The airline with the best average rating is Air Canada with 7.5/10.
The average flight time is 4 hours and 42 minutes.More information
I figured it was time to get back at it.
Having returned to flying on some domestic trips over the last couple of months, I decided it was time to get back into flight reporting.
So join me, won't you, as I take a day trip to Vancouver in Air Canada's Signature Service Business class.
In the before-times, longtime readers may recall I had shifted my loyalties to Delta. But in early 2020, I decided to attempt to get the last 100,000 or so miles I need to earn Million Miler status with Air Canada and the lifetime 50K (Star Alliance Gold) status that comes with it.
So when I started flying again this year, it made sense to fly Air Canada, especially since I was flying domestically. And then, Air Canada introduced a status that doubles status measures (qualifying miles, segments, and dollars) for flights from January to April. And suddenly, I was quickly climbing the ladder. I had 25K status with Air Canada from 2020. That was "extended" for 2021 and 2022. Then it was bumped up to 35K at the start of 2022 due to my spending on an AC co-branded Amex last year. And with some transcon flying early in the year, I suddenly had 50K status earned, 75K on the way as soon as flights I have already flown clear the promo, and Super Elite 100K within reach. With that in mind, I booked this one-day return to Vancouver on a pair of widebody aircraft, which would (if I did the math right) mean I'd make SE as soon as the promotional miles all come through. Once again, just when I think I've made it out, they pull me back in. The flight was booked in Air Canada's "Comfort" brand class, which offers 115% earnings, and is refundable just in case plans change. I applied for upgrades to business class using eUpgrades immediately upon booking, and the upgrade on this flight cleared at my 10-day window as a 50K.
It also gives me a chance to offer a review on Air Canada's North American Signature Service. I have written several YYZ-YVR and VV widebody reviews. But they all pre-date Air Canada re-branding its international business class service as Signature Class and upgrading the service offered on domestic/transborder widebody business class to something closer to international Business Class and re-branding it as Signature Class.
It's a not-very-bright but early Canadian spring morning as I arrive at Pearson's Terminal 1. Travel is definitely on the uptick, but at this hour, things are are still pretty quiet
I already have my boarding pass on the AC app, so I head straight to the back of the terminal and the security line for Nexus holders. There's no lineup for security, so even though my backpack is flagged for a secondary security check (and then not checked after all), I'm through security and airside less than ten minutes after arriving at the terminal. I can live with that kind of efficiency.
The elevators up to the domestic Maple Leaf Lounge are just to the left of the security checkpoint, before a set of escalators down to the concourse floor. I'll probably go check that out shortly. But first, there's something else I want to check in on.
A couple of years ago, Air Canada opened this Cafe pseudo-lounge in the YYZ domestic zone, and I've been looking forward to checking it out ever since.
Unfortunately, it suffered a water main break a couple of months ago and has been closed since then. And that's still the case this morning, so I'll have to wait a while longer to sample this novel new facility. It is coming soon to a flight report near you. Hopefully.
So it's back to the elevators and upstairs to the Maple Leaf Lounge I go.
Upstairs, a quick boarding pass scan and I'm in. The crowd is pretty thin as the lounge has only been open for a few minutes.
Here's the view from the main entranceway.
Here's the main corridor of seating. It's up against windows that offer an airside view, although not a tremendous airside view since you're looking over a portion of the roof before the apron. Until very recently, every second seat in the lounge had a "Don't use this seat. Social distancing, y'all." sticker on it, but those are now gone.
All is quiet on the raised central part of the lounge.
The bar and buffet area has been transformed in response to COVID (and likely airline cost-cutting, because airlines gonna airline), so instead, we have a handful of pre-packaged cold snacks and drinks. Service is offered at the bar, but not until 11:00 am because, unfortunately, Ontario liquor laws are what they are. More food is available, but we'll get to that in good time.
On the other side of what would have been the buffet in the before times, we have some drinks, muffins and danishes (pre-packaged) and a couple of coffee machines.
There's a small TV lounge area on the "other" side of the buffet.
And down the "far" end of the lounge, we've got a "quiet" section with a few lounge chairs facing out at the windows for privacy.
I take a seat and consider my options. I'm pretty hungry at this point. During the pandemic, AC did away with the buffets favouring a table service model in their lounges. Every table has a stick like the one below with a QR code (strategically blacked out to avoid hundreds of you jokers ordering food to table 26 in the lounge). The QR code takes you to a website that offers a few hot snack options, which lounge staff will deliver.
Here's this morning's menu.
I know from previous experience that the oatmeal isn't great. I usually like oatmeal, but there's something "off" with the spice mix used, and it doesn't appeal to me. So I skip that and order the avocado toast and an omelette.
Both ordering and the lounge WiFi, in general, are in good shape, easy to connect and moving fast enough.
In the meantime, I grab some appetizers from the cold snacks section at the buffet, accompanied by the mediocre cappuccino.
My first snack is a Chai-spiced quinoa dish with some raisins. Not bad at all.
Up next is a berry/yogurt/granola "parfait." It doesn't look like a parfait to me, but it's tasty enough. I recommend it.
And finally, the best of the cold snack available, and indeed the one with the least redeeming qualities — chocolate chop overnight oats. Yum.
I enjoy those, and after about 20 minutes, my hot food order arrives. Wait time for these orders varies significantly from "seconds after you order" for times when the kitchen has been up and running for a while, but there aren't many people in the lounge to "have they forgotten I exist?" when things are packed.
The avocado toast is simple but quite tasty. I enjoy it.
The western omelette isn't bad either, although it seems a bit pepper-heavy on the ham-to-pepper ratio.
Alas, I got to the lounge at 5:30, and I'm on a 7:00 widebody flight, so I don't have much time to hang out after breakfast number one. So about 6:00, I make my way out of the lounge and head towards my waiting Dreamliner over to Vancouver.
The domestic lounge is such a familiar space it's hard to form a strong opinion of it, and after being in here a few times this year, I'm not sure if I prefer the current limited table service model or the return of the buffet. Both have pluses and minuses, but I feel the food is better under the current setup. AC seems to be sticking with the model even as COVID restrictions lift, so I guess it's working. Or it's saving them money. Or possibly both. But knowing airline management, almost certainly the latter.
Things are still pretty quiet after 6:00 down on the concourse, as there aren't many flights before this Vancouver flight, which was recently re-added to the schedule. For the last few months, the earliest YVR service departed at 8:00. This morning, we'll be leaving from D39, one of the most common domestic widebody gates.
There's my ride, having arrived from Vancouver herself last night. I'm still getting used to the newer "raccoon" livery over the familiar "toothpaste" livery, but I think it's growing on me to the point where I feel a little disappointed when I get a plane still rocking the baby blue.
There are lots of pre-boarding announcements, including the omnipresent "this flight is completely full, so we're looking for volunteers to check their bags to their final destination free of charge" request, a reminder to wear a mask at all times, and a new one for me, a reminder to those on the waitlist for upgrades to wait to board until they run the final upgrade list about ten minutes after boarding starts. I guess it's now policy to explicitly remind people that "You board, you lose" in the upgrade game.
Boarding g starts at about 6:10, just a couple of minutes after I show up at the gate and a few minutes ahead of what my boarding pass suggests would be boarding time.
A quick scan of the boarding pass on my phone, a presentation of my Nexus card and a lowering of my mask to confirm I at least somewhat look like my identification photo, and I'm on my way.
From: Toronto Pearson (YYZ)
To: Vancouver (YVR)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
ATD (STD): 07:18 (07:00)
ATA ( STA): 08:18 (08:46)
For this flight, I'm seated in 8K, in the last row of the business class cabin, which stretches between doors 1 and 2 on AC's 789s. I always forget this final row of seats only has one window.
The seat as equipped when I arrive on the scene.
AC's bedding isn't revolutionary, but it's decent. There's a large, soft pillow, a decent duvet, and a new addition in my experience to the bedding stack, a mattress pad. However, it doesn't have much padding to it. So it's more of a fitted sheet. Given the lack of padding and its focus seems to be sanitary rather than comfort, I've seen this referred to as the seat condom. I like that, so I think I'll use it.
My menu, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and a "CleanCare+" kit with a mask and hand sanitizer are at the seat when I arrive.
I'll be using my own headphones to listen to podcasts on today's flight, so I won't use the headphones — but they're decent noise-cancelling. I would use them if watching the IFE system — they're of decent quality. But be warned that AC typically picks them up at least half an hour before arrival. Potato-quality earbuds are made available for those who don't have their own headphones but want to use the IFE after flight attendants in J pick up the offered headphones.
The IFE monitor is a decent size, especially for a product that's not five or six years old. I like the default of showing highlight photos of your destination. It sets the mood nicely for travel. AC also offers a bottle of Naya water at each business class seat, and Signature Class means a big bottle rather than a mini, you lucky soul you.
A couple of under-seat looks. Both the literary section and the footwell legroom.
The seat controls are straightforward and primarily managed with two physical buttons and a small touchscreen that offers more granular control over both the seat and things like reading light and window shading.
There's a cubby in the counter between the seat and the window, which provides a home to a small storage area, IFE remote control, headphone, power, and USB ports.
Here's a look at the breakfast menu and wine list. Many things look very familiar to an AC elite from eight years ago, but some of the accoutrements have seen an update.
While boarding continues, I get my seat set up with its condom (always practice safe aviation) and the duvet unbagged.
The service director, Sacha, makes the rounds by introducing himself and welcoming business passengers on board. After him, Ronnie, the flight attendant who would lead service on my aisle, introduced himself. He's taking breakfast orders. Since the two hot options are the same two hot options AC has offered for years now, but the cold breakfast or "healthy option" is new, I decide to go with the latter. It's something new, and I've already had an omelette up in the lounge.
Ronnie's a bit of a character, sharing stories of only getting two hours' sleep, apparently jet-lagged from a 60-hour layover in Seoul last week.
Privacy in these seats, marketed by AC as Executive Pods, is good. Here's a look as boarding continues.
Here's a look out the window on a rainy April morning in Toronto. Our nearest neighbour is one of AC's aging A320s.
I'm not partaking of the IFE system on this flight, but the 789s offer a more up-to-date interface with more features and a faster response time than does even the 788s, which are just months younger in many cases. The interface is way better and way snappier than the "Project XM" interface, AC's original AVOD at every seat environment, which is still found on the A32x fleet. There's always a pretty good selection of movies available to those who are so inclined.
As boarding wraps up, a uniformed AC captain joins us. We end up going out full. Here's a look at the cabin from the back as boarding wraps up.
We push back right on time at 7:01. April in Canada means (mostly) not having to stop at de-icing, so it's a relatively short taxi out to the runway. There's an interesting new safety video presenting elements of the AC cabin in iconic Canadian scenery. It's followed by a video reminding you to wear a mask unless you want to be greeted by the Mounties upon arrival.
About 7:15, we're up and away into a sky showing a bit of sun.
It's a lovely morning up above the clouds.
The seatbelts signs stay on for the first 25 minutes of the flight. Once extinguished, I head to the lav located just behind door 2R. I like AC's falling maple leaf wallpaper motif. Who doesn't appreciate a loo with a view? Other than that, it's a pretty standard 787 lav. These two lavs, located between Business and Premium Economy, are shared by passengers in those two cabins and separated from galleys in this space by a couple of curtains.
When I get back to my seat, my table cloth has been placed, indicating it's almost time for breakfast number two.
But first, some more out-the-window views on a beautiful morning at 38,000 feet.
Ronnie serves breakfast off the trolley. For most passengers, it's just the croissant, fruit salad, and chia pudding offered on the tray, with the hot entree delivered later. But for the cold option, breakfast is served all at once. He also offers drinks, and I opt for some orange juice and a glass of the sparkling wine. It's a deconstructed mimosa if you will.
The main course of the cold breakfast is a fruit salad with almonds, coconut, seeds, a thick Greek yogurt, and a bit of honey. It's not a filling meal, but I enjoy it quite a bit.
Ronnie comes around, offering another round of drinks, and attendants deliver hot entrees to those who ordered them.
Cheese and crackers are always a nice treat, but it's missing the accompaniment of grapes.
And rounding out breakfast, the croissant isn't great, but it's made passable with butter and strawberry jam.
I request a cappuccino to finish breakfast off, and it's cheerfully delivered. It's not great, but it's an in-flight cappuccino, which still has a novelty factor.
The "cold breakfast" option is fresh, and I found it quite enjoyable, but be warned — it is not filling. If you're on a Signature transcon and hungry, go for one of the hot breakfasts.
By the time we've wrapped up the breakfast service, we're passing the west end of Lake Superior and over Thunder Bay. The winter headwinds must be over because we're covering much more ground than during the colder months. We're probably going to be early into Vancouver if this holds up.
I relax for a while, listen to some podcast, and eventually put my bed down to make sure it's comfortable. It is. And in fact, I nap for a while on and off. It was an early morning, and the bed was quite nice.
We're about an hour out of Vancouver by the time I wake up fully, and Ronnie is making his rounds with the snack basket, followed by a drink cart. Here's my haul. I always lament that AC doesn't feature tequila, and DL doesn't stock Clamato, making my preferred in-flight beverage of a Clamato & Tequila (El Cesar?) impossible.
As we're approaching half an hour from Vancouver, one final service is offered, as water bottles are distributed.
On a clear day, there are few bits of airplane window art better than enjoying the descent into YVR over the Rockies. And it's a very clear day today, so I just enjoy the scenery out my window as we approach.
There's a sudden shift in geography as we approach the Lower Mainland.
We're getting close. Here, we're over suburban Vancouver, with downtown in the far distance.
We end up touching down about half an hour early.
It's a relatively short taxi into Gate C47, passing one of the newer members of the narrowbody fleet on the way.
After a brief delay to allow the ground crew to arrive, we pull into our gate. Things are pretty quiet at this hour.
The jetway is quickly hooked up to door 2L, and being at the back of the business class cabin, I'm among the first off. Here's one quick look back at our raccoon-themed Dreamliner before I head off to the lounge to wait for my flight back home.
Thanks for joining me for this quick trip to Vancouver. I hope you enjoyed reading it and got a feel for AC's domestic Signature Service offering. See you on the return!
It's so nice to be flying again. This was an enjoyable flight on the 787, with a comfortable seat/bed, decent food, and solid service. And I'm 2,000-plus miles closer to my 1MM goal.