This post is a guest contribution from Paul, a frequent reader of Travel Codex. It’s always great to hear how other travelers have used loyalty programs and travel hacking to enhance their own vacations. Be sure to read his earlier review of the stunning Air Canada Signature Lounge in Toronto.
Recently my wife and I flew Air Canada’s Signature Class service from LAX to CDG, connecting in Toronto (YYZ). Our return journey stopped in Montreal (YUL). The journey involved a combination of their A320/321 and B777-300s. When you say to your wife, “I found business class LAX to CDG for ~$1,400 per person round trip,” you can see in her eyes that your digital travel addiction may be paying off. Not having flown Air Canada in years, I was excited to try their service again and enjoy their lounges.
Here’s the unexpected news: exceptional service on all flights, very good food and (mostly) comfortable seats. The bad news: well, pick your seats carefully. I won’t fly on the A320/321 in 2A or 2C again any time soon.
Traveling on the A320/321 from LAX to Toronto, and from Montreal to LAX
For a roughly five-hour flight, I can sit just about anywhere on a plane if it’s an aisle seat, even on Southwest. For both of these cross country flights we were in AC’s first class (aka business class) on the two-cabin planes. The 2×2 seating in this cabin reminded me of United’s “First” class flight seating from LAX to ORD in the late ’90s. Not uncomfortable, but not comfortable. Well, way more comfortable than back of the bus. (The seats on the A321 and the A320 were nearly identical in “comfort”, placement of features, and amenities.)
Service was excellent all around. From the lounges to the gate to the FAs. Truly, nothing overlooked. The food was tip top as well. Yes, excellent plane food. I had lovely salmon with fresh rolls and a crisp salad. One red and one white were on offer, but they were far from “Two Buck Chuck” quality.
We sat in the 2nd row on the A/C side that has little cubbies for our feet. (In fact, due to the way the wall in front of me was constructed, I could put at least one foot out into the aisle without disturbing the FAs). Bags had to be stored overhead.
The only negative about the flights (other than not super comfortable seating) was the horrific IFE placement and screens in the bulkhead wall. Tiny, far away and not responsive at all. I think my first iPad from 2010 or the original Archos player would have been better. Not going to do that again. So, overall, a B.
Traveling on the B777-300 from Toronto to Paris and Back to Montreal
“Good afternoon! May I show you to your seat?” Words that make my heart swoon. We flew two of Air Canada’s B777-300ER configurations on this trip. The first version has a small second business class section with more privacy, and then their second version is a typical layout with one large business class cabin. And how was it? Magnifique!
The 28 pods were arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration with ~75″ pitch and 21″ width according to SeatGuru. They were full of everything you could possibly want: down pillow, down comforter, mattress pad, amenity kit (including standard items plus an eye glass cleaner), headphones with decent sound, water bottle, USB ports, headphone ports, charging ports, a spacious glovebox…
While my wife thought the seats were a bit hard, I was able to sleep multiple hours comfortably in them. I preferred the flight on the 777-300 with the small aft cabin vs. the all-in-one seating. The seats, amenities and comfort were identical on both planes.
Shifting the seats from sitting to lounging to sleeping was accomplished through a push of a button (guided in French or English). The Panasonic Inflight Entertainment System was phenomenal — 12″, crisp screen with a wide selection of movies, audiobooks, games, TV shows and a terrific map that told you everything you could want to know except the temperature inside your house at home. I would however nix the endless pre-movie salestainment that you must watch to get into a movie.
I wish that I had taken photos of the meals on all four flights. Warm nuts to start with sparkling wine, wine, water or orange juice in distinctive AC branded glasses. For the meals, nice china, loving presentation and on all flights, excellent food. (And that’s from a guy who likes to eat out at higher end restaurants regularly).
They also offered an “Express” service wherein you could order an abbreviated meal served earlier. The FAs also told me they could bring the full meals any time I really wanted. Nicely done!
The crew shone on these flights, too. Personable, yet catlike stealthy quiet. On this, their flagship flights, they had grace and a high attention to detail — the exact opposite of the bored FAs I’ve seen on so many flights of late. Overall an A-.
The Conclusion: Yes, Oh Yes
We truly enjoyed the entire Air Canada across the country and across the ocean experience. Everything except the terrible in-wall IFE on the A32x planes was truly special. Service, food, B777-300 seats and amenities were admirable. If you have the opportunity to fly Air Canada “across the pond” for a decent price/redemption, don’t hesitate. Au revoir!