Welcome, dear reader, to the sixth and penultimate stage of a little adventure I’m calling “Around the World in 80 Hours.” This flight report is the sixth in a series that will take your humble flight-reporter around the world over the course of roughly 3.5 days.
Before we begin in earnest, I apologized for the somewhat “phoned in” nature of this trip report. From here on in, I’m on familiar products to me, so I spent a little less time analyzing the experience. Also, a little bit under the weather and generally pretty tired, I spent a lot of this flight sleeping, which probably doesn’t give you the best feel for this flight.
When last we saw each other, I had just arrived into Beijing. Transiting PEK is a simple enough process, although it can take a little bit longer than one would like. While the initial steps of getting my onwards boarding pass stamped as in transit was fast enough, security was a real bogdown, especially since Chinese security seems very strict, closely scrutinizing seemingly every electronic item every passenger was carrying with them. Even in what I presume was a priority security line — a security guard pointed me in “that direction” for, I presume, that reason — it took well over a half-hour to get through. It didn’t help that it seemed like the person checking passports for my line moved at about half the speed of every other line.
But eventually I got through, and was airside in PEK with under a half-hour to boarding time for my flight to Vancouver. Clearly, much exploration of this airport would have to wait, although there were some nice touches to be seen, like this central fountain.
I decide to forego the lounge, and just make my way out to the near the end of one arm of the terminal, where our gate is located, with a shiny new AC 787-8 sitting at it.
When I booked my return flight from Singapore, there were only two-connection options available, and this one was the most compelling combination — the only one available with the CA flight, giving me a chance to fly a carrier I’ve never flown before. There were no other routings that offered particularly interesting TPAC options — I’d have loved to get on a NH 787, for example. But at least in this flight I have, if familiar, a very comfortable and new way to cross the Pacific, and to continue the 788-heavy nature of this trip.
Our neighbour is a TK 777-300ER, recently arrived from Istanbul.
I putter around the gate for a while as the sun goes down, and zone one for boarding is called right on time. After some kerfuffle sorting out the boarding lane, I’m quickly away and storing my bags above seat 1A, the port window seat in the first row of this 787-8. I’ve flown this first row seat before — including a flight report on a YVR-ICN flight earlier this year, although that was in 1K.
As usual, the seat comes pre-equipped with a nice big pillow, a great duvet, a pair of slippers (only offered on flights to or from Asia), a bottle of water (direct from Quebec), and the standard AC business class amenity kit.
These types of seats are certainly among the best business class hard products on the market today, and AC has done a really nice job of them on the 787, and soon to be on the 777s. The IFE is the latest generation, with a nice, big, sharp screen and great resolution. The table is a different kind of setup — it slides back from under the IFE, and folds out towards you, rather than coming across your space. This has, I suppose, it’s benefits and downsides, but I rather like it because it’s easy to slide it back away, even when fully set, should one need to get out of one’s seat during service.
Seat controls are on a small touch screen on the side of the pod, which handles everything from seat recline, to reading lights, to the state of shade on your windows. Yep. Just in case you find it far too much work to reach over and press the button under one of your windows, you can dim them from right here.
The seat also has this handy little cubby hole, in which one will find headphone and USB ports, a power outlet, and a touchscreen wired remote control-slash-second screen for the IFE system. There’s a sign on the lid to the bin that says “no stowage,” but I think everyone tends to toss their small odds and sods — cell phones, earbuds, pens and papers and the like — in there. I know I do. I’m a rebel like that.
Service starts with a choice of orange juice or sparkling wine — never champagne on the ground. I opt for a sparkling wine, as usual.
Menus are offered shortly thereafter, and as is so frequently the case on flights out of China, I go for the pork dish. Kind of by default this time, as nothing else on the menu really grabs me.
The business class cabin quickly fills up, and I scan through the selection of new release movies, eventually choosing Trainwreck. I have fairly low expectations, but I find it quite funny in a very off-colour and yet endearing kind of way. Kind of like Amy Schumer in general.
Soon enough, my movie is interrupted by the security briefing video, and we push back into the Beijing night. Goodbye, Turkish.
It’s a fairly short taxi for PEK, and soon we’re up and in the air, and it’s really hard to take a good picture of a night with one’s cell phone camera at night from a rapidly-accelerating aircraft. So you’ll have to take my word for the fact that these are, in fact, pictures of our climb out of PEK, and not some sort of abstract art project.
In the air, quickly service starts with an oshibori service, one that is collected so quickly that I don’t get a pic. You’ll just have to imagine what it looks like. Drink orders are then taken, and I request a Caesar — as I often do when I’m finally back in the familiar confines of Air Canada after “unfamiliar” carriers — and a glass of water. They’re served with the Air Canada-standard ramekin of mixes and very salted almonds and cashews.
Tables are quickly set, and the meal tray is presented with appetizer, salad, and accoutrements.
The seared tuna starter is quite good. Very light, but quite nice, although not quite as good, perhaps, as the tuna tataki starter served on flight out of Canada as part of their new celebrity chef deal. The salad is also quite nice, at least change in style and taste from the usual AC salad, although it is presented with the omnipresent little bottle of balsamic and olive oil dressing. Bread was offered, but I declined this time around. There would be plenty else to fill up on during this flight, I dare say.
Appetizer dishes were quickly collected, and my main is quickly brought around. It’s a very good dish. Simple, but boldly tasty, as AC’s pork dishes ex-Asia generally are. This one has a nice peppery kick to it, and the accompanying fried rice is very good. The vegetables are not terribly exciting, and seem to just kind of be added on to the finish the dish — especially the rather bland steamed or boiled broccoli florets. No dish is perfect, but this one is quite good.
Next up is the trolley with the new-standard cheese and fruit service. I take a little bit of everything, and it’s quite good. It seems a lot of people complain about cheddars offered as part of a business class service, but I always find it a highlight. I am not, I suppose, a cheese sophisticate. Port is offered, but declined in this instance.
Dessert rounds out the meal — not quite what I was expecting from the description of a cherry cake. It’s creamy. I’ll give it that. But it’s not terribly exciting. Coffee is offered, but also declined. I am, after all, hoping to get some sleep on this flight.
With dinner — any my first movie — over, I put the seat down to an almost-flat position, and put on Southpaw, which just about fits the bill. To my considerable surprise, I manage to stay awake through it, and when it’s over, I hunker down for the night. It’s been a long day since waking up some 24 hours ago in Singapore, despite some napping on my way up to Beijing.
I’m quickly out, and I sleep very soundly, although annoyed a little bit by a very bright overhead light on the ceiling immediately behind the flight deck door. It’s not a problem when the forward curtain is properly closed, but with passengers frequently heading forward to use the lavatory, it’s frequently not fully closed. Just a warning to light sleepers, although it’s easy enough to eliminate with an eye mask.
I wake up with the cabin lights starting to come up, a sure sign that the pre-arrival breakfast service is about to start. A quick check of the moving map confirms that I have, in fact, pretty much slept through the whole of the Pacific.
As the lights continue to come up, service begins with a hot towel — this time dutifully captured for posterity.
I pull up a documentary entitled Bond of Strangers. Its duration happily closely matches the remaining flight time, and given that I’m traveling two days after Remembrance Day, its story of a group of contemporary Canadians re-tracing the footsteps of Canadian soldiers during the World War II campaign in Sicily is particularly poignant. It’s a great crowdfunded documentary, recounting a great story.
From there, the breakfast tray is offered, with an Asian selection of fruit, and a yogurt to start. Bread basket service follows, with choices of croissants and danishes. I go for a danish, and accompany it with some orange juice.
And a coffee. It occurs to me too late that as this is a Dreamliner, espresso and cappuccino might be on offer. Oh well. Black coffee is fine for a little bit of a wakeup perk.
The main dish is up next, presented by a flight attendant with a tray of choices. I go for the congee, and gratefully accept the offer of chilli sauce to stir in. With the added heat, this is a very nice savoury breakfast dish. I thorough enjoy it.
After breakfast, I visit the forward lavatory, and snap this picture of the design on the back wall, just because I like it.
Back at my seat, I pack things up and get ready for descent into Vancouver. Out the big 787 window, through a break in the uniform cloud cover, the mountains show their presence.
We continue to descend, and my partially-consumed water bottle tells the story, struggling with the increased pressure outside the aircraft.
Soon enough, we break through the upper layer of clouds out over the ocean, on approach to YVR, though a low layer of fog remains our companion almost until we are on the ground.
We set down on the runway, and after a short taxi, this penultimate leg of this round-the-world adventure is nearly over.
It’s hard to tell, but this is a picture of us at the gate. Fogged up much?
The doors are quickly opened, and we’re released for the long walk to customs, luggage collection, and onwards connections. But first, one more look at my beautiful ride across the Pacific against the backdrop of a dark and dreary Vancouver November day.
And so I began the long process of connecting in international to domestic in YVR. Okay, so it’s not really “long.” There’s just a lot of walking involved. Fortunately, we arrived at a gate not far from customs, so it wasn’t long before I was heading down the long elevator to to what is probably Canada’s nicest arrival customs experience, complete with native decorations and accents. Thanks to my Nexus card, this part is a breeze.
Then it’s a walk the length of the luggage hall, to Air Canada connections foyer. With just carry-on luggage and already in possession of my boarding pass to home, I’m quickly past that point, up an elevator, and back upstairs to the mezzanine level for… another long walk to the security checkpoint.
As usual, the security checkpoint is a bit of a backlog. And oh hey, they’ve decided they want to use the nude-o-vision rather than normal security procedures. So that’s fun.
After a bit of a wait, I’m through security, down the escalators, and finally airside in the domestic terminal at YVR. Which is where we’ll pick this story up for the final leg of this trip.
Thanks for reading this one. I’ll see you next time for the (probably not terribly) exciting of this journey.
Beijing - PEK
Vancouver - YVR
A fine (but short) TPAC for Air Canada, albeit one I slept most of the way through. I find the Dreamliner seat excellent, but wish they'd install a double set of curtains ahead of row 1, the way some other carriers do, because that super-bright LED light by the flight deck door can be quite annoying.
Service was nothing exceptional, but the good end of standard AC, friendly and efficient if nothing outstanding.
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