This series covers a weeklong family vacation to the Canadian Rockies; therefore a ticket to YYC was needed. When I was looking at airfare back in February, fares were already steep (~$500) given the popularity of the area in the summer months. From LAX, both AC and WS offer nonstop service twice daily. Neither of these carriers excited me, since both are LCCs for “domestic” flights (US/Canada/Mexico are NOT treated as international flights by airlines). WS was interesting since they are partners with AA, but you don’t earn EQMs and AA status doesn’t get you free bags. I therefore opted for AC to earn miles with *A. The routing is simple:
Part 1 – LAX-YYC [AC 553, Airbus A320, Economy] – You are here Part 2 – YYC-LAX [AC 578, Airbus A320, Economy] – Here
This report will cover the flight from LAX to YYC and give a look at AC's “domestic” service in economy. The lounge visit will be to the AC Maple Leaf Lounge in T2 at LAX.
Contrary to popular belief, AC has more fees than the US legacy carriers (AA/DL/UA). Advanced seat selection is not complimentary on AC unless you buy a high fare class or are an AC elite (*G does not get complimentary seat selection nor access to premium seats). AC was asking for 25 CAD (19 USD) to pick regular seats on each flight or 40-45 CAD for extra legroom seats. I refused to pay for seat selection out of principle and bit the bullet hoping I could get an aisle/window at online check-in. Also, bags are charged at 25 CAD (19 USD) for the first bag and 35 CAD (27 USD) for the second bag. These prices are similar to what the US carriers charge. With status, *S gets 1 free bag and *G gets 2 free bags.
24 hours in advance, I did OLCI. I found the AC website to be very slow and non-user friendly. There seems to be 3 different versions of the website and you get bounced around between versions as you go through the process. It took about 20 minutes to complete OLCI as a result. On the main screen, I updated my OZ FFP info and then took a look at what seats were available.
I’m immediately given a screen asking me to pay 229 USD (+tax) to upgrade to J. No thanks!
Looking at the seat selection screen, everything Rows 20-33 was already full. The only seats left were the exit row seats (plus the stray seat in Row 15). Weird, 17A and 17F don’t have a price tag, despite being in the exit row. I just grab 17A. This row doesn't recline, but for a 3-hour flight I’d rather have the extra legroom. I print out my mobile boarding pass and am told to confirm documents at check-in.
There have been a lot of brush fires in LA recently, so the drive to the airport was slow with heavy smoke from the fires sitting over parts of the highway. I arrived at LAX at 8am.
Entering T2, the AC counters.
I went over to the Priority check-in, but there was no staff working this area so I gave up after 3 minutes and went to the self service kiosks.
I scan my passport, get a souvenir BP, and have to manually attach my luggage tag that prints out.
I wait 10 more minutes to drop the bag off and have my documents checked by an indifferent agent. With BP in hand, I go over to the mess that is T2 security. I have TSA PreCheck, so I’m waved around the side and bypass 100+ people in line putting me airside within 2 minutes.
In T2, I stop to check the FIDS. Looking at the destinations, you can probably guess that this terminal is primarily used for flights to Mexico/Canada as well as Hawaii. The outliers are AV to BOG and SY to MSP.
T2 is very old and very crowded.
The AC Lounge is upstairs so I head there to get away from the crowds below. Views of the entire terminal from upstairs.
AC Maple Leaf Lounge.
There are 4 people in line, so I take a picture of the AC B789 model while I wait. My BP is scanned, flashes red, then she swipes my TK card, flashes green, and I’m released into the lounge. I’m yet to have an agent comment on the fact that I use 2 different *A FFPs.
The lounge is quite full this morning, and the buffet is as pitiful as last time. I really don’t find the AC MLL at LAX to be any better than a UA Club or AA Admiral’s Club. Maybe AC has better lounges at their hubs, but at LAX the offering is quite poor.
The only nice part of this lounge is the tarmac views of T2 operations.
VX A320 and WS B738.
CA B77W landing in the distance.
AC A320 to YYZ in the foreground, and the AC A320 in the background is my plane arriving from YVR.
At 9:40am, I quickly get up and head down to the gate. I saw on the FIDS my flight was now listed at 10:10am.
An AV B788 was lurking at the adjacent gate.
Air Canada, AC 553 Equipment: Airbus A320 [C-FFWI, delivered December 1990] Departure: 10:20 (ATD: 10:53) Arrival: 14:15 (ATA: 14:36) Flight time: 2:43
It’s 10:00am and we are finally boarding, despite our flight being listed as leaving at 10:10am.
I ignore the Zone 5 on my BP and just board with Zone 2 by flashing my TK *G card.
There were 2 FAs in the galley greeting passengers. I turn in and snag a cabin shot of Y.
My exit row seat. The biggest problem is a lack of an armrest on the left side, but the seats were also uncomfortable since the headrest is non-adjustable making it uncomfortable to sit upright.
A look down my row and a close up of the seat details.
Seat pitch is of course good in the exit row.
These planes have IFE, with a decent sized screen although quality was not great. There are also power and USB ports on the side of the screen for charging. I find the placement of an AC power outlet here to be very poor design.
Cabin colors are a little bland with the faded blues, but this 25-year-old plane is still clean.
Given the age, the overhead bins are boxy and the cabin lights are very yellow.
Inflight entertainment guide.
Route map and fleet information.
Somebody was too hungry and started eating the menu.
Prices are low compared to the US carriers (thanks to the favorable exchange rate), but still nothing that I would buy.
The pilot came on twice during boarding. First, to apologize that they arrived to the gate 30 minutes late from YVR because WN was blocking the taxiway. Second, to announce that we have another 15-20 minute delay because some incorrect bags were put on our plane so they had to go dig them out of the hold before we can push back. The FAs then came through and offered newspapers while we waited.
The IFE was available immediately (headphones were not passed out until we were airborne). The content was excellent (same as long-haul), but I found the navigation to be not so user-friendly.
Our projected route up to YYC.
We finally push back.
Taxing out past a HA A330.
We were second in line for takeoff and were quickly aligning on to the runway.
As we head down the runway, a LA B788 at TBIT.
CA B77W and OZ A380 at TBIT. The MU B77W was hidden behind OZ.
A pair of QF A380s taking a break by the beach.
Flying over the Conejo Valley, which is submerged in smoke from fires.
The smoke finally cleared as we began our run up through central California.
Customs forms were distributed.
The drink cart arrives, which was followed by the BOB cart.
A really small cup of coffee and that’s it. Not even a salty/sweet snack to go with drinks. Other family members reported that UA (ex-SFO and ex-IAH) and AA (ex-DFW) all received a salty/sweet with their drink service.
The lavatory is old, but clean.
Cabin shot on exiting the lavatory. The flight was probably close to 100% full; I think I saw only 1 or 2 empty seats.
Our route was a direct shot to Reno before turning towards YYC.
Some snow still on the mountains in northern Idaho.
I napped until we started our descent. The Canadian Rockies below as we drop in from the NW.
Much greener in Alberta than California.
The bright yellow fields are canola.
The 2 and 201 interchange just north of the airport.
As we touch down about 20 minutes late, we cross the international terminal. HU A330, KL B777, and TS A330 are the only heavies sitting there.
As we taxi off to the terminal, the cargo operations can be seen in the distance.
AC Dash8 taxing by.
We pull into our gate with downtown Calgary’s skyline in the horizon.
Deplaning, I grab a fuselage shot.
Last look at our plane before heading to immigration.
The corridors that connect the gates to the immigration checkpoint. There was no one in line so immigration was very quick with just 2-3 routine questions about my stay in Canada.
Down in baggage claim, there was a slight wait for our bags (probably only noticeable since immigration was so quick).
With bags in hand, I was quickly out through customs and to the rental car counters to pick up my car. There are a ton of friendly people at YYC offering directions to tourists and helping them navigate the airport. It’s probably one of the friendliest airports I’ve encountered even if it isn’t very nice looking.
I was soon on my way to meet up with my family and spend a week in the Canadian Rockies.
And with that, I’ll leave off this series until the return to LAX.
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge
Los Angeles - LAX
Calgary - YYC
AC is a very unremarkable airline for North American routes in Y. I find the airline to be even closer to LCC than the US legacy carriers, which is quite disappointing. I wouldn't fly AC again unless they offered a non-stop route that wasn't covered by a US carrier (such as LAX-YYC). The only nice thing was the IFE, but more and more US carriers are offering these.
Cabin comfort: Prehistoric A320 (line number 149^^, even AF has scrapped its original A320s). The cabin was old and creaky and the exit row door rained on me as the ice thawed. The seats aren't very comfortable since they lack a moveable headrest. That said, the cabins were clean.
Crew: About as normal as normal comes. No bad interactions and no memorable interactions, they just did they jobs.
Meal and catering: Basic drinks and that's it. Don't even offer a salty/sweet snack with the drink service like the US carriers do. Basically a LCC.
Entertainment: Newspapers offered (only because of the delay caused by AC loading the wrong bags onto our plane). Standard seatback literature. The IFE screen had a good size and excellent variety. Only knock is the resolution of the IFE.
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