After a few years of surfing FlightReports, I’ve decided to kick off contributing back to the community with this week’s trip from Toronto to Seoul, with a side trip to Hong Kong on the way home.
Booked in business class for 150,000 Aeroplan miles, this is a chance to explore Seoul for a few days, spend some quality time with Air Canada’s 787-8 all the way from Toronto to Seoul via Vancouver, try out my second 787 by way of Air India on an odd fifth freedom flight from Hong Kong to Seoul, and try Asiana’s A380 on the way home, from Seoul to Los Angeles. Traveling only with carry-on luggage, armed with an electronic boarding pass on my phone, and arriving at Toronto Pearson at 5:30 am, it was a very quick trip through security and into Air Canada’s Domestic Maple Leaf Lounge just beyond security.
There, I was greeted by this scale model of my ride over to Seoul
5:45 on a Sunday morning isn’t exactly prime time in the MLL, but this is the most quiet I’ve ever seen an Air Canada lounge, giving me a chance to get some shots of the seating areas without disturbing my fellow patrons.
There are a couple of service areas in the MLL. The first is this “satellite” bar away from the main buffet area. Because of Ontario’s liquor laws, the booze is still under lock and key at this early hour of the morning.
And then there’s the main buffet, with a pair of coffee machines, juices, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, some fruit, and a hot buffet that includes little omelets, sausages, hash browns, and oatmeal. And another bar, equally locked up tight.
Since I knew I’d be having breakfast – and that inevitably means an omelet – on board, I settled on a little bowl of oatmeal with some maple syrup and dried cranberries, and a glass of orange juice. It hit the spot.
After my little pre-breakfast, it was just about time to head down for boarding. Our plane today was C-GHQQ, fin 807, Air Canada’s second-newest 787, having been delivered to the airline in January. She’s just come off a YVR-PEK-YVR-YYZ run ending Saturday night.
Zone 1 was called right on time, and we were quickly on our way down to our ride. I had chosen seat 1K all the way through to Seoul. Some comments seem to indicate that row 1 is less than ideal because of the proximity of the galley, but I couldn’t resist the allure of having three windows all to myself – other rows in J “just” get two.
The seat is Air Canada’s newest business class product, currently found only on the 787s, although the airline will retrofit all of its 777 fleet to include this new seat. In terms of just about any measure, and especially privacy and comfort, it is far ahead of the previous generation business class seats it replaces. It’s a lay-flat herringbone seat, which means window seats truly are window seats.
The seat features a nice big 18-inch display, by far the biggest Air Canada offers, and a great way to watch a movie or some TV in-flight.
The side panel towards the window has a little storage box that provides a suitable home for your smartphone or other small miscellany, as well as provides home for the touch-screen remote control for in-flight entertainment, and connectivity ports – a headphone jack, a power outlet, and a USB port.
Unlike the previous generation of Air Canada “pods,” this new pod layers down into an enclosed area, which some travelers like and some don’t. I’ve head it described as “coffin-like,” although personally I don’t have a problem with it even when laid fully out. Here’s what it looks like in case you’re concerned about the coffin factor.
Below that storage box on the panel are two simple controls for the seat – sit up and lay down, and a touch-screen display that offers much more granular control of your seating environment.
For example, one screen gives you more full control over your seat position.
A second screen controls the comfort of the seat, including inflating or deflating the air mattress that makes up the majority of the seat.
And a third screen can be used to dim or brighten the windows and turn overhead lights on or off.
There’s a fourth screen that contains options for calling a flight attendant, and setting a light to indicate whether you prefer not to be disturbed, or if you wish to be awoken when service time comes around. But I didn’t get a picture of that.
The table is folded over and stowed under the monitor, as seen above. When released, it slides back and folds over, ending a comfortable distance from the occupant, especially in a sitting position.
The table can be sent back to its stowed position unfolded, providing a cocktail table for use away from mealtime, although the side panel also provides ample space for your drink and whatever else you might want to have out.
And of course, any discussion of the 787 would be incomplete without a look at its windows. These massive electrochromic windows are one of the biggest differentiators for Boeing’s newest plane, and they make quite a difference. Here they are all the way “open.”
The dimmers in business class work for all windows assigned to a seat. Whether the occupant uses the touch screen control or the physical button below each window, all of the windows by the seat respond at the same time. Here are the windows half-way tinted.
And here they are darkened out.
The seat itself is quite comfortable in the sitting position, and the “relax” position on the controls provides a great place from which to sit back and catch a film. I didn’t put her back into the fully-flat “rest” position on this flight. I’ll get into that a bit on the way from Vancouver to Seoul.
Each seat was set up with a blanket, a full-sized pillow, and a cheap set of ear bud headphones when boarding began. Service began shortly after I finished my exploration of the pod. A pre-departure beverage and a menu was offered. Menu orders were taken by status shortly after the menus were distributed.
After a short delay due to a flight data recorder needing a reset, we pushed back from our spot at gate D39, next to an A320.
As with any early morning at Pearson, there was a lot of Air Canada metal on the gates, including AC’s smallest mainline jet, the Ebraer 190 in the foreground, and its largest jet, the 777-300ER in the background, which would be following us to YVR an hour later.
After a quick, uninterrupted taxi, we were lined up and on our way. Especially from the front of the plane, it is truly impressive how quiet the 787 is, even on roll and during climb. Unfortunately, the location of the sun in front of us as we flew southwest made something of a blur of what could have been a nice shot of Toronto’s distinctive skyline.
Soon enough, though, we were turned around and headed west towards our destination in Vancouver.
And, of course, who can resist the opportunity to take a look backwards and get a shot of that big engine and the magnificent flex of the 787’s wing?
Surely not I.
The seatbelt signs were turned off very quickly after takeoff, and proper noise-cancelling headsets were provided.
Shortly after that, a hot towel was offered.
And tables were set for breakfast.
While their breakfast options are decent, this is not an area where Air Canada has really innovated very much in recent years. The starter, as usual, is a plate of sliced fruit, cinnamon or whole wheat bread, and some Greek yogurt. The cherry yogurt was a nice change from the more frequently seen plain yogurt. To accompany it, I grabbed an orange juice and a cup of coffee.
And onto the main course we go. Again, a bog-standard Air Canada business class breakfast omelet. That’s not a bad thing. On recent flights, they’ve mostly featured a sweet fruit salsa as the accompanying sauce, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the more savoury red pepper relish.
It was a satisfying breakfast, and a very familiar experience for the Air Canada frequent flier.
After breakfast, I settled back into the relax position, and put on Interstellar, which was a decent movie. With it over, it was time to check out the forward J lavatory. Because of its position behind the cockpit but ahead of door 1L, this isn’t exactly a fancy washroom. Unfortunately, no “loo with a view” like on many Air Canada widebodies.
It’s a simple lav, with only a few amenities to be had.
The only real decoration is this maple leaf pattern on the back wall, and an oversize mirror.
The lavs between Business and Premium Economy, located immediately aft of doors 2L and R, are pretty much the same setup, with just one minor difference.
It’s a long movie, so by the time its over and I’m back to my seat, we’re less than 90 minutes out Vancouver, flying over Calgary. The cabled remote control for the IFE can be used to display AirShow even while you watch something on the main screen, making it easy to keep track of the flight’s progress.
After breakfast, water was offered a few times, although not quite frequently enough to keep my glass topped up. But just as I’m thinking that I should get up and get a drink, I smell a familiar and most welcome aroma – nuts warming in the galley oven. Sure enough, a few minutes later, the service director appears with the drink cart, distributing a mix of warmed almonds and cashews, and taking drink orders. I request a Caesar, and am asked if I want a single or a double. I have a long flight ahead of me, so discretion is the better part of valour in this case, and I settle for a single.
This bar and nuts service usually precedes the meal on flights offering lunch and dinner on Air Canada, but on longer-haul breakfast flights, they do it post-meal. At the same time as the bar service, a flight attendant comes around with the “snack basket,” which includes Miss Vickie’s chips, and milk and dark chocolate bars from Lindt. I decline, since I’m not exactly wanting for food at this point – and besides, the very same snack basket is set up on the shelf ahead of 1G right next to me, so additional snackage is literally two steps away should I decide it’s important for my survival.
Bar service complete, I settle in and put on a documentary on Petra – although I’ve stayed away from the new release movies on recent flights, I’ve seen most of the interesting documentaries offered on the IFE on flights over the last few weeks. On the IFE systems on the newer Air Canada 777-300ERs, they offer fewer films on domestic flights than on international flights. I wonder if I’ll find an expanded selection when I settle in for the flight to Seoul?
We’re just starting over the Rockies, so the scenery out my windows is just starting to get interesting.
As the documentary winds up, we begin our descent in earnest. The crew first picks up garbage, glasses, and other service items, and then comes back to collect the noise-cancelling headset. Soon enough, it’s computers away, seats back to fully upright, and tables away, as the mountains give way to the BC coast.
We head past YVR and out over water, then make a 180-degree turn to head back to the airport coming east. We gently touch wheels to the ground, and this ride is just about coming to an end. Time to get ready for the long ride ahead.
We quickly taxi in to gate 51, and disembark through door 2L. Time just for a quick look back at my ride to Vancouver before I head off to find the YVR International Maple Leaf Lounge.
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Domestic
Toronto - YYZ
Vancouver - YVR
All-in-all, a perfectly fine domestic business class flight, made all the better by being on the 787. Air Canada has recently started charging a premium of $300 for paid business class on its domestic and transborder routes when the flight is on its internationally-configured A330, 767, 777, or 787, but at least for now, eUpgrade and redemption requirements remain the same. While not the largest widebody in the fleet, the 788 is actually the second-smallest widebody AC operates, it has become the airline's flagship, with the best hard product the airline offers in business class.
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