Since I was travelling alone for this trip and with an early departure, I took the SkyTrain and this would be the first time for me getting to the airport using the Canada Line from downtown Vancouver. The ride was surprisingly pleasant and quick since there was not much passengers in the morning. I had no trouble at all bringing my snowboard bag and hand carry onto the train since it was pretty empty.
The SkyTrain at YVR station
Graham Clarke Atrium in YVR
On arrival at the airport, I head towards the domestic terminal which is on the left of the Graham Clarke Atrium where passengers alighting from the SkyTrain will enter the airport from. Air Canada's premium check-in counters were located on the right side of the domestic terminal and also closest to the Graham Clarke Atrium. There was no one in line and I was served immediately. The check-in agent seems to look fresher than I was in that time of the morning and even reminded me to keep myself warm as it was really cold in Quebec that day.
Air Canada Premium Check-In
Air Canada domestic terminal
There was a long queue to go through security as I had to deposit my snowboard bag in the other side of the terminal. Thus I took some time to take photos of the sunrise from outside the terminal.
Sunrise departure from the airport
When I returned to the terminal, the queue for the security was still evident though I was able to get to the premium or express lane which had no one waiting outside. The line was obviously shorter and I was able to pass through security into the domestic departure concourse in no time.
Rushing to the gate monument past security
This would be my first time travelling through the domestic terminal as a premium passenger and thus my first time exploring the Maple Leaf lounge on the domestic side. Usually, I would be taking Air Canada to the States and thus the Transborder side Maple Leaf lounge was more familiar to me. Unlike the transborder side lounge, the reception is on the ground floor and credentials were checked first before guests could proceed via the stairs or the elevator up to the second floor. It was quite busy that morning and I had to wait behind one other person before I was checked in.
Maple Leaf Lounge reception on the ground floor
There is a work station area on the left at the top of the stairs and a newspaper and magazine rack below the divider that shields the main seating lounge from the staircase. The workstation area was very dark as the lights does not seem to be fully switched on. That is probably why no one was there to begin with though some passengers did leave their luggage in this secluded area.
Workstations area in the lounge
Compared to the Transborder lounge, this one was quite large but it had more dark wood panelling which made the lounge seems smaller and intimate on the whole. Even though it was quite busy, there was still seats to be found by the window as there are 3 separate seating area with the main one being just outside the elevators.
Main seating area in the domestic Maple Leaf Lounge
Quieter section of the lounge
To the left of the main lounge is the dining area with a huge coffee station, a buffet counter in the middle around by the wall. There is another seating area beyond the dining space with more lounging space set with flat screen TVs. This was where I settled down before heading out to get some breakfast since I only had a cup of coffee before I left the house.
Dining area with buffet counter
With the lounge serving breakfast, the spread was quite good with hot dishes like sausages, omelettes and scrambled eggs. There was also assorted pastries, muffins, croissants, toast and bagels. The sweet options includes pancakes, yogurts, fresh fruits and a variety of juices.
Yogurt and oatmeal
Muffins and pastries
Breakfast of eggs and sausage
As I got some food, I also picked up some newspapers and magazines along the way and I find the magazine and newspaper selection to be very impressive as well with all the major Canadian newspapers represented, including titles from Quebec. There was also some French Canadian magazines on the rack.
Air Canada Boeing 777 arriving at YVR
My seat by the window also gave me some nice views and I got to see an Air Canada 777-300ER docking by the gate. As a whole, the lounge was very good in the North American context and considering that Air Canada had to have 3 separate lounges in one airport to cater to their passengers, it was interesting to note the domestic lounge amenities was far better compared to the transborder side lounge.
AC150 Vancouver International YVR - Montréal Pierre Elliott Trudeau YUL STD-STA: 09:10-16:54 Actual: 09:24-16:32 Airbus A330-300 C-GHLM Gate C47 Seat 2K
Star Alliance livery A330 that will bring me to Montréal
As I took my time to head to the gate, priority boarding has already been completed when I arrived. Still, I had time to take some shots of the plane itself which was emblazoned with the Star Alliance livery. And since the normal boarding line was quite long, I hurriedly handed my boarding pass to the agent on the priority boarding queue which was already empty.
Air Canada Business Class on the A330
Being still ahead of the main boarding crowd, I turned left to the larger business class cabin, which was in the old herringbone 1-1-1 configuration. It is 1-2-1 in the 777. I knew that the 'K' side of the cabin would be the less private one, but somehow I prefer to face a person rather than the wall, just for the feeling of more space I guess. For this configuration passengers travelling in pairs are better off choosing seats side by side or they should get seats G and K. A couple travelling during the flight was seated in 1G & 2G with another couple travelling from New Zealand that was upgraded to 3G & 3K. There were probably around 5-6 upgrades in the end with a full load up front.
Seats 2K and 3K onboard Air Canada
On the seat itself, there was a square-shaped pillow which was fluffy enough to hug and a huge duvet. The menu was also left on the seat. I was able to store my messenger bag at the top, though in hindsight, I could have just stored it in front underneath the ottoman. Though some other passengers in Business class had difficulty finding space for their hand carry as the centre section of business class cabin was devoid of any overhead luggage space that gave the overall cabin more space. Probably a perk to be seated in the middle seat here.
Amongst the pre-departure beverage, there was orange juice or water in plastic cups. There was also newspapers on the galley but they were only offered after some time, and by then I had just walked up to the galley to grab one copy for myself. During this time, the crew also came around taking orders for breakfast, and collected passengers' coats that were hung beside the seat.
Legroom in the seat
Somehow it felt like it took some time for boarding to be completed, but I was just relaxing and taking photos of this cabin since it was my first time on Air Canada's herringbone business class cabin. These cabins should probably be phased out soon since the 787 features the better reverse-herringbone design looking towards the window. And I just realized had I deferred my flight to a day later, I would have caught the new 787 on this exact same route. Oh well!
Morning flight view over the British Columbian Rockies
With the partially cloudy weather, there was still some good views of the Rockies during the initial stages of the flight. But because of the seat direction, it really makes viewing out of the plane difficult. Strictly for contortionists only!
Hot towel service
After the plane has reached cruising altitude, the crew came around with hot towels in the cabin, and the breakfast service began shortly after. Prior to that, I noticed some passengers with specific dietary needs were given other options from the buy onboard menu as the flight did not load certain food due to the upgrades or something.
Menu front cover
Inflight breakfast menu
Like the way orders were taken, the meal service started from the front of the cabin, Breakfast service began the crew going around to place a table cloth on every seat before presenting a fresh fruit platter and an offer of 3 kinds of bread: white, cinnamon or whole wheat. The serving of yogurt was included in the platter.
Fresh fruit platter to start
For the main course, I had the pancakes with maple butter, chicken sausage and crab-apple compote. The pancakes were quite good and the sweetness was just right. Overall a good breakfast even if the portions were not the most generous. I had apple juice as a beverage with the breakfast.
Pancakes in cran-apple compote for the mains
After the meal service, the crew came around again offering coffee or tea, and I enquired about the herbal teas where she showed me the options to pick from and I got the summer berries tea. It was a kind of fruit tea that I think ended the meal service on a high note. Service throughout was pleasant and the crew served to their best with a smile. I think the crew were even quite fun in this flight!
Business Class cabin during the flight
After the meal service, I reclined my seat to a relaxed mode; I thought the seat was comfortable, and the cabin's temperature was just nice, without being too cold or too warm. For entertainment, the personal monitor was of a good size and headphones with hygienic earpiece covers that were packed individually were provided on every seat. Though they were the poor quality kind and since I brought my Bose headsets, that was what I used.
Headphones and ambient light in the cabin
The TV screen resolution again was very good so it allowed me to enjoy the movie of my choice, which was Dolphin Tale 2. While I cannot fault the selection of movies and TV shows, they are probably average, not as good as some carriers but not half bad either. Though so far on my flights with Air Canada, I never really got bored since most of their flights have personal monitors even in economy class. Both monitors in economy and business class are controlled using touch screen, though there is also an old-style manual controller which I never used. Usually I have a thing against touch-screen devices on the plane but it worked surprisingly well on this flight.
Safety manual and seat guide
For passengers still hungry after the meal, the crew usually sets up a basket of snacks by the galley which I spotted on my way to the lavatory. There is nothing much to say about a standard airplane lavatory but it is stocked with hand wash and hand cream from Fruits & Passion, a Canadian perfumery. As for the snack basket, there are some packet of chips, energy bars, some fruits and packs of chocolates.
Fruits & Passion amenities in the lavatory
The crew also went around with a ramekin of warm nuts along with beverage service for guests who are not asleep during the flight. It was great that the nuts was warm and I happily munched on them while watching my movie.
Warm nuts and water
With about 1 hour and a half to go before we arrive, I converted my seat to a fully flat position and set up the duvet. Snugged under the duvet, it was easy to get some shut eye. The cabin is mostly dark even for the early flight as most passengers chose to sleep and even those who were working closed the cabin windows, using their cabin lights instead. So the ambience with the mood lighting was also very conducive for a nap.
Seat in full-flat mode
Seat with duvet, ready for a nap
An announcement is made as the flight started its descent and the cabin lights are turned on for preparation. This usually signals the time to wake up and freshen up. The crew will also return passenger's coats during this time, and hang it back by the seat where the hook can also function as a headset holder.
enRoute inflight magazine
The seat itself is all good but I find there was a lack of some storage space for essentials like spectacles and mobile phones. I always worry of them falling into the recesses, so an enclosure of some kind would have been great. Another thing I dislike was the difficulty of getting the inflight magazines as the space is just so tight. Though when the seat is fully reclined flat, there is another compartment for reading materials.
Descent into Montreal
Disembarking from the flight
During the disembarkation, the crew held back the economy class passengers to allow the front cabin to alight first. As this flight continues onwards to Europe, passengers are dropped off by the international terminal and that means a long trek to the arrivals and baggage claim.
Air Canada A330 at YUL
Air France 747 at YUL
As a francophone province, it is not surprising to see 2 Air France planes (one a 747 and another an A340), both bound for Paris docked side by side. There was also a Swiss Air flight departing around this time. Rather it seems many international departures will be around this evening hour.
Duty Free shops in the international terminal at YUL
Even after taking my time doing some plane-spotting, my checked luggage has yet to appear as I descended into the baggage claim area. The conveyor has not even started to deliver its first luggage, but the positive spin to it was that Priority marked luggages were the first to appear as I collected my luggage and the snowboard from the oversized luggage belt.
Baggage claim on arrival at YUL
The experience flying a wide-body jet for a domestic flight is always unmatchable, since it makes travelling so easy and convenient with no pesky TSA officers, or immigration lines to deal with. The fact there was a full-flat bed and a 2 course meal was just icing on the cake, so I would have to say domestically within Canada, there is no better way to fly in a commercial flight. The better one would be your own private jet, so I think Air Canada gets too much flak for the decent service they do provide.
Some images from Montréal:
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
Montréal Olympic Park
Montréal Blue Hour from Mont Royal
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Domestic
Vancouver - YVR
Montreal - YUL
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