Welcome to another Aeroplan adventure! This time, it’s off for a quick jaunt to Chile with Air Canada and Avianca.
Here’s the rundown
AC962 YYZ-BOG 3/14/2016 - You are here AV97 BOG-SCL 3/14/2016 - Coming soon AV98 SCL-BOG 3/16/2016 - Coming soon AC963 BOG-YYZ 3/16/2016 - Coming soon
There are two purposes for this trip.
1) To “check off” South America, the last inhabited continent I have not visited. 2) To sample Avianca’s business class product, and its 787 offering in particular.
I arrived at Pearson at about 6:30 am for this 8:15 departure. There’s still some novelty to this new look for the domestic/international (ie: non-US) check-in area for premium passengers at YYZ, hidden behind this translucent screen.
Mostly, it’s just a slightly different look to the same check-in area that’s been here for years.
With the exception of this new, expanded and more easily-accessible office for the company’s Concierge crew.
Between the check-in and the concierge office, there’s this large-scale model of the larger end of AC’s upcoming narrowbody refresh, the 737-Max.
Check-in takes a grand total of about two minutes, and I’ve got boarding passes through to Santiago. Heading towards security, it looks like it’s a zoo for domestic. Not a huge surprise, given that it’s the Monday of March Break for many Toronto-area schools, and given the mess that was the drop-off area outside Terminal 1.
Fortunately, the security lineup for international was considerably shorter, and within about ten minutes, I was through and on my way down to the end of the “hammerhead” pier at T1. No pictures of the high-speed moving sidewalk to the end this morning, but I’m pleased to report it was in the unusual state of being operational.
It dropped me off at the end of the walkway, just outside the international Maple Leaf Lounge, where my boarding pass is taken, and I’m quickly shown in at around 6:55, about 40 minutes before boarding is due to start.
The lounge is about as empty as I’ve ever seen it at this hour of the morning. I’ve covered this lounge a bunch of times in the past, so we’ll go quickly through it, especially since it’s a pretty short visit. Here’s one of the main “halls” of the lounge, with some magazines available for those who are interested.
And the second, smaller “hall” complete with a few PC stations, and a secondary bar area.
Off to the buffet to see what’s on offer this morning.
First up is a cold section containing hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, and fruit.
A nice selection of pastries.
The MLL’s signature oatmeal.
And some new options in terms of hot foods. French toast sticks, hash browns, a mushroom and cheese crepe/egg skillet deal, and some pork sausages. Not bad, considering the last time I was in here in breakfast hours, there were basically no hot dishes on offer.
There are also some (strongly backlit) cereals on the other side, by the bar — which, you’ll notice, is carefully sealed because this is Ontario and it’s not yet 11:00 am.
There’s also a number of coffee machines, and fountains for juice and soft drinks.
I head back to my seat with my breakfast, trying a bit of everything from the hot items, along with some orange juice. All are quite good, particularly the mushroom/egg/crepe dish.
I check in on work, and the lounge-specific WiFi is doing good very well this morning. With boarding time showing at 7:35, I head down to the gates at about 7:20, and there are already lines forming, and some passengers in wheelchairs are being loaded.
Sure enough, moments later, Zone 1 boarding is called, my boarding pass is scanned, and I’m on my way down to the plane. The jetway provides me my first look at my ride this morning, one of the increasingly rare 767-300s still assigned to the mainline. A lot of them have been handed over to Rouge.
Flight: AC962 From: Toronto Pearson (YYZ) To: Bogota (BOG) Date: 3/14/2016 Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER Registration: C-GHOZ Seat: 8A ATD (STD): 08:35 (08:15) ATA (STA): 13:06 (13:10)
On board, I’m shown to 8A, the port side window in the last row of the mainline 763s. These birds are in a 1-1-1 configuration, so privacy is great, particularly in the A row. The seat is equipped with a good pillow and a nice duvet, but no amenity kit for this short-ish (six-hour) flight down to Bogota, suggesting AC treats this as an international-but-less-than-international flight.
Legroom is, of course, very good.
Noise-cancelling headphones are a permanent part of the pod, and mine are hung out here for me. These are generally pretty good, comfortable headphones — the old, uncomfortable Senheisers that were original equipment on these pods were replaced a couple of years ago. This particularly set isn’t doing so well on the left channel, but still good enough to use and spare my own headphones for later.
Behind the hanging headphones is the (currently stowed) IFE display, and remote control for IFE.
No bottle of water on the aisle-side drink holder under the right armrest, further showing this is an international-but-not-quite-international flight.
One of the benefits of 8A and 8K, aside from being the last row of J, is that you’ve got a little closet on the aisle-side behind you, creating a bit more privacy, and also this handy little storage area, which is a big bonus, because these seats are otherwise a bit tight on stowage space.
Here’s a look across the cabin as boarding continues — as mentioned, it’s a 1-1-1 configuration up front, and part of the privacy benefit is that there’s this half-wall between you and the middle seat.
But wait… what’s that over the far window seat ahead? Yep, that sure does appear to be deployed oxygen masks. These older 767s — you can tell they’re among AC’s oldest because they have the old-school overhead bins — are really showing their age at this point in many ways.
Case in point, my winder shutter. It deploys fine, but will only stow raised at this slightly skewed angle.
At least the IFE system works, and I select and start watching Trust. Pretty good film, and my second journalistic procedural film in less than 24 hours, having watched Spotlight the night before.
Out the window, this Sunwing 737-800 with split scimiatars is boarding for some Caribbean location, probably.
The breakfast menu card is handed out to open up service, further confirming this flight is not quite full international spec — this is the same breakfast service as is offered on flights like YYZ to YYC, YVR, LAX and SFO. Orders are taken shortly after by status, and I go with the pancakes, having not had them in a while.
Pre-departure beverage choices of water or orange juice are offered next.
About this time, I notice that the O2 mask situation has been resolved, which I’m sure the person sitting in the seat underneath appreciates.
Outside, as boarding completes, the previous Sunwing 738 is replaced by another Sunwing 738, likely just back from somewhere int he Caribbean.
The service director comes by and introduced himself to each business class passenger, seemingly doing so by status. It’s a nice gesture, but it would somehow seem more sincere if it wasn’t accompanied by being asked if I’d like anything to buy from on-board duty free after breakfast. I have to say the crew for this flight was very good, though, with attentive service and generally in pretty good spirits. One older female flight attendant in particular seemed in a great mood, joking with passengers throughout the flight.
With boarding complete, the safety video rolls, and we push back. Next to us on the other side are our Rouged twin, and our mainline “big brother.”
It’s a short taxi towards the runways south of T1, and there’s not much of a wait before we line up and get going into the very overcast sky. Literally a second after snapping the second picture, we were completely shrouded in clouds.
But soon enough, we break through, and it’s a beautiful sky up here “where the morning rain don’t fall, and sun always shines,” to borrow from Gordon Lightfoot.
Figuring it’ll be a few minutes before breakfast, I kick back into an almost-reclined position. I still really like these seats for lounging around and watching movies, especially because the screen can be pivoted to just the optimal angle no matter how horizontal you may feel like going.
Post-takeoff announcement indicate that a hot meal is served in economy, so obviously this flight is to international spec in Y, but treated like a premium domestic/transborder longhaul in J. Interesting, although not inappropriate for the flight length.
In-flight service begins with a hot towel.
Then the table is set for breakfast — the playful flight attendant “scolds” me for “going to bed” before breakfast, and we have a brief chat about the joy that is getting up early for a flight.
Breakfast is begins with “appetizer” fruit and yogurt tray set-ups being offered, and I notice this crew has written plate orders on masking tape stuck to the trolley. This is important for these flights because the “healthy option” includes a larger, more substantial fruit tray than is the standard. Bread is also offered - and for once is not rock-hard - and drinks are also poured. Coffee and OJ for me.
When I’m done with the appetizer, the dishes are quickly cleared and my entree is offered. The pancakes are very good this morning. Often, the edges will dry out and become a bit hard in the reheating process, and there’s a bit of that in places, but not as much as is often seen. The rest of them are light and fluffy, and I really like the maple butter used in place of the more traditional butter and maple syrup. Not quite as sweet and not quite as sticky, but still gets the flavour across nicely.
After breakfast, dishes are quickly cleared. My coffee was kept filled through breakfast and beyond, but after three cups, I decided I’d had enough. I put my seat back into a reclined position, and watched the rest of the movie.
Less than half an hour after breakfast, a water service was offered.
As Truth comes to an end, I check out progress on the moving map. Yep, we’re making progress alright. According to the map, we’re about 3:30 out of Colombia.
It’s worth noting one of the annoying habits of this generation of IFE system — the “back” button from the moving map seems to not actually take you back, but to wherever the heck it seems to feel like. This time, it feels like taking me to the Canadian subsection of the Movies collection on the IFE, not tot he screen I had been on before heading over to the map. Not a big deal, but a little odd.
Time for another movie. These are my first March flights, so there are quite a few new titles available under New Releases. Love the Coopers is up next.
It gets off to a good enough start, but soon the temptation to drift off to sleep is a bit too much. After a short nap, I wake up with my friendly flight attendant coming through the snack basket. I grab some goodies for a bit later, and then try to restart my movie.
Unfortunately, the movie is having none of it. The SD is making his way around taking drink orders. I request a Caesar, and point out that my IFE seems to have frozen. He says that’s the case for a lot of folks, and he’s going to reset the system. Sure enough, a quick visit to the lav later he makes the announcement that resetting IFE will take 15 to 20 minutes and apologizes for the inconvenience.
The lav — there are two for business passengers ahead of the J cabin — is fine and clean mid-flight, but nothing much special to it.
On my way back from the lav, I overhear the SD on the phone with the flight deck — there are apparently five wheelchair passengers, and a pair of deportees on board. Fun!
Back at my seat, I entertain myself by starting to write this flight-report. Fortunately, the power outlet at my seat still works, so I’m able to keep my notebook battery topped off as I go.
After a quick reminder — the SD apparently forgot my Caesar with the IFE reset — I’m brought a setup to make a couple of drinks for myself, which suits me just fine.
Meanwhile, the IFE springs back to “life” with this somewhat less than confidence-inspiring message.
Fortunately, after a minute, it switches to this, so I assume it’s on its way back to usable status.
Yep, soon enough, it spring back to life, and I check on our status. Less than an hour and thirty minutes out of Bogota.
I put Love the Coopers back on, settle into a lounge position, and enjoy my snack and drinks for the rest of the flight.
Unfortunately, the flight essentially runs out before the movie does. Just as I’m reaching the end of the film, it’s time to shut things down. One unfortunate fact of this pod setup is the screens must be stowed before 10,000 feet, so no gate-to-gate experience — and no finished movie for me. Serves me right for taking a nap, I suppose.
Outside, we’re clearly well into our descent, and the Colombian countryside outside Bogota rolls by outside my window as we make our way towards the airport.
Touchdown is smooth, and it’s a short taxi. I do get a good look at this Avianca A330 as it’s getting towed by. I think the new Avianca livery is very smart, but this old livery seems so funky to me. I like it.
We settle in next to this Avianca A320, in the new colours, and are quickly let loose into the corridor.
One last look at my ride down from Toronto before I head off to the next adventure.
It’s a bit of a hike to the international transit security area, but it’s about the easiest transit ever. They don’t even check my boarding pass to make sure I’m, y’know, on a legitimate international connection or anything. Oh well. Up the elevator and I’m let loose on the international concourse at BOG with a quest to find the Avianca lounge, and a lot of time to kill.
That’s where we’ll pick up with the next flight report. See you there!
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge International
Toronto - YYZ
Bogota - BOG
It’s a bit disappointing that YYZ-BOG is treated like a domestic/transborder mission in business class, although I guess I can understand why that is. Aside from that, a fine flight with a good crew, albeit on a bit of a decrepit old 767. Still, the J product is decent — the 763 and 333 will be the only planes not migrated to the new pod configuration over the next few months, so the “classic pod” will live on a while longer — although how much longer the 767s remain with the mainline — or even in the air for that matter — is a bit of a question mark.
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