We spent 2 days in Boston which was colder than New York (at about 5 to 9 Celcius) but without any rain. Boston was a completely different city than what New York is. It was more scenic, idyllic and not as intense with less people movement (probably it was a Sunday). Although I was not feeling too well (due to flare up of my Allergic Rhinitis), we had a fun day on the Duck Tour.
We also enjoyed a good bowl of clam chowder and lobster at the Union Oyster House and more lobster at a friend’s place (my wife’s friend to be exact). Thanks TM and family for hosting us and whipping up an excellent dinner!
Now, back to my flight. My experience with Air Canada had been far from pleasant. I booked the tickets in August 2015 and I paid for the preferred seat 12A and 12C. I was subsequently informed of a change of timing (from 1:05pm to 12:50pm) through and email and to my surprise, my seat was reassigned to 12F and 13A! I tried to change it back but I was not even able to do any seat selection online! I called Air Canada Singapore and I was told that my original seats 12A and 12C were already taken. They were unsure what had happened although they suggested that it might have been due to aircraft change (which was unlikely as the plane remained as ERJ-175). My e-mail to Air Canada was similarly left unanswered. I decided to let the matter rest as the flight was only 2 hours.
I checked in online on the Air Canada website and was offered an upgrade to Business Class at USD $179. This was tempting as I was worried about my luggage weight (which was about 25kg). The baggage fee for USA/Canada flight was USD $25 for the first luggage (up to 23kg) and USD $75 for oversized baggage! After much thought, I decided to go ahead with the upgrade. I was assigned seats 3C and 3D.
Our flight to Toronto was at 12:50pm from Logan International Airport. One advantage about Logan is that it is within the city perimeter. It can be accessed easily by cab, train or even water taxi! We took a cab at about 10am and we reached the airport in about 20 minutes. The cab dropped us off at Terminal B, which is used mainly by American, United and Air Canada. The ride cost us about $28 (including gratuities).
Once again, we had to print our boarding pass (and baggage tags) on the self-check in machine. I printed the boarding passes but not the baggage tags as I had the impression that the tags can be printed by the baggage check in agent. I guess I was wrong when they told me that I had to do it myself at the machine. No special privilege for Business Class pax I guess. So off I went to the machine again to print the baggage tag (thankfully, it wasn’t a busy morning). Once done, I brought my baggage to the baggage check in counter again to drop my luggage. There was a Star Alliance priority line available for the baggage drop.
Logan Terminal B is rather strange as not all gates are connected. Air Canada uses gates B1 to B3. I made the mistake thinking that all gates were connected, hence I proceeded to go through the security screening (as my flight was to depart from gate B2). Once inside, I realized that the gates were isolated from the rest! There was no way for me to go to the lounge (which happened to be United Club as Air Canada does not operate a lounge in Logan. It was located on the other end of Terminal B). Thankfully, I was able to exit back to the common area through a side gate. After exiting, we made our way to the United departure area and once again we had to go through the TSA screening to get to the other gates (used mainly by American and United).
After round 2 security check, we walked for another 10 minutes before we finally reached United Club. For some reason, we were denied access to United Club. I was told that the access was limited only to Business Class passengers with onward connection to an international Business Class flight. I wanted to query further on the access policy but decided against it as it was already 11:45am. In the past, Priority Pass cardholders had access to United Club. It was no longer the case as United Club terminated its partnership with Priority Pass a few months ago. The only Priority Pass Lounge available in Logan was Air France Lounge and that was in Terminal E. After all the futile walking to get to the lounge, we had to make our way back to Gate B2 again. It took us another 10 minutes of walk and we had to go through the security check for the 3rd time to get back to gate B2. By the time we got back to B2, it was about 12:05 pm and it was only 20 minutes away from boarding. This was quite a ‘fruitful’ way to kill time.
At 12:25pm, boarding commenced. Air Canada had 2 boarding Zone, 1 for general boarding and 1 for priority boarding (for Business Class passengers and Star Alliance tiered customers).
Date: 16 November 2015
Plane: Embraer ERJ-175
Photo taken: iPhone 6+
Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes (12:55pm to 2:45pm)
My plane for this flight is an Embraer E-175 with 9 Business Class seats in a 1-2 configuration and 64 Economy Class seats in a 2-2 configuration (of which 20 were preferred seats in the first 5 rows of Economy Class). Business Class seat had a pitch of 38” with a width of 20” (slightly better than Delta’s domestic first) while Economy Class was 32” with a width of 18” (35” for preferred seats). Overall, ERJ-175’s interior looked much bigger than that of CRJ-900. My seats, 3C/3D however, had a very limited recline (hence to avoid row 3).
Unlike CRJ-900, I was able to bring my Tumi onboard and store it on the overhead bin (which was much more spacious than that of CRJ-900). After settling down on our seats, we were offered pre-departure beverage and some snacks (nuts). We were able to use the built-in entertainment system immediately and ear buds were provided at the seat (yes, ear buds for Business Class!). The quality of these buds were abysmal!
Everyone settled in quite soon and the plane was full. Soon, push back started and we were on our way. The usual routine of safety demonstration was held (while I was watching Spy). The plane took off without any delay and very soon we were up in the air. Once the curtain separating the cabins were drawn, the front cabin attendant provided another round of beverages. Although we had no lunch (thanks to the denial of access into United Club), we had a heavy breakfast in the Boston Club Intercontinental Lounge.
About 30 minutes after we took off, light snack was provided. It consisted of some grapes, a small salad (with no dressing), 3 pieces of cheese, one pack of crackers and nuts. I took it with a glass of red. The cheese was surprisingly good (at least for my taste bud). My wife wasn’t too fond of cheese, so I managed to eat all of hers.
The entertainment screen on ERJ-175 Business Class was an 8” touch screen monitor. There was no separate controller hence all control was done through the fingers on the screen. The selection wasn’t big but was more than adequate for a short 2 hours flight (I could not even finish my movie!). The touchscreen was rather insensitive and was laggy.
Soon, the plane started descending into Toronto Pearson Airport and we landed at about 2:30pm after an uneventful flight (making the total flight time to be just 1 hour 40 minutes). As usual, we get to disembark first. We got through the immigration in less than 10 minutes and probably another 2-3 minutes for our baggage and we were at the taxi queue slightly before 3pm. There was a short queue at the taxi stand but we waited for no more than 10 minutes for our cab. The journey from Pearson to Downtown Toronto took about 50 minutes (with smooth traffic) and cost CAD $55 (before gratuities).
Comparing ERJ-175 to CRJ-900, I would say that ERJ-175 seemed more spacious and more comfortable.
Was the upgrade worth it at USD $179?
- If you have oversized baggage (or more than 1 luggage per person) – YES
- If you are an aviation enthusiast and want to try it out? – YES (the original cost of the ticket was almost CAD $900!)
- If you travel lightly and have minimal luggage? – NO
- Domestic J seats are quite comfortable for short haul flight (anything sub 3 hours) – however do avoid row 3 as it has limited recline
Total cost: CAD $180 (for the original ticket) + USD $179 (for the upgrade fee) = SGD $464 per pax
*assuming CAD $1 = SGD $1.1 and USD $1 = SGD $1.49
Total distance flown: 718 km
*update – I have checked on flyertalk.com – seems like I was unfairly denied an entry into United Club. Shall see what is Air Canada’s reply is.