Hi and welcome to my 2nd trip report to Vancouver this year. I have decided to exclude my outbound on UA since it was rather routine focusing instead on my first flight with Air Canada Rouge on the return trip.
As some of you might know, Rouge was created as the LCC branch of AC using 767's for long haul flights and A319's for short and medium hauls. This new concept has been controversial and a lot of AC's frequent flyers have voiced their displeasure with it. Some aspects of the inflight product have been compromised, like an average 29 or 73.66 cm seat pitch in Y on the A319's and an intra-European style cabin in J with a middle seat blocked. Up until now, I've been very satisfied with the true AC product whenever I flew them to YVR, so I was curious to see how my opinion will change after flying Rouge.
To begin, I was not able to reserve a seat and had to pay a fee of USD 20 per person to hold one beyond the 24 hrs check in time. Since I was traveling with two family members, I decided to just pay the fees and have the peace of mind of having seats together. A minus point already, especially since one of my companions was a senior and required the assistance of someone sitting next to her.
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. There was no line at the AC counter but we used the self check-in kiosks. I noticed that our frequent flyer numbers were not printed on the boarding pass unlike the ones from UA on the outbound, so we had to manually input these on the kiosk and then they were printed on the reissued boarding cards.
On the way to YVR airport.
After clearing U.S. Immigration we browsed through the Duty Free shop.
The plane was supposed to leave at 2030 but at 2000 there was no sign of the plane at the gate. Meanwhile, the screen on the counter still showed an on time departure. The inflight crew has arrived by now and they were waiting along with the passengers. I walked a bit to stretch my legs and knew that this flight was going to be delayed, even though the screen and the airline website showed on time.
The flight next door was also a RV one going to LAX and I saw the crew standing by the gate. That flight was slightly delayed as well. One thing that I noticed about Rouge is the hideous uniforms of the FA's. What's up with that hat and the sloppy ensemble? Are they trying hard to project a cool, laid back and casual image? Just because it is low cost does not mean that it has to be careless. Personally I think a professional image is more effective at conveying authority and respect, not someone who looks like a college kid who put together a wardrobe in a hurry to look presentable.
The prêt-à-porter collection.
Another interesting fact about the Rouge inflight crew is that FA's receive a Customer Service Excellence training at the Disney Institute in Florida following a 6-weeks regular training at AC. Who better than the instructors at The Happiest Place on Earth to teach you how to make people happy? This proposition sounds great as long as the trainees don't end up looking like the Joker in Batman with a permanent smile on their faces.
Eventually two gate agents showed up after 2000 and one of them announces that the flight will be delayed due to SFO traffic control. We are given a dept. time of 2120. A collective sigh was heard and everyone was resigned to his fate. A while later my name was called along with others to come to the podium. I got excited for a moment thinking if this could be an upgrade, but I don't have status with *A. Nevertheless I believe in miracles and was hopeful for one but it turned out to be a routine document check. Are you kidding me? After going through security with the dreaded -SSSS- on my card, being patted down, opening my bag to be tested and passing through U.S. Immigrations you still need to see if I am the right person boarding this plane?
I sat down near the gate and the agent approached me and my companions to advise that when the plane is ready she will board us first because we were traveling with a passenger that requested a wheelchair. I thanked her for the gesture and waited patiently. When it was about time to board, the gate agent walked away from the counter and her co-worker announces that they found a mechanical problem that will delay the flight further. Needless to say, this was followed by frustrated sighs. A few minutes later the agent announces that the issue has been resolved and they will proceed to board the plane starting with F and elites. There was only one agent working at the gate and no priority was given to elderly or families traveling with children. A line formed instantly and we placed ourselves near the podium. Thankfully a nice lady in F allowed us to get in front of her and upon giving my boarding pass and driver's license to the gate agent to be scanned he asked for the passport.
Plane at the gate.
Upon entering the plane, I see the purser kneeling down and checking the carts in the galley. She still manages to say hi to those entering. I guess multitasking is in the training curriculum.
We made our way to row 14 and the pitch looks and feels tight. There was a FA positioned nearby greeting passengers.
Excruciatingly tight seat pitch.
Another surprise - I noticed that the overhead bin above rows 15 and 16 DEF was closed and marked with equipment signs. As if overhead bins are not prime real estate, who in his right mind would restrict these by using them as storage for airplane equipment? Thankfully I was able to put most of our luggage in the overheard compartment above our seats but felt bad for those seating in the two rows behind me.
Seat pocket contents.
The FA was proactive helping passengers and did a good job getting everyone settled.
There were 3 FA's on our flight and they conducted the safety demonstrations live. After take off lights were dimmed and a FA offered tablets for rent. Minutes later the beverage cart made its way along with snacks for sale. I purchased the Duo Combo for USD 9.50 which offered a better value and included a snack + meal. I chose a bag of cashews and the Greek salad. Everything was served with a smile and the salad tasted fresh. My row was the 4th one in the Y cabin and by the time the FA's got to it they were already running out of items like the chicken wrap and the cheese with crackers. I think AC should provision more meals on these flights.
The rest of the flight was uneventful and we landed in SFO 1:15 hr. later.
An afternoon walk through downtown Vancouver starting with the Waterfront, stopping at Bella Gelateria and ending at the Pacific Center.
Judging by the long lines and the signs announcing its award winning gelato, this place could easily be the best gelateria in Vancouver.
We waited for about 30 min. to be served and the wait was worth it. The place features fresh and local ingredients in its production and there is no shortage of really exotic flavors like the Persian inspired Akbar Mashti made with rose water and saffron, along with black sesame, lavender or fior di latte (now that is a true Italian flavor). I opted for a more common cherry and hazelnut, which was light and not overly sweet. Not quite like the real thing in Italy, but close enough.
On my way to the Pacific Center with the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver in the background.
Pacific Center and Holt Renfrew store.
No trip is complete without food and here are a couple of restaurants that I visited when I stayed in Richmond.
Dragon View restaurant
This upscale restaurant had tasteful decoration and good service. The dim sum was just superb striking a perfect balance between texture and taste.
Shredded chicken with jellyfish and crunchy flat rice noodles underneath.
Crab cakes with mayo.
Seafood rice porridge. There were big chunks of scallops, fish and shrimps underneath. This was served with roasted peanuts, green onions and minced preserved vegetables as accompaniments.
Fried squid tentacles.
Coconut gelatin and mango pudding with evaporated milk.
Guu Izakaya @ Aberdeen Center
Izakaya is a drinking establishment that also serves food to accompany the drinks. It's sort of like a Japanese pub that serves its own version of tapas. This place was loud and convivial with service that was top notch.
Chicken karaage (fried chicken marinated in ginger, garlic and soy sauce)
Tropical roll - boiled salmon with mayo, spicy chicken, cucumber, mango sauce & spicy miso sauce.
Okonomiyaki - deep fried squid and cabbage pancake with tonkatsu sauce and mustard mayo.
Stewed pork belly with egg and bread.
A local chain restaurant specializing in burgers and other Canadian favorites.
This is dedicated to - lagentsecret - Cheers!
Air Canada Rouge
Vancouver - YVR
San Francisco - SFO
Seats were just horrible. The pitch is the worst that I have experienced flying in Y and I literally felt like I was in a sardine can. I am 5'9 or 1.75 meters and can't think of anyone taller than me sitting comfortably in these seats. I also question AC's decision to switch their flights from true AC to Rouge on the SFO route. SFO is far from being a leisure market like MCO or MIA. The inability to use the overhead bins above rows 15/16DEF is a major issue and a big disappointment.
The crew was great and extremely accommodating. I saw FA's help passengers with bags, always smiling and polite in all their interactions. I was pleasantly surprised when I asked for kid's wings and the FA proceeded to get a stack out of her pocket right away and asked me if I needed more than one.
Salad was OK but quantity on the small side. In addition some items were already running out after serving the first couple of rows. I would hate to sit in the back and wait to purchase something from the Cafe menu.
We arrived 1:15 hr. later at 2348 instead of 2233.
In the end, this was an uncomfortable flight that luckily lasted less than 2 hrs. I can't imagine sitting through this torture on a longer flight despite the better catering and great service. I never thought that I would say this but I would prefer to take UA over AC for the comfort advantage and the ability to reserve a seat free of charge.
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