Welcome to another Aeroplan adventure! This time, I’m embarking on a six-segment trip from Toronto to Jakarta and back, which will accomplish a few things:
Let me try out both ANA 787 configurations — the staggered setup on SEA-NRT, and the cradle on NRT-CGK. Let me see Jakarta for the first time, if the weather co-operates at all. Fly the Asiana A380 again. Get on my first 789, with AC LAX-YYZ
This was booked from a surplus of Aeroplan points — although Aeroplan levies fuel surcharges on both Asiana and ANA, these weren’t too bad on this one, all things considered.
I arrive at Pearson a little after 4:00 in the afternoon for the 6:40 departure of my flight to Seattle.
I get dropped off at Terminal 1, just outside Air Canada's rather large Priority Check In counter for U.S. flights. It's not busy at all, and in less than two minutes, I have a boarding pass for YYZ-SEA and am on my way to customs pre-clearance.
Armed with my Nexus Card and therefore Global Entry, pull into the pre-clearance zone. They're doing some renovations around here, and things are laid out quite differently than the last time I was through the U.S. pre-clearance zone. Nevertheless, there's basically nobody here, and t's just another minute or two before I'm on my way to security. Of note, apparently U.S. CBP in Toronto has gotten over its dependency on stamping boarding passes, so most States-bound passengers can now do an e-boarding pass. I was not able to for this flight, however, I suspect because of the non-AC connections.
The layout for security has also changed somewhat since last I was through here, and there seem to be three lanes available to Nexus holders. None of them have a very long line – about three people each – so again, it's just a couple of minutes before I'm through security, gathering my belongings, and on my way upstairs to the transborder Maple Leaf Lounge.
The elevator drops me off upstairs in the lounge, where my boarding pass is, uncharacteristically, not scanned before I'm allowed in.
The transborder MLL is a large facility, and is almost always quite full, with so many flights to the States from Toronto. There are a few main halls of seating, including one raised area in the middle of the main hall, with seating along the windows to the outside, a small secondary lounging room with its own little bar area, and a business section with PCs and cubicles.
There's also this TV lounge area – not nearly as busy now as it was during the Blue Jays' playoff run a few months ago. Good times, those were.
Opposite the entrance of the lounge, there's a good variety of reading materials on display.
I pull up a seat with a access to some plugs at the far end of the mini-lounge, and settle in. I dig into my bag for my notebook, and discover to my considerable dismay that I've left the power adaptor for my notebook at home. But at least I brought the international extensions.
Airside views aren't exactly spectacular from this lounge, which is situated high, and a bit back from the "edge" of the terminal building.
Oh well. I decide to grab a snack, so it's off to the buffet area, which is quite crowded as always. There are no hot dishes on offer in the transborder MLL, so it's just a variety of snack foods, including chips and salsa, pita chips and dips, vegetables, salads, and soups – cream of mushroom and smoked turkey and rice – as well as cookies and a few other desserts.
There's a pretty good self-serve bar, although I choose just to have some water for now. I accompany it with the turkey soup, and a couple of cookies.
Everything is pretty decent, and I'm happy enough with this snack for now. I putter a little bit on my notebook, and the WiFi is performing well this afternoon. But I've got to try to figure out some sort of solution to my lack of a power adapter, so about half an hour before boarding is to be called, I head downstairs from the lounge and onto the concourse to see if there's any solution.
There are all kinds of USB power adapters available at various retailers on the transborder concourse, but no sign of a notebook power adapter. I do, however, find a full-size Bluetooth keyboard available at a decent price, and I decide this is a decent compromise in case I can't find an AC adapter for the notebook later in my travels.
I walk around a bit to get some exercise in, and then make my way to gate F34, home of our flight tonight.
There's an Embraer on the gate, so things are looking good for an on-time (or at least close to it) departure. I take a seat and get my new keyboard connected to my iPad so I should be able to maintain at least some form of productivity on the go.
Boarding is called right on time, and I join the short queue for Zone 1, ending up third in line to board the plane. From there, it's a short walk down the jetway to the end, where the service director for the flight holds us for a minute. It turns out a technician is on board, working on the rear lav, and has asked that boarding be held up. But apparently not before they let a handful of us down the jetway.
Nonetheless, a minute or two later, we're given the all-clear, and I'm on board my E190 for this flight.
Flight: AC152 From: Toronto (YYZ) To: Seattle (SEA) Date: 2/8/2016 Aircraft: Embraer 190 Registration: C-FHNX Seat: 2A ATD (STD): 19:04 (18:40) ATA (STA): 20:33 (21:08)
I'm seated in 2A, a loner seat on the port side of the 1-2 nine-seat business cabin on this Embraer. It's a decent hard product for a regional jet. Although this assignment, at a bit over 2,000 miles, surely stretches the definition of the word "regional." It must be one of the longer E-jet missions out there.
This flight is semi-famous as the Microsoft Express, as it serves as a direct link between Microsoft headquarters in the Seattle region, and it's Canadian subsidiary headquarters, just down the road from Pearson outside Toronto.
Settling in, I stow my roll aboard over the opposite side of the plane, where the bins are deeper up front, and my backpack gets squished into the narrow overhead bins on the port side. That means the undersea area is free for stretching out. Legroom is decent, although pitch is close enough that it's a little hard to get out of the seat when the seat in front of me is reclined.
Outside my window, there's not much going on except our twin parked at the gate next to us.
AC includes seat-back IFE on its E-jets. In fact, the E-jets were the first members of the fleet to have seatback IFE, if I recall correctly, as they were the first new ordered product before they began the "Project XM" retrofit that saw the fleet from the CRJ-700 on down get seatback. The screen on this plane is doing just fine – registration is still good, and it's fairly responsive compared to some members for the fleet.
This plane has been loaded with the new movies for February, and there are a few things I haven't seen, which is quite nice. I choose the latest Bond film, Spectre, to start off.
After the few of us in business class have loaded, there's a long pause – apparently, letting us on was just to clear the jetway, and they're still holding boarding for the technician in the back to get things fixed. I guess that would be important, since there aren't exactly a plethora of lavatories on these E-jets.
A few minutes later, boarding continues, and service begins with pre-departure beverages, a choice of orange juice or water. I go with water. It sits nicely on the little drink-holder that pulls out of the left-side armrest.
Menus are offered on this flight, and I'm a little bit disappointed. We're down to just two choices for the main course. I'm not sure if this is an E-jet thing due to limits on storage space, or if this is yet another degradation of the domestic/transborder business class service on AC. Anyways, I choose the tortellini, as I've had the chicken before, and I wasn't crazy about it.
We load up pretty quickly, the safety video rolls, and we push back. In the meantime, our twin has left, leaving this A321 in Star Alliance colors as our nearest neighbors.
We taxi the long way – for a minute, I think perhaps we're heading for de-icing, but since it's not that cold and since the plane has likely only been on the ground for an hour or so, we just drive past de-icing on our way to the runway. From there, it's a short roll and we're into the night sky over Toronto, initially to the north before making a left turn to get headed in a westwardly direction.
It's not long before the seatbelt light is extinguished and service begins quickly with a hot towel.
Drink orders are up next, and I take a Caesar, which is accompanied by a little ramekin of nuts. Again, small service changes here – the nuts are not warmed (although I suspect that's an E-jet thing, since the only ovens are in the back, I believe), and they seem to have abandoned the "traditional" AC cashew and almond mix in favor of just cashews.
About five minutes later, the SD makes her way down the aisle again, this time with little packets of almonds. So I guess the almonds haven't been kicked out, just made a second act for those who want them.
Dinner is presented altogether on the tray very quickly. No tablecloth on the E-jet, I guess. Bread is offered immediately afterwards, and I take a white bread. Another Caesar accompanies dinner.
The salad isn't bad, but is simple. The bits of cheeses add some interest, and at least it's served with the the new lemon balsamic vinaigrette as opposed to the long-serving normal balsamic vinaigrette that's been an AC staple since times prehistoric.
The main dish is nothing special, but quite enjoyable, with some decent flavor to the chunky vegetable sauce. It's not great, but it's satisfying.
The dessert is the highlight of the meal, a nice light bit of tiramisu cake.
After dinner, the dishes are quickly cleared, A few minutes later, the SD comes through for bottled water service. In the past, these would have been offered in glass tumblers, but now it's a plastic cup. Another cutback in service or another E-jet compromise? I'm not sure.
With dinner over, I kick back, enjoy the movie, and spend a little bit of time writing part of this flight-report on my iPad and new Bluetooth keyboard, which works like a charm. Nothing fancy, but at least it's full-sized. Somewhere in there, the SD comes by with another round of water.
Having caught up, I turn things off and enjoy the end of the movie. With it over, I check on Airshow, and find we're out over Minnesota, still about 100 minutes left. Time enough for another movie, and wanting something not too involved, I choose The Peanuts Movie.
As it's about to being, the service director comes around with the snack basket, and asks if I want a drink. I grab a bag of Miss Vickies to enjoy during the movie, and a Coke Zero to accompany it.
Oh, and a little bit of second dessert, too. Kit Kat is always welcome.
I actually manage to doze off for a little bit towards the end of the movie, waking up with the closing credits on, and descent beginning. A check of Airshow confirms that, yep, we're on descent into Seattle.
It's a clear evening, so once we're over civilization, there's lot to watch out the window on the way down.
We touch down a little bit early, and after a fairly long taxi, arrive at the A gates, parking a couple of spaces over from this Delta Connection regional jet. Oddly enough, a later check of Flightradar24 would reveal that our flight was diverted to Boeing Field. It's looking a lot like SeaTac these days.
We're quickly released into the concourse, and I take the time to grab a decent pic of our ride, as the spotting here is a little bit better than it was at Pearson.
I'm traveling with just carry-on, as usual, so I'm quickly landslide, and I take the short five minute walk across International Drive to the Radisson Gateway, where I crash for the night, as it's quite late by Eastern Time standards.
We'll pick the story of this trip up from there.
Thanks for reading!
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Transborder
Toronto - YYZ
Seattle - SEA
A decent flight, if long for a regional jet. Disappointing to see what appear to be some more cutbacks to AC premium class service.
But this flight mostly existed to get me in position for the 787 across the Pacific the next day, and it did a good job of that. See you there for that review!
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