Fresh off (finally) finishing my report about my summer Japan boondoggle, time to move on to my next adventure. In October, I decided to celebrate the end of tax season with a long weekend heading to Canada. My main goal was to review more premium economy products, and traveling to Canada provided a couple of good opportunities on that front. Cathay Pacific operates an internationally-configured 777 on its New York-Vancouver Fifth Freedom route. (Unfortunately, Cathay intends to discontinue that route in late March.) Air Canada also operates some Vancouver-Toronto flights on three-cabin 787s. Both include Premium Economy cabins; so, as sane people do, I planned on heading to Toronto by way of New York and Vancouver.
But of course, what’s the fun in going from coast to coast and back again without a frivolous food goal? With Toronto the final destination, poutine seemed like the perfect choice. Yeah, a few thousand miles of flying over a weekend for fries and gravy seemed totally normal…
Anyway, I currently plan the following posts in this series, subject to change:
- Introduction: Premium Economy for Poutine (this post)
- Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Premium Economy, New York JFK to Vancouver
- Review: Fairmont Vancouver Airport
- A Quick Morning Visit to Vancouver
- Plaza Premium Lounge (Domestic Terminal), Vancouver
- Air Canada B787-9 Premium Economy, Vancouver to Toronto
- Review: Delta Hotels Toronto
- Poutine and a Brisk Morning Walk in Toronto
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge (Transborder), Toronto
- Air Canada Business Class, Toronto to Dallas
The Flight Plan
The bones of this trip, of course, were the two legs in Premium Economy. I found high cash prices on both Cathay and Air Canada for PE, so I looked at points redemptions. Booking several months in advance, Cathay Pacific offered plenty of award availability pretty much any day. Air Canada, though, was quite a bit stingier with PE on the Vancouver-Toronto transcontinental route. I finally managed to find a seat at a reasonable time on Saturday, October 19. So I jumped on that for 20,000 Aeroplan miles, plus CAD 72.58 (~$55) in taxes.
With that out of the way, I turned to completing the other legs. To reach Vancouver, I booked the October 18th Cathay departure. You can book a Premium Economy award on this route for 20,000 Asia Miles, or 25,000 Avios. That’s a pretty good value, especially since normal PE fares run about $800. However, at the time, British Airways offered an Avios & Money deal for $175 and 10,000 points. That effectively purchases 15,000 Avios at 1.17 cents/point, a very good deal in my opinion. So I went with that option.
To return home from Toronto, I decided to try something else new – Air Canada’s regional Business Class. Air Canada Express runs twice daily flights to DFW on Embraer 175 aircraft. Although stingy with Aeroplan awards, I found reasonable Business Class cash fares on this route; I paid CAD 445 (~$338) for the roughly three hour flight. Unlike US domestic carriers, Air Canada provides lounge access even on transborder flights in Business; that gave me a chance to review the transborder Maple Leaf lounge as well.
To reach New York, I booked a plain vanilla American coach flight to La Guardia. I won’t review that flight, as there was nothing particularly noteworthy about it. Then again, given American’s problems over the last year, I guess a flight that got me to New York on time counts as a win. The only irritation – the transfer from La Guardia to JFK. With nearly 6 hours between flights, I went the cheap route and tried to take the bus and subway. But the fustercluck that is La Guardia meant a nearly hour wait for a bus. And then nearly an hour more just to get out of the La Guardia terminal area. Teaches me for being cheap…
Anyway, my final routing ended up looking like this:
- 10/18 AA 1187 Depart Dallas – Ft Worth (DFW) 10:59 Arrive New York LaGuardia (LGA) 15:29
- 10/18 CX 865 Depart New York – JFK (JFK) 21:50 Arrive Vancouver (YVR) 00:50 (+1)
- 10/19 AC 116 Depart YVR 13:15 Arrive Toronto Pearson (YYZ) 20:34
- 10/20 AC 7665 Depart YYZ 12:00 Arrive DFW 14:13
The Hotel Plan
For this trip, I needed two hotel nights, one in Vancouver, and one in Toronto. In Vancouver, a midnight arrival meant I wanted to stay close to the airport. Vancouver features an in-terminal airport hotel, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport. I haven’t stayed in a Fairmont since a night in Calgary in 2003, and I liked the idea of checking one out again. Rooms at the hotel aren’t cheap, though. I booked a standard room for CAD 364 (~$276), along with a “standby upgrade” for CAD 19 (~$14). That upgrade ended up clearing, bumping me up to this awesome runway/mountain view room.
In Toronto, I decided to stay downtown since I’d be arriving at a decent hour. Thanks to an unused Marriott Bonvoy credit card free night certificate in hand, I looked for a decent Marriott property. I selected the Delta Hotels Toronto, just a couple of blocks from the lakeshore and connected to Union Station. Delta formerly operated under its own independent brand, but merged with Marriott several years ago.
Delta’s another brand I hadn’t tried in a while, with my last stay in Saskatoon (yes, really) in 2003. Anyway, getting #Bonvoyed is usually a four letter word these days, but somehow, I got lucky. My lowly Silver status scored me an upgrade to this incredible corner suite. On an award booking no less. I have no idea how that happened, but mom always taught me to never look a gift horse in the mouth.
The Sightseeing and Food Plan
This itinerary left little time for sightseeing, but I was determined to make the best of it. With a 1:30 PM flight on Saturday, I headed to downtown Vancouver for a quick look around in the morning. In addition to souvenir shopping, I enjoyed a little fall foliage in the misty fall weather.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, I had Saturday evening and a couple of hours on Sunday morning free. After checking in Saturday, I headed down to a sports bar on the waterfront to satisfy my goal for this trip, poutine in its native habitat. I have to say, enjoying poutine and craft beer while watching the World Series with some Leafs fans after the game was pretty cool.
The next morning, a beautiful Sunday greeted me, so I just took a quick walk around the area. Like Vancouver, I also found central Toronto full of fall color.
I plan to start this series next week. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy!