Review of Air Canada flight Calgary Los Angeles in Economy

Airline Air Canada
Flight AC 578
Class Economy
Seat 17F
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 03:15
Take-off 30 Jul 16, 19:30
Arrival at 30 Jul 16, 21:45
AC   #16 out of 71 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 340 reviews
NGO85
By 1076
Published on 17th October 2016
Background:

This series covers a weeklong family vacation to the Canadian Rockies; therefore a trip to YYC. For a detailed background see Part 1. As a reminder, the routing is:

Part 1 – LAX-YYC [AC 553, Airbus A320, Economy] – Here
Part 2 – YYC-LAX [AC 578, Airbus A320, Economy] – You are here

This report will cover the flight from YYC to LAX. There will be an extensive bonus of Calgary and the Canadian Rockies at the end that will be worth your time to look at.



Pre-flight:

Sitting at the Calgary Stampeders game the night before, I quickly checked in 24-hours to departure in order to pick my seat for the flight since AC does not provide complimentary seat selection. The Calgary Stampeders came back from the grave to beat the BC Lions in OT, a very special first taste of the CFL.

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After spending the next day in downtown Calgary, I drove to the airport after a late lunch with my parents. I arrived at around 4:00pm and returned my rental car.

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The terminal is pretty old looking, but it is well adorned with flowers.

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I spotted a HU tail poking up in the distance, so I walked over to take a picture of the HU A332 getting backed up for service to PEK.

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Inside the terminal, I used a kiosk to get my boarding pass and print off my luggage tag. I dropped my bag off and the agent pointed me in the direction of the trans-border gates. They are easy to spot with the giant American flags hanging from the ceiling.

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Across from the immigration entrance, there were customs declaration forms for entry to the US. Entering immigration, there was no one in sight. I tried to us the Global Entry kiosk, but both were broken. I used the normal line since there was no one in line, when I told the CBP officer about the broken Global Entry machines, he just rolled his eyes. He told me they run off the airport’s Ethernet and reminded me that since we were in Canada, they probably wouldn’t get fixed until Monday since it was the weekend. A nice subtle jab at Canadians and then a big “Welcome Home” as he stamped my passport and waved me through.

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FIDS as a I enter quarantined trans-border area.

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The trans-border area had about 4 gates glassed off and only a handful of shops and restaurants. YYC is not a big gateway into the US, so maybe this small area is sufficient for their passenger demands. The obvious downfall is that you can’t get to the AC Maple Leaf Lounge since it is on the Canadian side of the airport.

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Sign declaring this area as quarantined. My gate was supposed to be on the other side so I had to wait in the quarantine zone until they could clear our gate.

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I tried my best to wander around in my little cage. Found a TS A332 and a UA ERJ-170.

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YYC is pretty dumpy looking and is in need of the make-over they are promoting.

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I eventually take a seat and watch some movies on some empty seats I found.

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Suddenly, I hear a bunch of loud bangs from above. Everyone around me suddenly looks up at the ceiling, out of nowhere, golf ball sized hail and torrential downpours start. It was the most bizarre thing since it was sunny and 15C just 30 minutes earlier.

The white specs are hail on the tarmac.

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A WS B737 comes limping back to the gate after just being pushed back. It looked like they needed to check all the planes for hail damage before sending them out.

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Travel alert from the airport is issued. No announcement about my flight is made, and the FIDS still showed on-time.

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Still stuck in the quarantine zone, you can see the people on the Canadian side eagerly waiting for the airport to re-open.

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Meanwhile, all of the shops and stores close in the quarantine zone, so now we are without any food. It was 19:00 and our listed boarding time, but still no announcements on our flight.

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I looked outside and saw no plane at our gate. There was a bunch of WS B737s waiting out the storm as the sun began to crack through the clouds on the horizon.

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At 19:33, 3 minutes after our departure time, the FIDS finally updated our flight to a 20:00 departure. There was still no announcement made by the gate agents. I checked online and it showed our inbound plane from YUL was diverted to GTF. Why the gate agents don’t announce the fact that we have no airplane, no idea.

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CA B77W lifting off for FRA.

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At 20:15, still no announcements, but I see our crew sitting and talking.

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Finally at 20:30, they update the FIDS to show our flight departing at 21:35.

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At 20:45, the gate agents finally make an announcement, their first one. They say that we are waiting on an inbound aircraft from YYZ and expect to depart at 21:35 and tell passengers to stay in the area. As if we have anywhere else to go in this little quarantine area… All of the restaurants have been closed for over 2 hours now, we only have access to vending machines and the bathrooms.

The crew finally gets up and heads to the gate.

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I say goodbye to the AC CRJ-900 getting backed up and follow them.

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On the horizon, I see our AC A320 arriving from YYZ.

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My boarding documents.

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————————-

Air Canada, AC 578
Equipment: Airbus A320 [C-FDSN, delivered November 1990]
Departure: 19:30 (ATD: 22:12)
Arrival: 21:45 (ATA: 00:03)
Flight time: 2:51


The angry masses.

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Boarding was chaotic, I try and get through to do priority boarding and the agent stops me saying that I’m only *S. I show the TK *G card and he apologizes and tells me I need to call TK and make sure that they correctly show my status, I’m losing valuable miles since I’m only getting miles for *S and not *G. What??? I just roll my eyes and walk away; I’m not even in the mood to respond to a nonsensical statement like that.

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The cabin on this prehistoric A320.

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Seat pitch is of course good in my exit row seat.

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The biggest pro of AC over WS is the IFE, which has a good selection.

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Seatback contents for August still packaged, even though it is still July.

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WS B737 next door.

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I turn on the IFE and I notice that they are showing YYZ instead of YYC and the times are way off. I check the moving map, and it is “unavailable.” All of the other IFE content was also not working, so there goes the one pro for flying AC over WS.

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Lifting up over YYC.

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Shortly after leveling off, the drink and BOB service started up. This time, pretzels were handed out. I took a cup of water. The FAs offered a second pack of pretzels when the cabin was being cleaned up, but I declined.

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Since the IFE was broken and I couldn’t watch the moving map, I just slept until arrival. Landing over LA.

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We touched down at midnight and taxied by a MU B77W parked at TBIT.

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UA B789 with its engine cowlings open.

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We pulled up to Terminal 2 and just sat on the taxiway behind an AV A321. The captain came on and announced that we don’t have a gate and are waiting for another AC plane to get pushed back to make room for us. We waited on the tarmac for almost 50 minutes until this AC B763 finally got pushed out of a gate.

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We then pulled into our gate at Terminal 2 next to our twin.

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Well after 1am, we finally deplane.

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Since US immigration is done in Canada, we head straight out and down into the baggage claim.

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It was another 45 minute wait for the bags to show up.

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At 1:50am (2:50am YYC time), I finally head to pick up my car and drive home. What a draining flight back.





***BONUS***

The Saddledome and the Calgary skyline.

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Calgary Stampede.

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The Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames.

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Fort Calgary, former home of the Mounties.

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Calgary Tower and the Fairmont Palliser.

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Stephen Avenue and downtown Calgary on a Saturday afternoon.

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Home of the 1988 Olympics.

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Lake Minnewanka.

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Johnston Canyon.

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Moraine Lake.



Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.



The hike up to see the glaciers on Mount Lefroy, which sits on the border of British Colombia and Alberta.


See more

Verdict

Air Canada

4.8/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi1.0
Meal/catering3.0

Calgary - YYC

5.6/10
Efficiency9.0
Access7.5
Services2.0
Cleanliness4.0

Los Angeles - LAX

7.9/10
Efficiency8.0
Access7.5
Services9.0
Cleanliness7.0

Conclusion

An average flight on AC that was marred by weather delays, poor ground services in YYC, and broken IFE. Weather delays happen, but not properly informing passengers of delays is unacceptable. YYC is a really dumpy airport and needs a makeover, but their employees are friendly. Overall, AC is just an average carrier and does nothing to really distinguish itself with its neighbors south of the border.

Cabin comfort: Prehistoric A320, even older than on the previous leg. The cabin was old and creaky and the exit row door rained on me as the ice thawed. The cabin was clean even after a short turnaround.

Crew: Normal crew, did their jobs functionally. They proposed a second snack when they saw that I finished the pretzels, so are at least observant and take some initiative.

Meal and catering: Basic drinks and that's it. At least they offered pretzels on this flight since there was no food on the previous leg.

Entertainment: No newspapers offered and standard seatback literature. Personal IFE was broken.

Related

12 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 370749 by
    757Fan 612 Comments

    Great report, Michael. Beautiful photos from Calgary and of Alberta. I went to Alberta with my parents back in 2001, and I remember us hiking up from the Fairmont Lake Louise, so your photos brought back memories. Moraine Lake was spectacular as I remember as well too.

    Sorry to hear about your long delays heading back to LAX.

    • Comment 370924 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1642 Comments

      Thanks for stopping by Matthew!

      It was my parent's 40th wedding anniversary and they really wanted to go back to Banff since that's where they had their honeymoon. It was my first time to Calgary and the Canadian Rockies. Definitely a great destination with beautiful scenery and Calgary wasn't anything like I expected it to be.

      "Sorry to hear about your long delays heading back to LAX. "
      - Weather delays suck, but AC's handling of the situation sucked worse.

  • Comment 370813 by
    SKYTEAMCHC GOLD 9113 Comments

    thank for sharing this report. The global experience is very average and the ground service seems to be terrible. With such delays ( even if due to weather) one would expect an effort from AC to give complimentary food for exemple.
    The bonus pictures are beautiful ! I have been in Vancouver region but Alberta seems to be great.

    • Comment 370922 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1642 Comments

      Merci Christophe^^

      I agree, AC did a very poor job of handling the situation. Since the delay was more than 2 hours, I almost called AC to move my flight to return the next day, but decided to just get it over with and fly back to LAX.

      Banff is highly recommended. All Canadian national parks are free next year, so a good excuse for you to go ;)

  • Comment 370960 by
    st7515 221 Comments

    Thanks for that report! What settings do you use with your DSLR for night spotting? I'm curious !
    Really surprising to find an IFE on a A320, the catering is... well, reduced ! But the seats seem comfy.
    2hrs late for such a short flight is really a lot.
    The lakes and that last Glacier trail made me think about some memorable moments I experienced 2 years ago, thank you for that ;)

    • Comment 371271 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1642 Comments

      "What settings do you use with your DSLR for night spotting? I'm curious !"
      - I don't use any special settings, I just use the default night mode settings on my Nikon. I'd say about 90% of my night shots are throw always, so don't think that they are always clear^^

      "Really surprising to find an IFE on a A320"
      - The whole AC narrow-body fleet has IFE, it's one of their big draws. You have to remember most of the trans-Canadian flights are quite long (4+ hours)

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting and I'm glad you liked the bonus!

  • Comment 371115 by
    Rl 777 806 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    "Suddenly, I hear a bunch of loud bangs from above. Everyone around me suddenly looks up at the ceiling, out of nowhere, golf ball sized hail and torrential downpours start. It was the most bizarre thing since it was sunny and 15C just 30 minutes earlier."
    - Holy crap, nature at its finest...

    Beautiful spotting shots at YYC!

    It's a shame AC didn't do more in that situation, like offering food or coming out with more information about the situation earlier.

    Sorry to hear about all the other delays too, and the IFE's limited functionality on that flight. A lot of negatives with this whole experience I presume, I guess it just happens sometimes.

    Thankfully the crew wasn't bad at least. The FR was excellent, unfortnately the same can probably not be said for the flight
    :(.

    Wow, absolutely fantastic bonus at the end. Just breathtaking!

    Have a good one, see you later.

    • Comment 371272 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1642 Comments

      "It's a shame AC didn't do more in that situation, like offering food or coming out with more information about the situation earlier."
      - We aren't privy to the same rules as other parts of the world. They technically aren't required to do anything. The only thing is that with a >2h delay, you can get free booking changes to a flight the next day.

      "A lot of negatives with this whole experience I presume, I guess it just happens sometimes."
      - Yeah, AC has not been kind to me recently. Taking them to YVR in a couple of weeks and dreading it already ;)

      "Wow, absolutely fantastic bonus at the end. Just breathtaking!"
      - The western side of Canada is very beautiful and picturesque (when its not rainy^^)

      Thanks for stopping by Rl777!

  • Comment 371657 by
    Chibcha SILVER 479 Comments

    Great photos of Calgary and Alberta, a really stunning place!

    YYC does look dumpy, like stuck in the 80s, I read they've recently opened a new international terminal though. I take from this series that AC might not be one's first option when flying to Canada.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 372649 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1642 Comments

      Gracias Chibcha!

      "I read they've recently opened a new international terminal though"
      - Opened or are planning on opening? Not sure, the area that KL and HU were using looked old. Anyways, US is not "international" for Canadian airports, we fall into pre-clearance so get quarantined gates in the normal part of the airport. Not sure what AC is like, but if you are flying up, BOG-YYZ has to have a full international service, but then you'll get stuck with a 4-5 hour trans-Canadian flight to get to the Pacific coast.

  • Comment 371715 by
    eminere™ 274 Comments

    Gosh that sounded like a flight from hell :(

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