Welcome, dear reader, to the continuation of my first adventure of the year. I’m kicking the year off by taking my mother to Asia for the first time. Our primary — and only — destination is Hong Kong. But that’s because Air Canada IRROPed us out of Toronto and kinda ruined plans for brief visits to both Beijing and Singapore. Such is the way with the Aviation Gods, I suppose.
After a busy two and a half days of sight-seeing in Hong Kong, it was time to start the beginning of the end of this particular adventure. We hopped the Airport Express and arrived at HKG at about 5:30 pm for our 7:50 pm departure back to Canada.
A quick check of FlighRadar showed that the flight from Vancouver, which would also serve as our ride back to Vancouver, was less than half an hour out of HKG, so things were looking good for an on-time departure.
At the priority check-in lane for AC, we were quickly checked in, and advised that both United and Thai lounges were available. Funny that they never mention Singapore — perhaps because it’s located quite a way from the gates from which AC generally departs. “Most passengers choose Thai,” the agent advises me, I think a nice way of saying “The Thai lounge is better.” Which is it. Although the UA lounge is pretty nice by UA lounge standards, that is certainly winning the tallest midget contest.
Passport control and security takes no time at all — HKG is actually fairly quiet at this particular time. And soon we’re airside and on our way down the long branch of the Y-shaped main terminal towards the lounges.
Nice to see that Christmas decorations are still up airside as well.
Out at the end of the terminal, near gate 40 where it splits, is where one heads upstairs towards the Thai-operated lounge. I’ve been here a few times before, most recently for my brief First Class adventure a month ago.
We’re scanned in quickly, and shown towards the business class side of the lounge.
Thai’s lounge is open and airy, perched on a mezzanine level above the main concourse. With its bright colours, I find it quite a cheery place, generally speaking.
There are a couple of massage chairs available for those who want them.
And Wii systems…. although they never seem to be activated.
Right below us, look who’s just pulled in. Well well well, if it’s not C-FNNW, our ride over to Vancouver this evening.
Off to the buffet to check out the offerings. It’s a pretty good food lineup, with prepackaged sandwiches, a decent salad bar, dim sum, soup, and a number of hot dishes.
I grab myself a couple of dim sum items, along with a small samosa and a mushroom pie, along with some mushroom soup. All are quite good, as is the Tsingtao beer that goes along with it.
This colourful Thai “cake” dessert isn’t great, but I’m soooo glad to have one of my favourite little treats, and one I’ve only ever seen here — a coconut frozen confection made with coconut milk. Absolutely fabulous. Provided you like coconut. If not, it’s probably not for you.
After kicking back for a while in the lounge, it’s time to head downstair for the long <snicker> walk over to our plane, a 777-300ER.
Flight: AC8 From: Hong Kong (HKG) To: Vancouver (YVR) Date: 1/7/2016 Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER Registration: C-FNNW Seat: 2A ATD (STD): 20:09 (19:50) ATA (STA): 15:15 (14:37)
Priority boarding is called right on time, and soon we’re on our way down the jetway and aboard, where one of the service directors welcomes us aboard. This plane features AC’s “high density” arrangement, and is alternating rows of 2-2-2- and 1-2-1 in business class. I’m in 2A, the first of the “throne” seats in business class. Some complain about the footwell on these seats, but I don’t have a problem with it, and I really like the additional storage space — particularly the fact that I can usually keep my backpack handy, since I can wedge it between my seat and the seat ahead of me against the fuselage and therefore out of the way should we have to evacuate.
As usual, the seat is equipped with the standard Air Canada business class pillow and blanket, with are both excellent, as well as a pair of slippers and the familiar AC amenity kit.
Seat controls are “touch buttons,” which someone oh-so-wisely located in a natural armrest position, right where one’s hand rests if one rests one’s forearms on the armrest areas. Not a good design feature, IMHO.
Behind the controls, there’s a flip-up panel that reveals the wired remote for IFE on one side. And on the other side, it flips up to reveal… absolutely nothing!
There’s a small storage cubby on the outside of the seat, above which all of the ports — headphones, AC, and two USB ports, are located. On international flights where noise-cancelling headphones are not distributed until after takeoff, AC provides cheapo earplug headphones so you can us the IFE immediately. I’ve lucked out and been given two. But I’ll use neither. I’ve got my own, which I much prefer.
Because this seat slides down “into” the seat in front of it in flat bed mode, legroom isn’t huge, but there’s plenty of room to stretch out. I do find the nature of these seats a bit constricting when it comes to getting into and out of the seat past the storage shelf between the seat and the aisle.
And a look into the “coffin” — the footwell for the throne seat.
The IFE screen is large, and the interface is fairly modern. It’s certainly significantly better, in terms of size, resolution, picture quality, user interface, and particularly in terms of responsiveness, when compared to AC’s previous-generation IFE interface. There’s a 600 ml bottle of water in the literature pouch on either side of the seat.
Service begins with a choice of sparkling wine or orange juice. Sparking wine, of course!
Then menus are handed out. Orders are taken shortly thereafter, and since nothing particularly reaches out to me, I go for the beef. Interesting that there’s no pasta dish or other vegetarian item on the main menu. That’s unusual for AC.
As boarding continues — it takes a while to load up a 458-seat 77W — here’s a look at the very exciting view out my window.
Soon enough, boarding is complete, and the safety video rolls as we push back from next to this Royal Jordanian Dreamliner.
From there, it’s a fairly short taxi by Hong Kong standards, and we’re up and into the night sky.
Service begins with a hot towel once the seatbelt signs are turned off, and I turn on a movie called Our Man in Tehran, a documentary about the Canadian embassy’s role in getting the non-hostage American embassy workers out of Iran during the hostage crisis of 1979. It’s decent, if a bit “Look how great we Canadians are for doing this!”
It takes a while after that for the service to get going, and the mood lighting is in full effect as drinks are offered with a snack of warmed nuts. I opt for some champagne.
But eventually, the house lights come up a bit more, and tablecloths are offered. It’s always fun to watch people fumble with trying to deploy — or worse, stow — the tables in these seats, and wonder who decided this was a good design decision? It’s only because I’ve been on these planes quite a few times that I’m anything better than hopefully with them, and I still find it a stupid table design.
Dinner service begins with the tay of appetizers, and a bread service.
The appetizer is pretty decent — just a little taste of scallop, prawn, and smoked salmon. I find the celeriac salad quite enjoyable.
The salad is — well, it sure is a salad. Not a particularly good one, though. And unfortunately, it looks like we’re back to the non-lemon balsamic vinaigrette. I’d been so excited by the change on the Toronto to Beijing flight.
The pretzel bun out of HKG is probably the best bread I’ve had on AC. Not that that’s saying much, but a least it’s decent.
My main comes, and to my considerable surprise, the beef is not terribly overcooked, even a little bit pink in the centre. This was a good main, although the sauce was a little strongly sweet for my taste.
Once dinner is over, the cheese plate is offered, complete with a little taste of port. No fruit service other than grapes this time around.
And to finish out the meal, a little slice of cheesecake, accompanied by some Baileys. A great way to cap a pretty good meal.
With dishes quickly cleared, I put my seat back into a lounging position, and finish my movie. By the time I’m done, it’s getting late, and I’m pretty bagged after a day full of walking before heading to the airport. I get up and brush my teeth, and hunker down for the night to see if I can sleep, as we fly over the coast of Japan.
I would call my efforts to sleep a success, because when I wake up, the house lights are coming up for breakfast, and we’re just south of the Yukon, about an hour out of Vancouver. For once, I didn’t have any problems with the air mattress seat deflating of its own volition, and with a nice pillow and a good blanket, I slept about as well as one can expect on an airplane.
Breakfast service begins, as should any good service, with a hot towel.
Meanwhile, outside, it’s a pretty layer of uniform cloud far below us. But not for long.
The breakfast tray is then offered, with a decent selection of fruit and a yogurt. Croissants and danishes are also offered, with orange juice and a good strong cup of coffee to accompany it.
For entertainment I put on a documentary I had started on Toronto-Beijing, but promptly fallen asleep during. Called Hip Hop-eration, it tells the true story of an unlikely bunch of senior citizens from New Zealand and their dream of traveling to Las Vegas to dance in the world hip hop dance championships. Interesting stuff.
The mains for breakfast are brought around on a cart so you can see what’s being offered and take your pick. I do like most of AC’s congees, but I just had the congee on Toronto-Beijing, so I opt for the omelet, since it’s a bit different than AC’s usual omelet offering.
The omelet itself isn’t terribly exciting, but the potatoes and mushrooms, and to a lesser degree, the sausage, make up for it. In hindsight, I should have grabbed a packet of the hot pepper sauce offered for congee eaters to liven up the omelet a bit. Still, a more than adequate breakfast.
With breakfast over, one of the service directors comes around, and asks if I’ve had any troubles with the seat. Not sure if she checked my file that indicates I’ve complained about this seat deflating a few times before, or if she’s just checking with all Super Elite passengers. I say I haven’t had any troubles this time around, but that’s probably because a gentleman from maintenance showed me how to force it to fix itself after the last time I had an issue with this seat. She says that AC has instructed flight crews NOT to use the simple fix — which is basically a combination of button touches on the seat controls that resets the pumps. We debate why for a few minutes, but don’t come up with anything logical. No surprise. This is an airline we’re talking about here.
Another flight attendant comes by to collect the headphones, lamenting that they’re making her “be the bad guy.”
I make a trip to the forward lav, and walk into the cabin crew joking around in the galley there. I chat with the other service director for a few minutes about the impending makeover these planes are getting. While the “regular” 77Ws in the fleet go from 42 business class seats to 40, these few “high density” planes are going from 36 to 28. Ouch! That’s a tiny business class cabin for a plane that seats 450 in total. Clearly, not good news for those looking for upgrades in the future.
Overall, I found this crew well above average for Air Canada, and I generally appreciate the service on AC. They were friendly and fun, and seemed to welcome passengers joining in on their shenanigans, as opposed to suddenly going silent as soon as a passenger shows up in the galley.
Back at my seat, and we begin our descent into Vancouver. Here, our shadow converges with ourselves as we approach the clouds from above.
Flying into Vancouver almost always results in some good views.
But soon we’re between two layers of clouds as we continue our descent.
We finally break through the clouds on final approach to YVR, where it is — to no one’s surprise — quite grey.
After a short taxi, we pull into a spot in the international terminal, right next to this Lufthansa 747-400.
The crew wishes us a friendly goodbye and good flights onwards on the way home, and off we go to do the long haul hike that is connecting in YVR. First it’s up an escalator, then down a long haul to the escalators down to the customs hall. It’s a very nice customs hall, but it’s still a customs hall.
Then it’s through the baggage hall, up an elevator, down another long haul, through security, and finally down an escalator, and one is free, airside, in the domestic terminal at YVR, which is where we’ll pick up the story in the next trip report.
Thanks for reading!
Thai Royal Orchid
Hong Kong - HKG
Vancouver - YVR
Maybe (hopefully?) one of my last flights on this particular product from AC, since it's being ripped out of the 77W fleet over the next few months during the refurb. I can't say I'll miss it all that much.
A good crew can make quite a difference, and this was a good crew, although in a very different way from a lot of good crews. They seemed to have fun on the job and were happy to share some of that fun with their passengers, which made for a pretty good atmosphere. I'd like to see more of it.
Decent catering and some good sleep, all together makes for a pretty good flight, mediocre hard product notwithstanding.
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