Welcome, dear reader, to part two of another round-the-world flight adventure experience! As usual, I’ll be keeping progress under wraps, but here's the situation so far.
AC153 YYZ-YVR 4/18/2016 - Right here AC63 YVR-ICN 4/18/2016 - You are here ???? - Coming soon
YYZ-YVR and then YVR-ICN with AC were actually the exact same flights I flight-reported on my first-ever reports here. Hard to believe that was just thirteen months ago! It seems like so long and oh so many miles ago.
Anyway, when last we saw each other on this report, your humble flight-reporter had just arrived at the imposing security check that separates “domestic” from “international” in Vancouver.
A quick swipe of my phone, and my e-boarding pass is checked and I’m allowed into the rarified air of the domestic terminal. First order of business is to check out our gate for today. AC63 is leaving out of Gate 71 today, which is a bit of a walk from here. But after sitting all the way from Toronto to Vancouver, I’m game. Let’s go for a stroll.
When I get there, things are….. quiet. As in “gate’s completely closed” quiet.
Right then. Well, maybe the gate’s closed, but my Dreamliner ride is already here? Uhhhh… then again, maybe not.
Alright. So, let’s explore the terminal a little bit. Perhaps the best part of the Vancouver airport in general, and the Vancouver international terminal in specific is its strong Western Canadian nature and native culture theme. That’s best embodied by a large, open space around a food and retail court in the middle of the terminal
There's some native sculpture.
And a nice “meandering brook” water feature, complete with a couple of bridges and rugged, rocky shorelines.
And at the far end, this imposing wall of native art…
… and fishies. Lots and lots of fishes.
A look back down the “river” from in front of the aquarium.
Okay, that was fun. Let's take a look around the rest of terminal, shall we? Things aren’t exactly super-busy at this hour. But there a China Southern 777.
And a China Eastern A330.
And this Air Canada 787, likely recently arrived from some TPAC mission.
The international terminal is bright and open, although the ceiling is, in part, a little low because of the need for a mezzanine level to transport arriving international passengers to border control.
And down at the end of the terminal, the answer to your prayers if you’re dying to play a game of large-scale chess in the middle of an international airport. Yeah, I don’t really know either.
Back at Gate 71, look who’s here! Why if it isn’t C-GHQQ, fresh in from Shanghai! Hope it enjoyed its Pacific crossing, because it’s gonna be my ride over to Seoul in a couple of hours.
I figure I've milked all the action I can from the terminal at this point in time, and feeling like I've got some exercise in after walking the terminal a few times. It's time to retreat to the lounge. Air Canada’s International Maple Leaf Lounge at YVR is located right near the outlet point for security for international gates, and not far from the point at which domestic transfers arrive into the terminal. It’s not quite as showy a lounge as the rather grand entrance to the domestic lounge at this same airport, which is figuratively chiseled into a multi-storey wall of stone.
My boarding pass is scanned, and I head in. No surprise, it's quite busy as there are a bunch of AC TPACs that leave in the late morning into mid-afternoon. Also, the MLL is rather small, just a single fairly short “hall" of seating. It kind of feels like an afterthought, and definitely feels small for AC’s second-largest international hub, and largest TPAC hub.
Looking the other way, there’s a small bar and coffee station for those who don’t want to make the short walk to the other end of the lounge.
But don't worry. I’m more than willing to make that sacrifice for you, dear reader. Here were are the other end of the lounge, home to a small bar and buffet. Against one wall is the bar.
A coffee station.
Self-serve liquors (and water.)
And some wines.
As well as a single beer on tap. Not a premium choice, but I guess there are political advantages to choosing “Canadian” for an AC lounge. There are much better BC beers that could be had here, though.
Between the bar and the buffet, there's a small seating area for those dining.
Airside views are very good from this lounge – particularly from the dining area.
Over on the buffet side, there's some bread.
A selection of salads.
Veggies, pita chips and corn chips, each with an appropriately-matched dipping choice.
A make-your-own pho station.
And a couple of hot dishes – a mushroom ravioli and a meat ravioli, very similar to what's generally available at the YYZ International MLL.
I’m not exactly starving, but in the interests of completeness, I take one of each kind of ravioli, and make myself some pho. All perfectly acceptable.
WiFi is MLL standard – it's easy and quick to connect, and reasonably fast.
After hanging out in the lounge for a little bit, it's time to wander the terminal a bit more to kill the last 20 minutes before boarding.
In my absence, a Philippines 777 has pulled in next to my flight to Seoul. I love the picturesque backdrop to planes along this side of the terminal.
A look past Gate 71 shows some new tails to check out further down the terminal too.
Yep. A JAL 787.
Air China 777 from Beijing.
And CX, freshly arrived from Hong Kong.
On the other side of the terminal, this bird will likely be following us over to ICN this afternoon.
And another JAL 787. Nope, you're not seeing double. Odd, because I think JAL only flies NRT-YVR. So not sure why there are two JAL Dreamliners hanging out here.
I ponder that as I make my way back to gate 71, where they're gearing up to start boarding. Sure enough, a couple of minutes ahead of scheduled boarding beginning – just like my earlier flight out of Toronto this morning – priority boarding is called, my phone is scanned, and I'm on my way.
Flight: AC63 From: Vancouver (YVR) To: Seoul Incheon (ICN) Date: 4/18/2016 Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Registration: C-GHQQ Seat: 1K ATD (STD): 13:55 (13:35) ATA (STA): 16:02+1 (16:20+1)
For this flight, I'm in seat 1K, first row starboard window on AC’s 787. I like it for the added privacy it affords, and for the fact that row one gets three windows. Which is nice, because 787 windows are a thing of beauty.
The seat is already stocked with AC's standard duvet and pillow – which are both excellent – and a pair of disposable slippers, which are not so excellent. But they’re better than no slippers at all.
An over-the-shoulder look at the pod from 2K. The screen blocks out the first window, but it's big and beautiful.
The rest of the take for this flight. The standard AC amenity kit, the standard (and garbage) AC earbuds, and a 600ml bottle of water. I like that AC provides this before takeoff as opposed to most airlines opting to provide it after the first meal. Except that it means you have to find a home for it during takeoff. And all the storage cubbies are marked “no storage.” Fortunately, nobody pays any attention to that.
Speaking of cubbies – here's the main one, complete with power outlet, IFE remote control, USB port, and headphone connector. And lots of great stowage space (marked no stowage). Perfect to storing… ohhhh, I don't know…. the amenity kit, AC's earbuds, and the earbuds that you brought with you and are using instead of AC’s earbuds because AC’s earbuds are terrible. Just theoretically, of course. Because no stowage.
Right below are simple controls for the seat — two physical buttons for "sit up" and “lay down” and a touchscreen interface to control more details.
The Ambience screen — much more complete on the 787 than the 777 thanks to the control for the windows.
Comfort menu – we'll discuss this more a bit later.
And finally, more granular controls.
Oh look — here’s a detail the groomers missed — a ICN-YVR menu and a lightly-used amenity kit are tucked away into a nook in the pod. Oh well. At least it’s not filthy.
The IFE screen. Many more movies loaded for this flight than for my YYZ-YVR flight. Below is is the slide-back table.
A look into the footwell for this seat. I find the bed long enough (at 5’11”) that the narrowing well isn't a concern.
Service begins with pre-departure beverages. As usual for international service, orange juice or sparkling wine. Sparkling wine, of course.
As boarding continues, a look out my window. One of the approximately 52 JAL 787s currently at YVR is our nearest neighbour.
Up next are menus — I’m looking forward to trying the third quarter of David Hawksworth dishes, as the previous two have been excellent. But curious that he went back to sablefish, which was his offering in the first quarter of his work with Air Canada. Orders are taken by a very friendly 40-something male flight attendant of Korean background shortly after menus are distributed. He also takes post-takeoff drink orders, and I go with champagne.
Drinks menu for this flight.
Here’s a closer look at the AC slippers offered because this is a flight to Asia.
Boarding is actually pretty quick, and aside from looking for a passenger by the last name of McIntyre a couple of times, we push back pretty much on time.
It’s a long taxi around the airport to the active runway. A narrowbody Airbus we pass along the way.
Lining up for runway 26L.
And we’re outta here! It’s a near cloudless day, so it’s beautiful on the climb to cruising altitude.
Shortly after takeoff, noise-cancelling headphones are offered. By this time, I’ve started into watching Concussion, which is better than I had expected. They’re not premium branded, but AC’s headphones are very good and quite comfortable too.
Continuing to pass the time by exploring my goodies, here’s a look at the contents of the amenity kit.
A quick trip to the forward lav, immediately behind the flight deck. Nothing too exciting, and sadly enough, no window up front.
Back at my seat, and there’s a hot towel awaiting me.
It’s getting a little cloudier as we head northwest, but it’s still a beautiful day.
My previously-ordered champagne is brought around with a ramekin of warmed cashews. Almonds appear to be on AC’s no-fly list due to their rapidly-climbing price.
About this time, I notice there’s something up with my seat. I’ve been sitting, as I’m wont to do, with my pillow behind my back up until now, but when I remove it, I quickly notice I’m straight back to hard metal and plastic behind me. The Dreamcabin has an air mattress seat, and while I’ve had problems with previous-generation air mattress seats (on the high-density 777) inflating properly, this is the first time I’ve seen it on the newer product. I ask my flight attendant if these seats, like the HD seats, can be “reset” with some secret combination of key presses, but it appears not. He alerts the service director, who “resets” my seat — although my IFE screen shuts down and reboots over about 15 minutes, it never seems like the seat itself reboots. The service director comes around and tells me that 4D and G and 5D are all empty, so if I’d like to relocate elsewhere at some point, I should feel free.
Lunch begins very quickly, by AC meal standards, with the salad and appetizer presented together on a tray.
The appetizer is excellent. The chilled prawns are done very nicely and seasoned perfectly, and the crunch the bread crumbs provide add a lot — I’ve noticed the Hawksworth dishes do this frequently, introducing elements like puffed rice to add crunch where there would be none otherwise. The little dabs of puree with a light horseradish presence is also very good.
The salad, is… well… it’s an AC salad. They don’t present a very interesting salad on international flights, I presume because of the appetizer. Compare this to some very good and very interesting salads presented on domestic/transborder premium longhaul flights. The ever-present balsamic vinaigrette is, at least, the new lemon variety, which is quite tasty, and not quite as familiar as the regular version.
Bread is not a great strong suit for AC, but the sourdough frequently offered out of Vancouver is quite nice.
Appetizer dishes are quickly cleared, and my main is brought around. The first Hawksworth sablefish dish was excellent, and this one, while completely different, is almost as good. The fish is very nicely prepared, flaky and moist, and contrasts nicely with the rich mix of tomatoes, vegetables and chorizo, which adds a lot of flavour. And again, the chickpeas bring the crunch. A very enjoyable main course indeed.
I accompany it with a glass of the South African chardonnay, which is quite delightful. I never used to care for white wine, but I’m really starting to enjoy it more frequently now.
With the main course done, the cheese and fruit tray is brought around. I decide to have a little bit of everything, and it’s all very good. Of course, I allow myself to be convinced to have a little port to accompany it.
After a short break in service, dessert is served. All three of the Hawksworth desserts thus far have been the same chocolate affair, albeit with a different berry compote accompanying it. It’s very good, but I’d like to see a little bit of variety.
I finish my meal with a little bit of Johnnie Walker Black, which is a great way to finish my meal.
With my meal finished, I decide it’s time for a nap. I take my drink and scout out free seats. 4G looks like a good option to me.
And it looks even better made up. I put on In the Heart of the Sea, and I think I see about a minute of it, and hear maybe three more minutes, before drifting off to sleep. Almost as soon as I take my place in my new seat, the house lights are brought down.
A look up from my bed — smaller overhead bins in the middle of the front part of the J cabin, and no overhead bins in the back half to facilitate the overhead crew rest area.
Here’s where we’re at as I head off to sleep.
And here’s where we’re at when I take up. I get a good four or five hours of sleep, and feel quite happy with that. I restart my movie after waking up, and this time, I stay awake though it, although it wasn’t terribly good.
As it ends, I get up and check out the lavs between business class and Premium Economy. Oh yes. There’s a window here.
On my way back to my seat, my flight attendant jokes that one of the other flight attendants lost me, perhaps I got off at the last stop? Then he asks if he can get me anything to eat or drink, although he says the pre-arrival meal will be around in about 15 minutes. I ask for a glass of water, having just finished my bottle of water, and he does me one better, handing me another bottle.
I finish a documentary on Silk Road and the Deep Web, and Ross Ulbricht which I had started on a previous flight, as there’s not enough time for another movie. In just a few minutes, a hot towel signals it’s time for the pre-arrival meal.
As expected, we’re getting close to Korea.
The tray with fruit and chocolates is brought around from the trolley, the bread and the main course brought around on a separate trolleys. I like this kind of “give it a look and see what grabs you” approach to presenting meals.
The dish seems different than what’s described on the menu — the “rice cake” is more of the consistency and taste of gnocchi than any rice cake I’ve ever had before. Still, I really enjoy this main, which brings a surprising amount of heat and Korean-style spice. Very delicious. The beef is a little tough, but quite tasty. So I’m okay with that.
With my snack over, I head back to 1K and start packing up my personal gear, which had been spread out. I arrive there just in time for us to make landfall over Korea. I put on a short business interview with the chief operations guy at Uber to keep me entertained for the last little bit of the flight, but mostly spend the rest of the flight watching the rugged Korean countryside go by beneath me.
Soon, we’re making a right turn over Suwon to get lined up for arrival into Incheon.
The service director comes by and thanks me for flying Air Canada, and inquires if the seat ever improved. I say it did not. He apologizes, and says he’ll write it up for the next sector.
This seems an odd place to put a golf course, but too each their own, I suppose.
Racing our shadow towards the ground on short final.
And finally, touchdown!
On our taxi, we pass the extensive construction underway for a new terminal.
Past a few interesting birds, including this baby blue whalejet.
As we make our final turn, I spot something I haven’t seen since I was a little kid on my first flight, arriving into Ireland and then London on CP Air — a “Follow Me” car guiding us to our gate.
And finally, we pull into the “non-Korean airlines” satellite terminal at ICN. The jetway lines up at door two, and everyone gathers their things.
About this time, I notice that most everyone else has arrival forms for Korea, and I do not. They must have missed me because I switched seats? Or because I was asleep? Weird. Forms were definitely not left for me in either 4G where I slept, or 1K where my stuff was still out. Oh well. We’re quickly let off the plane, and into the arrivals concourse, where there’s a Thai Airways flight also just arriving.
Down long escalators to reach the shuttle train back to the main terminal.
And when we get there, we’re lined up in a hallway which is packed with people. There’s a sign that says “thank you for your patience while we’re renovating to serve you better,” which suggests that something’s going on here. Fortunately, I find the arrival card. Unfortunately, I find this…
Yep. That’s the lineup for passengers with passports from anywhere but Korea. Ultimately, I — and everyone else in this mess — spend almost two hours winding back and forth before finally getting my passport stamped. Absolutely ridiculous for a major international airport like Incheon. Nobody’s very happy with it, needless to say, and there are a lot of “never agains” being said by various passengers — especially those with kids.
Once I’m through that ridiculous mess, the customs part goes very quickly, and with no luggage to pick up — I’d hope it would have been awaiting me at this point — I’m quickly landside in the arrivals concourse.
From there, I step outside and find the arrival position for the shuttle over to the Grand Hyatt Incheon, where I’ll spend the night before continuing my adventure tomorrow. And that’s where we’ll pick up this story.
Thanks for reading this part of this journey!
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, International
Vancouver - YVR
Seoul - ICN
A very good trans-Pacific flight with AC. The crew — especially the lead flight attendant serving my aisle — was very good, the food was all excellent, and I got a good sleep in. Who could ask for anything more? That said, it’s disappointing that these still-new 787s are already showing problems with the air mattress inflating. More disappointing still that it doesn’t seem to be fixable through a magic combination of button pushes to reset the air nozzles in the mattress. And, of course, the ridiculous delays in getting through passport control at ICN were a major disappointment, especially since my experiences at this airport have all been smooth in the past. But still, a very good flight.
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