Review of Air Canada Rouge flight San Francisco Vancouver in Economy

Airline Air Canada Rouge
Flight AC1843
Class Economy
Seat 4A
Aircraft Airbus A319
Flight time 02:05
Take-off 07 May 15, 07:04
Arrival at 07 May 15, 09:09
RV   #127 out of 138 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 28 reviews
hometoyyz
By SILVER 4512
Published on 10th May 2015
After a couple of busy days at San Jose, I woke up gently on my own in my hotel room. However, reality quickly kicked in, and jolted me into action. Why was I waking up without an alarm? I’d set a 3:30 am alarm to make sure I’d be ready for my 4:00 am pick-up for my ride to SFO. Somehow, booking a 6:45 am departure out of San Francisco when I knew I’d be staying in San Jose seemed like a good idea at the time. Somehow.

Fortunately, my blood pressure came down a few seconds later, as a quick glance at the clock in the room – and then at my phone to confirm – tells me that it’s 3:28. So with the luxury of two extra minutes to get ready, I turn off the alarm, hop out of bed, grab a shower, get dressed, and finish packing my belongings. I’m out of the room by 3:50, and checked out a couple of minutes later – surprisingly, the lineup is not very long at this time of the morning.

I step outside and my driver is waiting for me, and we make the trip up to SFO in just about 30 minutes. The secret to beating the legendary Bay Area traffic is to be up well before the sun.

Air Canada’s check in at SFO opens up about 4:40, and I quickly have my boarding pass – with TSA PreCheck status displaying correctly the first time, a rarity – and am off to haul it across the haul to the G gates from which this flight will depart. Unfortunately, going out of the G gates means the United Club will be the available lounge. On the A gates, it’s the Air France lounge, which is miles better, especially since they moved into their new space, the old DL lounge at the international terminal. Alas, I’m not sure on the hours of AF lounge, so at least I can feel better about the G gates because I’m pretty sure the UA lounge will be open. Unfortunately, when I arrive at the G security point, I discover this.

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Apparently, I should have arranged the car for 4:30. Oh well. The security checkpoint opens a few minutes later, and the TSA agent working the line arranges people into various queues, for PreCheck, for priority, and normal. I’m the second person through PreCheck, and about 5:05, I’m let loose airside. It’s so busy this time of the morning!

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The sign on the United Club door confirms that it opened five minutes ago, and the doors open as I approach, so I’m pretty sure it’s open. The agent scans my boarding pass without a word, and I’m on my way upstairs to the lounge.

When I get upstairs, I discover that once again, I am the first person in the lounge, so I quickly grab some shots of the space before anyone else can get upstairs. The international lounge here is large-ish, but not as large as I’d expect given SFO’s prominent status as a trans-Pacific hub for UA. Of course, there are other Star Alliance lounges available as well. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a UA lounge. Nothing special, but better than sitting at the gate. At least power outlets are plentiful, and the seating is decently comfortable. The “business” section consists of a series of tiny cubbies that provide a smidgeon of privacy, but hardly provide a distraction-free work environment.



Food and drink selections are about on United Club par, which is to say not very good at all. I grab an orange juice, a yogurt, and a donut. A bit later, I grab what the beverage-making machine describes as a cappuccino, but which I describe, terribly, as awful. There doesn’t seem to be much, if any, coffee in this coffee beverage, and it’s tasteless and lifeless.



After getting a fair bit of work done on my YVR-SFO flight report, it’s time to head down to the gate, a short walk away. As I descend down the elevator to the departure gates, I’m greeted by a sight for sore eyes – an Air Canada mainline A319, this one in old school Trans-Canada Airlines colours. Alas, there has not been a switch from Rouge to mainline this morning – this plane is just on the gate next to my Rouge A319, and heading back to Montreal in a little while.

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Boarding Zone 1 is called seconds after I arrive downstairs, and I’m first to board, catching the four flight attendants by surprise as they sat in four of the pseudo-business class seats and chatted. Pre-flight briefing, I’m sure.

For this flight, I’m seated in 4A, a window seat in the only row of what AC calls “Rouge Plus” on the A319. The only difference between it and a normal Rouge seat is that Rouge Plus provides pretty good legroom, as opposed to the knee-crushing 29-inch pitch on every row behind me. In fact, I believe Rouge Plus is the same pitch as Premium Rouge, the pseudo-business class seating I reviewed on the inbound flight to SFO. That makes it, to me, the only row on the Rouge A319 that’s worth anything at all. It’s still not a comfortable seat, but it’s better as an economy-class seat than it is as a business class seat. As this is the first row of economy, there’s a curtain dividing me from the desirables up front.

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A look out the window shows me that the old-style TCA A319 isn’t the only Air Canada plane waiting for a return flight this morning, as a mainline Airbus tail peeks out from behind the TCA plane. This plane will be heading back to Toronto in a little bit.

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Boarding is pretty quick, as it’s a light load this morning, and we push back right at 6:45. The manual safety demo is done, but because of the curtain, there’s no flight attendant I can see, which I’m not sure is “up to code.” Not a big concern, as I know the routine pretty well, but it seems an oversight.

I’m on my own on the port side of Row 4, and one of two Pax in Row 4 overall, until a man comes up and sits down in 4C. Okay… AC’s supposed to disallow passengers self-upgrading into Preferred Seats, but I’ve still got just as much shoulder room as I would in “J” on this plane, so I’m not going to complain. He sits there through takeoff, and then bolts back to a window seat further back before service begins in the air.

We taxi past the AC A319 and A320, and then there’s no more good sighting this morning, as I’m on the “outboard” side of the plane for most of the taxi. We line up, wait for a Virgin America A320 to take off, and then line up.

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With a light load and just fuel for the two-hour run up to Vancouver, it’s a quick roll for us, and our Airbus powers into the sky. In between layers of clouds, I get a nice look at the Bay and downtown San Francisco proper.



The seatbelt signs are soon out, and service begins. I take a coffee and an orange juice, and ask if there are any omelets left from business class – I really love Air Canada’s “buy our J leftovers” program. Best buy-on-board I’ve ever seen. The flight attendant ducks behind the curtain, and confirms that yes, there is one available, and it will be out in ten minutes. Picking a snack item – they sell the entree “bundled” with a snack item – takes a while, as they have neither of my first two choices, but eventually I settle on some cashews. In hindsight, I probably should have gone for fruit or a yogurt.

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The omelet arrives, and it’s that familiar AC business class omelet that I do so enjoy. Unfortunately, this one comes with the sweeter fruit-based chutney. It’s still quite enjoyable, but I do prefer the more savoury red pepper-based chutney and soft cheese that comes with the omelet, sausage, and potatoes on most premium long-haul flights. There’s nothing definitively special about the AC parsley omelet, but for some reason I find it so enjoyable.

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With the Rouge Plus seat and the leftover omelet, it’s almost as good an experience as Premium Rouge, especially on a breakfast flight when one isn’t as likely to decide to have alcohol. I’m not sure what last-minute upgrades to Premium Rouge sell for on a short route like this, but I’d say that if you find yourself stuck on this bird, pony up the extra money (somewhere between $40 and $60, likely) for Rouge Plus (free for Elite 50K and higher, I believe), and the $11 for the breakfast entree – this kind of DIY upgrade is likely significantly less expensive than whatever LMUs AC may offer, and the seat is confirmable at booking if there’s anything available in Row 4.

After breakfast, I take a stroll back to the plane, and make a great sacrifice for the sake of this flight report, sitting in an unoccupied row of regular Rouge to show off just how tight it is back there.

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Yeah, it’s not good. Avoid anything south of row 4 on a Rouge A319 if at all possible. While I’ve survived flights from YYZ to LAS in a regular Rouge seat, it’s by no means a pleasant experience.

Back to my own seat, and I work a little bit on this report. There’s a water service – but of course it’s not bottled water in domestic/transborder Y. Soon enough, we start our descent, and the flight attendants distribute customs forms. A nice little touch you see on Rouge that you don’t see elsewhere on Air Canada – the flight number is already filled out by the flight attendants.

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Descent provides some great views of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, with its green and its pretty little islands. At about 8:45, the captain gives us the briefing, telling us he expects to have us on the ground at about 9:10, just a couple of minutes behind schedule. Then it’s time to pack up the laptop and get ready for arrival back into Canada.



We came in over Delta, and settled onto the runway at YVR. Not a lot of sighting to be done in Vancouver this morning, and we pulled into a gate very near to the Canadian border control. No good byes from the crew this morning, which is unusual.

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It was a quick walk to the border, where the major focal art piece seems to be getting something of a facelift, but even with scaffolding surrounding this element, remains one of the more aesthetically pleasing custom halls I’ve encountered. (Yes, I am aware that could be perceived as damning through faint praise.)

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With nobody in the Nexus lines, I’m quickly through border control. It’s a long-ish walk through the baggage hall and upstairs to the domestic connections security point, and when I arrive it’s quite busy – AC34 from Sydney has just arrived, and there are a lot of passengers connecting on to its continuation in Toronto. But in about ten minutes, I’m back through security and let out into the domestic terminal airside, where I’ll pick up my flight report for the final segment of this trip in the domestic Maple Leaf Lounge.
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Verdict

Air Canada Rouge

4.8/10
Cabin4.0
Cabin crew8.0
Meal/catering7.0

United Club - International

5.2/10
Comfort6.0
Meal/catering4.0
Entertainment/wifi6.0
Services5.0

San Francisco - SFO

7.5/10
Efficiency7.0
Access8.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness8.0

Vancouver - YVR

8.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

As usual with Rouge, there’s nothing to complain about the service, but even with the extra legroom of Rouge Plus, it can’t make up for the lackluster seat. I just don’t like the Rouge A319, although otherwise, this was a perfectly average flight.

Information on the route San Francisco (SFO) Vancouver (YVR)

6 Comments

  • Comment 135999 by
    Mathieu 2109 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this report,
    Despite of you didn't like the cabin, the catering is pretty good : real cutlers, hot meal, it's ok in the US.
    This was a very normal flight :)

    See you,

    • Comment 315697 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 538 Comments

      I was quite surprised when, on my next flight from Vancouver to Pearson, I was just given plastic utensils after getting silverware on Rouge. I suspect it's because they didn't have any eat with a fork type meals on the Rouge flight's BOB, so they hadn't loaded plastic cutlery. On YVR-YYZ, they offered mac and cheese, sushi, and other items in BOB, so if you're in Y, you're saddled with the plastic.

  • Comment 136268 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    Thanks for the FR.

    The food offerings at UA Clubs for breakfast is no better than your average bottom-end hotel's continental breakfast offerings.

    He sits there through takeoff, and then bolts back to a window seat further back before service begins in the air.
    - Weird... Did you check your wallet after he left?

    How tall are you??? You make that 29 seat pitch look normal, lol. What was the load on this flight? It sounds like it was poor in all classes of service. Rouge Plus has to pay to rent the iPads?

    Beautiful early morning shots of SFO and the SF Bay on departure.

    • Comment 315966 by
      NGO85 1622 Comments

      I like how we have reached the point to where we are comparing UA Clubs to roadside motels in rural America.

      I have very short legs.
      - Maybe I'm the opposite (182 cm, so essentially the same) and am all legs because anything under 31 makes me uncomfortable (like flywunala in his IB report today).

      Rouge Plus is basically Economy Plus or Main Cabin Extra, or Economy Comfort....
      - You never know, doesn't Y+ get free alcohol on UA now?

    • Comment 315843 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 538 Comments

      I would expect better from a motel, actually. Although I was in EWR this week (granted, lunch not breakfast) and was surprised that there were some better snacks, like hummus and pita chips, olives, an orzo salad, etc. Change for the better from an airline confuses me, as I'm used to enhancements.

      I did not specifically check my wallet -- and with an empty seat between us, it would have been hard to pull it off -- but am happy to report my wallet was still there. I had a bit of a cough last week, so perhaps buddy went back to his original seat to get away from my ebola?

      I'm 5'11, but a little bit of a weird case to judge seat pitch. I have very short legs. My 5'3 wife and I are the same height from the ground to hip. I'm just a lot taller through my torso. It actually makes the pitch almost bearable, although I did find it a little restrictive when stuck in normal Rouge for YYZ-LAS.

      The flight was pretty light.... well less than 50% in both classes. But then it's a 6:45 am flight on a route where there's no shortage of options for time or carrier.

      And yes, Rouge Plus has to pay to rent the iPads. Remember, Rouge Plus is basically Economy Plus or Main Cabin Extra, or Economy Comfort.... same service, just a bit more legroom on the seat.

  • Comment 136337 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5100 Comments

    I've walked first onto an aircraft many times to catch the FAs chatting in F/J, in fact, just last week. One time I caught one in the middle of a nap. I don't really see the point of calling just one row Rouge Plus ...anything for a dollar I guess. Man, you're not kidding the seat pitch in the regular rows looks awful. 29 is inhumane...
    Once again the B.O.B looks good.
    With the Rouge Plus seat and the leftover omelet, it’s almost as good an experience as Premium Rouge
    - If you have an empty middle seat it's almost exactly the same experience.

    Thanks for sharing!

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