Review of Air Canada flight Toronto Sao Paulo in Business

Airline Air Canada
Flight AC90
Class Business
Seat 8A
Aircraft Boeing 787-9
Flight time 09:32
Take-off 17 Apr 22, 22:52
Arrival at 18 Apr 22, 09:24
AC   #10 out of 70 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 333 reviews
hometoyyz
By BRONZE 1041
Published on 18th April 2022

Introduction


It has been more than two years since I last left Canada. I am excited to get out on the road again and check an item off my travel “to-do” list that has been on that list way too long.

So please join me for a quick trip from Toronto to Buenos Aries with Air Canada in their “Signature Service” Business Class.


the rundown


Routing

  • AC90 - Business - Toronto → Sao Paulo - 787-9 You are here
  • AC90 - Business - Sao Paulo → Buenos Aries - 787-9 Coming soon
  • AC91 - Business - Buenos Aries → Sao Paulo - 787-9 Coming soon
  • AC97 - Business - Sao Paulo → Montreal - 787-9 Coming soon
  • AC405 - Business - Montreal → Toronto - A220-300 Coming soon

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Booking


I had not planned any additional travel after the Toronto - Vancouver trip I shared last week. With that trip in the books, I had enough status miles with Air Canada to make it back to Super Elite status once double credit for my last couple of months of flights are posted under AC’s current double status miles/segments/dollars promotion.

But then I got caught up in a FlyerTalk thread about very reasonable Business Class fares on flights from many Canadian cities to Buenos Aries. I researched, found dates that worked for me, and decided to go for it.

Air Canada has a unique operation to Buenos Aries. AC operates daily service from Toronto and Montreal to Sao Paulo. And most days, one or the other of those flights continues, flying Sao Paulo to Buenos Aries. Passengers bound for Buenos Aries from both destinations are combined from both flights onto the one plane that continues to Argentina. And vice versa, on the opposite — one of the two Dreamliners flies the EZE-GRU segment, and the passengers from that flight are distributed among the two flights back to Canada.

As far as I know, GRU-EZE-GRU is AC’s only current flight between two non-Canadian airports. The airline previously flew SCL-EZE-SCL instead of GRU, but I do not believe that is the case anymore.

Getting a decent P fare like this means, for the first time, I will get to sample Air Canada’s much-hyped Signature Suite at Pearson, a restaurant/lounge that’s only opened to passengers in paid Business Class on AC metal. It’s something I’ve wanted to check out since it opened, and I’m very excited to be heading there today. I’m going to the airport early, and I’m going to the airport hungry.


Arriving at Pearson, Check-in and Security


Along with my return to international flying and my first stop at the Signature Suite, this afternoon is meaningful because it’s my first time back on the commuter train into Toronto and then up to Pearson since my last pre-pandemic flight. It feels like a return in its own right as I stand in the bright sun on a chilly Toronto April afternoon.

Fortunately, about a week before my departure, Argentina significantly extended its re-opening, dropping the previous requirement for a negative antigen test. And Canada is more than a month out from requiring testing to come to (or return to) the country.

So getting ready for the flight was pretty simple. The only remaining requirements are:

1) having proof of vaccination (which is required to enter a Canadian airport, much less board a plane here);
2) having adequate health insurance, so presumably, the Argentine government isn't on the hook should I test positive while in-country; and
3) filling out an online form for arrivals.

The first two requirements are not a problem. I print off my Ontario proof of vaccination and print my existing travel health insurance certificate, which helpfully spells out COVID-related benefits. I guess they get asked about this a fair bit.

The last requirement is a bit more of a challenge, as the form is available in Spanish and English, but the English setting is a bit wonky in places. But I struggle through it and am finally rewarded with an email including a document with a barcode from the Argentine government. That gets printed off too, and I think I've got everything I need to get into Argentina.

Still, there's a nagging feeling in my head that I'm sure won't entirely go away until I'm sitting in my seat for the flight that I've overlooked something, or something else won't be accepted.

To my surprise, I can check in online on Air Canada's app, and with my vaccination QR code on file with them, I'm able to get to a boarding pass with the required ADOC notation, which means I'm good to go.

It all goes pretty smoothly. 

 After the GO Train and the UP Express up to Pearson, I pull into YYZ at 5:00 on the nose. Things are pretty quiet on the arrival level at this hour.


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Since I've got my boarding pass on my phone, there is no need to stop at check-in.

Right now, international and domestic gates are sharing the same security checkpoint because I'm sure international traffic still isn't quite what it used to be. So I head to the back and the right and join the line for domestic Nexus cardholders.

Security takes about ten minutes with just a few people ahead of me in the Nexus line. Miraculously, my backpack doesn't get flagged for a secondary check. Today is my day.

About 15 minutes after arriving at Pearson, I'm airside. I can't complain too much about that efficiency. 


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Domestic gates are downstairs. But I'm going international, and something tells me it's this way. 


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After walking across most of the length of the terminal, I arrive at the Hammerhead concourse, which means I'm in international territory. The familiar high-speed moving sidewalk is to the right, covered off by grey housing. I'm guessing either they've given up entirely on this of-broken part of the Pearson international experience, or they're upgrading it, so it's a little more resilient when international traffic is back at its peak. 


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Down at the end of the Hammerhead, one finds the International Maple Leaf Lounge entrance. Typically, this would be my destination. But not today.


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Instead, it's downstairs onto the concourse.


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It's my first time through the Cone of Silence in a long time. Another milestone. 


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I follow the signage for the Plaza Premium lounge in the international zone and (much more importantly) the Signature Suite. There's an elevator available, but I opt to take the stairs. Many calories are about to come, so climbing a flight of stairs won't hurt.

At the top of the stairs, I see the signage I've been waiting so long to see.


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Air Canada Signature Suite YYZ


An agent greets me at the door and scans my boarding pass. She offered me a printed boarding pass if I wanted it, and I agreed to this. But it's not delivered. Not a big deal, but about the only slippage in the service in this lounge.

She encourages me to head into the lounge, where another attendant greets me. He offers to check my carry-on suitcase and explains iI can request it by my last name. Then he gives me an explanation of the lounge itself. There's a sit-down restaurant section, a second restaurant section by the bar, and a small hallway that's a lounge. He explains that I can order from the menu in any three zones. He explains that the three-course meal experience should take over an hour, which is essential since everyone here has a plane to catch. As for me, I've got lots of time to enjoy this experience.

I'm hungry, so I head straight for the back of the lounge, home of the main restaurant section. It's not too busy, so I grab a seat with some space around it. Here's my place setting as I sit down. 


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The impeccable service here in the Suite begins with a greeting from the gentleman who will be my waiter, who presents me with the food and drink menus. I request a glass of roseé champagne. Here's a look at the menus.


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The champagne is presented to me and then poured. My waiter would stay on top of it throughout my time in the lounge. His personal mission was to ensure I was well-lubricated by the end of my meal. My sparkling water is also topped up throughout my meal to ensure I've got a fighting chance at retaining sobriety. 


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After perusing the menu for a while, I came to the decision I knew I was going to arrive at after looking up the menus online. I request the lentil soup, the venison carpaccio, and the lamb because having the lamb is my gimmick. (And also because I love lamb and seldom get to enjoy it.)

My meal begins with a crispy fried chickpea amuse-bouche. It is delightful. 


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Hot on its heels, a waitress delivers the lentil soup. I enjoy it quite a bit, although it's a quieter flavour than the lentil soup I have enjoyed at favourite Indian or Lebanese restaurants. Still, a good quality dish.


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Once I finish with the soup, the waitress delivers the carpaccio. This marks the first time I've ever had anything called "tapioca chips," so I can check that off the checklist. All kidding aside, another high-quality dish with a subtle soy presence and a nice creaminess from the tahini. 


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Here's a look at the dining room while I wait for my main course. It's open, but a small enough space maintains an intimate feel to it. 


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Before my main course is presented, my waiter asks if I'd like some red wine with it. The menu suggests the Italian red, but I decide on the Canadian. While I failed to get a picture of the red wine, it looks as expected. And oh my, I am not disappointed at all. It's a smoky, oaky kind of red, and I love it. I'm disappointed that I can only enjoy one glass as I'm getting full. And a little bit tipsy.

Here's the main course. The lamb is delicious. Just perfect. It's reasonably sized, the quality is off the charts, and everything is delicious. I think it's the first time I've had Panisse, and I enjoy it. Everything is just so good. 


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As I wrap up my main course, the waiter offers me more wine, but I sadly decline. So he offers me a dessert menu, and I stupidly fail to capture a picture of it. But here's the skinny on it: a chocolate mousse, vanilla or chocolate ice cream, a basil sponge cake, and a "liquid dessert." I request both of the last two items.

First up is the liquid dessert, a concoction of Bailey's, maple syrup, and espresso. And oh my. It is so delicious. 


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After that, the waitress presents the basil sponge cake. Again, it is just fantastic. I wouldn't have thought of basil in a dessert. But here we are.  


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I request an espresso to finish my meal, and it's also excellent. 


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And with that, round one of my culinary experiences at the Signature Suite is sadly coming to an end. I leave the restaurant area very satiated and somewhere between "happily tipsy" and "IDB."

It's time to take a look around the lounge.

Off the entranceway, there's this odd little nook of seating. I guess it would work well for a small group? 


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After the meal I’ve just enjoyed, it’s hard to argue with this assessment.


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Here's the bar at the heart of the lounge.


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And here's a look at the dining room by the buffet.


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There are a few unisex private washrooms, which are well-apportioned.


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I ultimately grab a seat in this little hallway of seating, which is the central "lounge" part of this lounge that is very committed to food and drink. 


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At most every seat, and even built into the walls, one will find power outlets and USB-A ports to keep juiced up. The Air Canada WiFi SSID works well throughout the lounge.


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There's one waiter devoted to this lounge area, and he brings me some sparkling water when I request it. Some people are eating full meals here in the "lounge" part, although I think I'll head back to the restaurant should I want more to eat. And I think I will.


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At this point, I should reveal that I've misled you, gentle reader, a bit earlier. I said the Signature Suite is open only to passengers travelling on AC metal in paid Business class.

And for the most part, that is an accurate statement. But there is one loophole. According to AC's website, the Suite is also accessible to those travelling on AC metal on a "flexible" (i.e., more expensive and fully refundable) Business class award.

In some cases, that can be prohibitive, as, under AC's new "dynamic" award pricing regimen, even Business Lowest awards can be pretty expensive.

But now and then, one can find a "true" lowest redemption on AC metal, and for those, moving up to a flexible redemption can be as little as an additional 10,000 miles. If you can find that kind of redemption, I recommend running, not walking, to grab it.

Or better yet, leave it right where you found it. I may be looking for it.

I also feel compelled to mention that AC also offers a Signature Suite with similar access requirements and menus in the international zone at YVR. It opened in the late winter of 2020, just in time to close it up again—abysmal timing on AC's part. It has not yet re-opened as I write this, although AC has committed to getting it back up and running this summer. 

 With just over an hour to boarding, I decide I'm hungry enough – or at least not-stuffed enough – to try for a second round of food in the lounge, so I relocate to the second restaurant area. This zone is home to the buffet and has a couple of very cool art elements: a mural dominating one wall with some very Canadian themes and an overhead installation.


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A waitress offers me the now-familiar menu, and I choose the tuna tataki and the burger. I request a glass of the Riesling to accompany the starter, and it is delivered well before the tuna. I can only assume they're back at it trying to get me drunk. 


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Round two of the amuse-bouche. This time I catch that the waitress describes it as a Panisse. So apparently, I had it before I had with the lamb. I have learned something today. 


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The tataki is out next, and it's excellent quality, but somehow it leaves me a little flat. It's just a bit lacking in flavour compared to some of the other dishes I've had here in the Suite. 


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When I've finished my wine, she offers a top-up, but I request to try the Lug Head beer with my burger. I love the opportunity to try new beers. My waitress quickly delivers it, and it's not quite what I expected, but still quite pleasant. It is crisp and refreshing with a bit of a sweet wheat beer note to it.


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And then she brings me the burger. It's perfectly done and juicy and flavourful. It isn't the "classy dining" item on the menu, but it is very good eats.


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She offers me another beer, but I decline. I don't want to be good and intoxicated until we're safely in the air.

When I finished it, my waitress offered me the dessert menu. I accept and request to try the mousse and another espresso. And I remember to get a picture this time!  


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The mousse is up first. It's a bit of a surprise in that it's more of an ice cream mousse than a traditional mousse, but it's still delicious.


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And finally, one more espresso to help me stay awake through the service once we're on board.


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With dinner number two complete, I think it's time to head out. We're about a half-hour away from boarding now, and I think it would be good to walk around before the extended sit ahead.

I get my carry-on back and leave the Signature Suite. It has been a very memorable stay. It's probably the best dining I've had related to a business class flight, and food-wise, it's on par with many First Class experiences. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who can make their way here. 


Boarding time


I head back downstairs to the concourse, where things are quiet, with only a handful of late-night departures slated to go out.


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We'll be departing from Gate 77 tonight, and although it's a good 15 minutes before posted boarding time, a few people are starting to queue up.


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I head back downstairs to the concourse, where things are quiet, with only a handful of late-night departures slated to go out.

Tonight, our Dreamliner is a "toothpaste" livery, not the newer "raccoon" livery. 


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I take a quick walk around the short international concourse, searching for anything interesting. Still, it's all Air Canada, except this 77W on final boarding for its return to Istanbul (not Constantinople.)


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Boarding is called right at 9:50, as my boarding pass promised it would be, and despite my earlier concerns that here something would go wrong, getting on board is no more complicated than a scan of the boarding pass on my phone and a look at my passport.


The flight report


Flight: AC90
From: Toronto Pearson (YYZ)
To: Sao Paulo (GRU)
Date: 4/17/2022
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Registration: C-FRSE
Seat: 8A
ATD (STD): 22:52 (22:40)
ATA ( STA): 09:24 (09:30+1)

I board at door 2L and turn left for the short walk to seat 8A, in the last row of the 30-seat Business Class cabin on AC’s 789s. I secured this seat because I like the back of the cabin and had forgotten row 8 on these planes only has one window until my YYZ-YVR flight last week reminded me. Oh well.


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Here’s the seat as equipped when I arrive. Service offerings include a “safety kit” with a face mask, hand sanitizer, etc., a bottle of water, and noise-cancelling headphones. The headphones are of decent quality, although mine will go unused on this flight as I listen to my own content for the portions of the flight that I’m awake.


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The bedding stack consists of a big, soft pillow, a thin but comfortable duvet, and a very thin mattress pad (or seat condom, if you prefer.) An amenity kit is on top of the bedding.


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I unbag the duvet and mattress pad and deploy the seat condom since I anticipate being ready for bed by the time the post-takeoff service is over.


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Legroom is not an issue on a flatbed seat, of course.


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A look into the footwell. I don’t find it too restrictive. It’s about the right length for my 5’11” frame.


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The IFE screen is reasonably large, and the quality is acceptable. I like that AC’s default screen cycles through hero shots of the flight’s destination.


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This small touch screen and two buttons are the controls for the seat and area, including overhead lights and 787 window dimming.


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The storage cubby on the counter includes a wired touchscreen remote for the IFE system, headphone port, USB port, and universal power outlet. The power port works but is loose enough on this particular seat that it’s pretty finicky about keeping my charger plugged in. 


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Let’s take a look at the Les Essentials-branded amenity kit. First, the kit as presented.


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And then, the kit deconstructed. The highlights for me include the socks (because I like my AC socks) and the screen cleaner cloth adorned with airport codes for AC international destinations (because it’s such an avgeek thing.)


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A flight attendant named Joao, who I’m guessing is our Portuguese-speaking crew member on this flight, offered me the menu. When I said on my YVR-YYZ flight report last week that the domestic Signature Service is very similar to the international Signature Service, I had no idea how close it was, with many identical elements.  


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Another flight attendant follows him, taking orders, and I request the beef. To my surprise, they’re not out of it by the time they get to me, so I’m good to go. The main meal is set up with familiar elements (except the small salad) but presented in a sped-up format to wrap the meal up as quickly as possible on this late-night departure.

During boarding, I can’t see anything out my window because the skirt of the jetway fills my window. But after it pulls away, I can see out. There’s nothing next door but a 7M8 getting set up for an international mission a couple of gates over. 


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During the boarding announcements, the captain mentions that our flight includes the members of the Canadian men’s softball team, heading south to play in a qualifying tournament, although I’m not sure if their ultimate destination is Sao Paulo or Buenos Aries.

Either way, Go Canada Go.
 
AC’s current safety video is an interesting concept, with AC crew and flight elements (like seats from the plane) introduced into scenes from all the provinces and territories.

I have never seen an AC crew member this excited to greet passengers, and certainly not on a wind-swept vista in a national park.


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Please stow your luggage in the overhead compartments in your camper van.


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You’d think they could give you more legroom here in the middle of an open prairie.


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Sometimes, you start a safety video, and a yoga instructional breaks out.


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And here, we have the map of our plane’s exits drawn in a wheat field, crop circle-style.


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With the safety video and reminder to remain masked throughout the flight over, there’s a new plane at the gate next door to us. So what could be worse than a 737 for your international flight? You guessed it — a Rouge A320.


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We push back, and the captain informs us it will be a short taxi to the runway. We depart from the lone south-to-north runway at YYZ. I’m not sure if that’s due to unusual winds or a late-night protocol to limit the noise impact on the airport’s neighbours.


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Away we go! It’s a clear night as we climb and head southeast.


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With my YYZ-YVR flight last week, I crossed the threshold for Air Canada 75K status, and along with that, one of the benefits I was able to select was a 12-moth WiFi pass. Once we’re above 10,000 feet, the onboard WiFi is turned on, and I try to figure out how to activate that pass, which is valid on all AC flights with WiFi. The instructions in the app aren’t entirely clear, and the WiFi seems to struggle early in the flight, but soon enough, I’m able to figure it out, get activated and get connected. So it’s time for the corporate shot, in-flight edition.


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The WiFi remains pretty strong throughout the meal service.

Because of the late-night departure, a flight attendant with the drink carts brings trays with all cold meal elements simultaneously—no pre-dinner drinks on this flight. I take a Perrier and champagne.


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The starter is the same hot smoked salmon dish I enjoyed on YVR-YYZ last week. And it's still a good dish.


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To my surprise, another flight attendant follows the first delivering the hot main course within a couple of minutes of getting the tray. The beef is tasty but not the most tender. The sides are fine, but the sauce could use some more peppercorn.


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Plowing on through the meal, I enjoy my cheese course immediately after the main, just like the starter, precisely the same cheese plate as the domestic transcon.


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And speaking of the same, it's the same caramel-pecan brownie as on that flight. And it's just as good. Very fudgy with a nice caramel smoothness.


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That's it for dinner. There's no need to turn down the house lights at this time because they've been down all along. We're heading southeast over the ocean on our way to Brazil. It's past midnight.


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I quickly visit the lav behind door L2 to brush my teeth and freshen up before bed.



Then I put my seat down into full bed mode and get ready to get some sleep.


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I sleep solidly for about five hours, waking up as we're flying over northern Brazil.


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I watch the sunrise through the fully-shaded Dreamliner window.


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And then I crash again, sleeping for a while longer. I wake up about 90 minutes later, and it's just about time for breakfast. It feels like I just ate. And ate again. And then once more.


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Once again, a flight attendant serves the meals from the drink cart, and along with my tray, I request orange juice and a black cup of coffee.


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The fruit salad is okay, but I'd prefer something with some more berries to go with the citrus and melon.


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I really enjoy the bircher muesli, the lone "unique" part of the AC international breakfast service. It's got a variety of tastes and textures, and I wish I had more of it.


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As was the case for the dinner course, a second flight attendant follows the main cart. This time, he's got a smaller cart with a number of each of the two breakfast options. These are, once again, the same breakfast options available in domestic Business Class, pancakes with fruit compote and maple butter or the omnipresent parsley omelette.

I go with the former since I imagine I'll be seeing that omelette soon. The pancakes are always a good choice, definitely leaning towards the sweeter side of breakfast. 


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After breakfast, the WiFi isn't working for a while, so I wonder if it's not genuinely international service. But I keep checking, and after about half an hour, it's back up and running, and I'm able to connect again.

After breakfast, it's not too long before we're starting our descent into Sao Paulo.


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We descend into the clouds.


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Sao Paulo spreads out below us.


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And touch down, pretty much right on time. Not bad for an airline that struggles with on-time performance, to put it mildly.


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It's a short taxi past some locals and one less-familiar plane.


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And we pull into our gate, with our twin 787 next to us, having already dropped off passengers that originated in Montreal, some of whom will join us on this plane for the onward journey to Argentina.


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The jetway connects to door 2L, so I'm the first person off the plane and into the international arrivals concourse at GRU to figure out how to make this connection happen.


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But that is another story for another, much shorter flight report.

I think I'll leave this one here, and we can pick it up next time.

Thanks for joining me on this first journey. I hope to see you as I make my way the rest of the way to Buenos Aires.

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Verdict

Air Canada

8.0/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Meal/catering7.5

Air Canada Signature Suite

9.1/10
Comfort8.5
Meal/catering10.0
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Services9.5

Toronto - YYZ

8.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services7.5
Cleanliness8.5

Sao Paulo - GRU

7.8/10
Efficiency8.0
Access7.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

This report was more of a food documentary than a travelogue, but sometimes, the meal's the thing with premium cabin travel. In this case, the lounge meal was definitely the thing. The Signature Suite was a memorable experience that I look forward to trying again. Given my focus on the lounge time before the flight, I can't complain about an accelerated meal service on this late-night flight.

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1 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 601159 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 5799 Comments

    Wow, you're really going all out with your first Intl trip in 2 years! And planned last minute...those can be some of the most fun experiences. I basically got my start from FT premium fare deals over a decade ago, which allowed me to discover a ton a cool places I may not necessarily have thought to go. That's gotten more challenging with Covid, but thankfully things are opening up more and more.

    I've also chosen South America for my first Intl trip outside of my usual US<->EU shuttle, though planning many months in advanced--can't really random last minute trips anymore with my son being so young.

    Passengers bound for Buenos Aries from both destinations are combined from both flights onto the one plane that continues to Argentina. And vice versa, on the opposite — one of the two Dreamliners flies the EZE-GRU segment, and the passengers from that flight are distributed among the two flights back to Canada.

    Ah cool, a small scissor hub! Fifth freedom flights are always exotic

    Tonight, our Dreamliner is a "toothpaste" livery, not the newer "raccoon" livery.

    HAH! that's the first time I'm seeing the previous livery called that...i get it...minty fresh!

    This report was more of a food documentary than a travelogue, but sometimes, the meal's the thing with premium cabin travel.

    #AirplanePorn + #FoodPorn = Perfection

    Thanks for sharing and hope you enjoyed your trip!

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