Review of Air Canada flight Los Angeles Calgary in Economy

Airline Air Canada
Flight AC 553
Class Economy
Seat 17A
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 02:55
Take-off 23 Jul 16, 10:20
Arrival at 23 Jul 16, 14:15
AC   #48 out of 116 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 304 reviews
NGO85
By 1628
Published on 26th July 2016
Background:

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.



Pre-flight:

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.

photo 1

I’m immediately given a screen asking me to pay 229 USD (+tax) to upgrade to J. No thanks!

photo 2

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.

photo 3

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.

photo 4

Entering T2, the AC counters.

photo 5

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.

photo 6

I scan my passport, get a souvenir BP, and have to manually attach my luggage tag that prints out.

photo 7

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.

photo 8

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.

photo 9

T2 is very old and very crowded.

photo 10

AM B738.

photo 11

The AC Lounge is upstairs so I head there to get away from the crowds below. Views of the entire terminal from upstairs.

photo 12photo 13

AC Maple Leaf Lounge.

photo 14

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.

photo 15

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.

photo 16

My offering.

photo 17

The only nice part of this lounge is the tarmac views of T2 operations.

VX A320 and WS B738.

photo 18photo 20

CA B77W landing in the distance.

photo 19

4O A320.

photo 21

AC A320 to YYZ in the foreground, and the AC A320 in the background is my plane arriving from YVR.

photo 22

My documents.

photo 23

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.

photo 24

An AV B788 was lurking at the adjacent gate.

photo 25



————————-

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.

photo 27

I ignore the Zone 5 on my BP and just board with Zone 2 by flashing my TK *G card.

photo 28

There were 2 FAs in the galley greeting passengers. I turn in and snag a cabin shot of Y.

photo 29

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.

photo 30

A look down my row and a close up of the seat details.

photo 31photo 32

Seat pitch is of course good in the exit row.

photo 33

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.

photo 34photo 35

Cabin colors are a little bland with the faded blues, but this 25-year-old plane is still clean.

photo 36photo 37

Given the age, the overhead bins are boxy and the cabin lights are very yellow.

photo 38

Seatback contents.

photo 39

Safety card.

photo 40photo 41

Inflight entertainment guide.

photo 42

enRoute

photo 43

Route map and fleet information.

photo 44photo 45

BOB menu.

photo 46

Somebody was too hungry and started eating the menu.

photo 47

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.

photo 52

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.

photo 53photo 54

Our projected route up to YYC.

photo 55

We finally push back.

photo 56

Taxing out past a HA A330.

photo 57photo 58

WN B737.

photo 59

We were second in line for takeoff and were quickly aligning on to the runway.

photo 60

As we head down the runway, a LA B788 at TBIT.

photo 61

WS B738.

photo 62

CA B77W and OZ A380 at TBIT. The MU B77W was hidden behind OZ.

photo 63

Cargo operations.

photo 64

A pair of QF A380s taking a break by the beach.

photo 65photo 66

Flying over the Conejo Valley, which is submerged in smoke from fires.

photo 67

The smoke finally cleared as we began our run up through central California.

photo 68

Customs forms were distributed.

photo 69

The drink cart arrives, which was followed by the BOB cart.

photo 70

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.

photo 71

Lake Tahoe.

photo 72

The lavatory is old, but clean.

photo 73photo 74

Cabin shot on exiting the lavatory. The flight was probably close to 100% full; I think I saw only 1 or 2 empty seats.

photo 75

Our route was a direct shot to Reno before turning towards YYC.

photo 76

Some snow still on the mountains in northern Idaho.

photo 77

I napped until we started our descent. The Canadian Rockies below as we drop in from the NW.

photo 78

Much greener in Alberta than California.

photo 79

The bright yellow fields are canola.

photo 80

The 2 and 201 interchange just north of the airport.

photo 81

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.

photo 82

As we taxi off to the terminal, the cargo operations can be seen in the distance.

photo 83

AC Dash8 taxing by.

photo 84

We pull into our gate with downtown Calgary’s skyline in the horizon.

photo 85

Deplaning, I grab a fuselage shot.

photo 86

Last look at our plane before heading to immigration.

photo 87photo 88

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.

photo 89photo 90

Down in baggage claim, there was a slight wait for our bags (probably only noticeable since immigration was so quick).

photo 91

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.

photo 92

And with that, I’ll leave off this series until the return to LAX.
See more

Verdict

Air Canada

5.9/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew7.0
Entertainment/wifi9.5
Meal/catering1.0

Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge

5.9/10
Comfort6.0
Meal/catering3.5
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Services7.0

Los Angeles - LAX

6.5/10
Efficiency8.0
Access4.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness5.0

Calgary - YYC

7.5/10
Efficiency9.0
Access5.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

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.

Related

8 Comments

  • Comment 359619 by
    757Fan 593 Comments

    Nice report, Michael!

    "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. "

    Interesting. I had no idea they charge for seats like this ... I haven't flown AC before, but have considered them in the past for flights to Europe.

    Great shots from LAX. When my wife and I were vacationing in LA in early May, I spotted an Avianca 787 departing LAX ... Now I know what terminal they use!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Comment 360016 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "I haven't flown AC before, but have considered them in the past for flights to Europe."
      - This is my first time flying AC. I often see that they have cheap fares to Europe, but the thought of long flights to YYZ in this type of Y product doesn't attract me at all. Maybe from MSP, AC would be a more convenient option.

      "I spotted an Avianca 787 departing LAX ... Now I know what terminal they use!"
      - The daytime departure to BOG is a B787 and the redeye is on an A321, I think the equipment should be swapped...

      Thanks for stopping by Matthew!

  • Comment 360233 by
    Rl 777 810 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    "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)."
    - Legacy carriers in general are mostly 'legacy' carriers due to their history and brand name, most of today's legacy carriers are getting more and more like regular low-cost airlines when it comes to services.

    "It took about 20 minutes to complete OLCI as a result."
    - Holy crap, that's a lot....

    Great spotting shots at LAX!

    I'm glad the plane had IFE screens at least, with a working airshow.

    Nice catch of the Orbis DC-10!

    Beautiful aerial shots!

    A functioning flight that took you from point A to point B without needing to connect anywhere, in-flight services similar to an LCC (except for the IFE system and the small portion of coffee).

    Thanks for showing us how legacy carriers are evolving into LCCs.

    The last shot was absolutely breathtaking! Hope you had a great time!

    See you!

    • Comment 370733 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "most of today's legacy carriers are getting more and more like regular low-cost airlines when it comes to services."
      - Fair point and the day that a LCC starts operating Asia to US flights, the perceived "elite carriers" of Asia will start to tighten their purse strings too. You see that with the arrival of DY and WW into the US, there is even more of a downward spiral. DL just announced their are considering going completely LCC in Y for long-haul.

      "A functioning flight that took you from point A to point B without needing to connect anywhere, in-flight services similar to an LCC (except for the IFE system and the small portion of coffee)."
      - When comparing the fares on WS, it is probably the better option for non international transfers into Canada since AC charges for all the same things.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Comment 360342 by
    hometoyyz SILVER 538 Comments

    Yep, AC was a pioneer of "unbundling" as we've seen with Delta and their Basic Economy. Even top-tier AC Elites don't have to worry about spending their precious upgrade points when employers or clients or common sense dictate booking cheapest economy. Although at least 100K fliers can choose a seat at booking -- and can choose a "preferred seat" free to boot.

    The kicker is that the delta (pardon the pun) between Tango (lowest Y fares, no pre-selected seat, 50% or 25% miles, no chance for upgrades) and Flex (pre-select seat, 100% miles, upgrade-elligible with credits) has increased dramatically over the last few years, and now the cheapest Flex fare is commonly 50% to 100% more than the cheapest Tango fare.

    Oh, and it's the same for status miles -- book Tango fares, get 50% of the distance for status miles. At least for Qualifying Miles, all the US carriers are still 1 mile flown means (at least) 1 mile earned.

    Okay... rant over. Good report with some great photos -- and very interesting to get an outsider's view on my hometown carrier. Thanks!

    • Comment 370734 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "AC was a pioneer of "unbundling" as we've seen with Delta and their Basic Economy."
      - AC is in an awkward position since their only competition is LCC (WS) and so it seems they have just completely deflated their North American product to LCC, but left their international product at the same level. Almost to the extent of SK (minus keeping the J product to compete with AA/DL/UA for premium customers). In fact, as a Y customer, I would never consider AC for international trips since the shortest flight from the southern US to YVR or YYZ is 3+ hours. I often see AC have cheap fares to Asia and Europe ex-LAX, but the 2+ connections and forced LAX-YVR/YYZ connection is a deal buster. This isn't just an AC problem, even AM has recently started axing meals on flights into the US to mimic the industry standard.

      "Oh, and it's the same for status miles -- book Tango fares, get 50% of the distance for status miles. At least for Qualifying Miles, all the US carriers are still 1 mile flown means (at least) 1 mile earned."
      - That's not true. I'm pretty sure the last time I checked UA and DL, the lower fare classes do not earn 1 EQM per mile flown. If you look carefully, other *A FFPs treat Tango fares the same as AC, I earned 50% for an S fare class ticket with OZ FFP, but TK would allow 0% EQM earning on intra-NA flights.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Comment 361644 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5318 Comments

    Thanks for this FR on Air Canada, eh! I knew AC charged for bags, but I didn't know they were charging for seat assignments. Like you say, not even the U.S. legacy carriers charge for regular seats...at least not yet! Good thing you have *G status for free bags and lounge access. It is nice that AC allows lounge access for transborder--some US carriers do not, like AA for example. DL does, not sure about UA.

    It's good you were able to score an exit row seat for free at check-in. I am also surprised there was no charge. Maybe *G get free seat selection of "premium" seats at check-in window?

    "I’m yet to have an agent comment on the fact that I use 2 different *A FFPs."
    - Yeah, they don't care, lol. airport agents don't usually know much about FFP programs.

    "Maybe AC has better lounges at their hubs, but at LAX the offering is quite poor."
    - They probably consciously try to stay at the (low) level of the U.S. carriers within the U.S. For one, they probably don't want all *G pax to crowd the MLL iso the UA Club due to its better offering.

    I don't mind not having any recline in Y on short/medium-haul flights. I rarely feel comfortable reclining in Y, especially on a day flight. Night flights I recline no problem.

    "Somebody was too hungry and started eating the menu"
    - Great source of fiber :-P

    AC tends to be impressive in the premium cabins for a North American carrier, but they are totally underwhelming in coach. Nevertheless, it's a decent product, especially the fact that all aircraft have PTVs.

    Thanks for sharing Michael! The Canadian Rockies look beautiful.

    • Comment 370735 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      " Like you say, not even the U.S. legacy carriers charge for regular seats...at least not yet! Good thing you have *G status for free bags and lounge access. It is nice that AC allows lounge access for transborder--some US carriers do not, like AA for example. DL does, not sure about UA."
      - UA Club follows Admiral's Club protocols. Otherwise IAH would be overloaded with passengers on flights into Mexico/Caribbean/CentralAmerica^^ I'm sure you saw the recent articles about DL considering a LCC long-haul product. It's happening^^

      "It's good you were able to score an exit row seat for free at check-in. I am also surprised there was no charge. Maybe *G get free seat selection of "premium" seats at check-in window?"
      - Nope, at OLCI, it didn't matter if I put in my TK *G or OZ *S number, they still required fees for all priority seats. I guess you could just not pick a seat and get a free assignment (like with any Y+ seat on the US carriers).

      "They probably consciously try to stay at the (low) level of the U.S. carriers within the U.S. For one, they probably don't want all *G pax to crowd the MLL iso the UA Club due to its better offering."
      - I don't think crowding is a problem. It's in T2 and UA is in T7. If anything the *A Lounge is closer to T7 than the MLL^^ When I used the MLL to visit Clement leaving on CM out of T6, I had to go through hell to get to the lounge so I can't imagine too many *A people would go through all the hoops to get there.

      "Nevertheless, it's a decent product, especially the fact that all aircraft have PTVs."
      - Yes, the fleet uniformity is a big plus for AC. How many times have you had to play a lottery to figure out what kind of cabin you are going to get on a AA/DL/UA flight? It's just like your search for the new AA cabins on the B738s, they are still unicorns.

      "The Canadian Rockies look beautiful."
      - Read the return flight for the full bonus ;)

      Thanks Kevin for reading the report!

Login to post a comment.