was under construction, but I was able to find a comfortable nook and helped myself to a bowl of soup, some fresh veggies, and crackers and cheese. While the food spread was not nearly as elaborate as Thai Airways, Air New Zealand, or Singapore, I was satisfied with the selection.
A boarding announcement was made, and I trekked over to my gate, where boarding had already started. My seat had a bottle of water and an eye cover waiting and a FA came by to take my coat and offer me a menu.
We departed a tad late, but per the Captain’s announcement, were scheduled to arrive into LHR 45 minutes early. Meal service began and I was pleased that it was not rushed and the food was well presented. I ordered beef for my main course and found it cooked medium well—not too bad for an airline steak. The appetizers and accompaniments were great as was the dessert.
I went to reclined my seat into the flat mode after dinner and slept soundly for over seven hours. A 180º lie-flat makes all the difference. An hour before landing I awoke and was offered fresh orange juice and a breakfast smoothie—very tasty—along with an omelet. Again, the omelet wasn’t any better than United’s, but that is no insult in my book.
For those mulling over a trip on Air Canada, based on my experience I highly recommend them. The service, seat, food, and IFE all met my expectations. There was nothing—no special interaction with a friendly crewmember or meal—that particularly made Air Canada stand out, but the complete product left me satisfied.