Part 4 – AC 791 Transcontinental Business Class (YYZ-LAX)

Canada was fun but a little hectic. 3 nights in 3 different locations:

  • Toronto
  • Niagara Falls
  • Missisauga (Pearson International Airport)

We were quite lucky that the both days we were in Toronto and Niagara Falls, the temperatures were higher than that of Boston! The day we left Toronto for Niagara Falls, Toronto was enveloped in thick fog while for Niagara, it started to rain. Thanks to a clear weather, we had a magnificent 360 degree view of Toronto from CN Tower (where we had our dinner). A sunny noon in Niagara gave us opportunity for photo taking of the falls and the weather held up the following morning to allow us to enjoy Hornblower Cruise. The good weather we had in Niagara allowed us a magnificent view of the falls from our hotel, Sheraton On The Falls. Not long after we left Niagara, it started to rain pretty heavily.

 

We stayed overnight in Pearson due to our 8am flight the following day. For Krisflyer redemption on Air Canada’s YYZ-LAX flight, I only have option for the 8:00am flight. Fortunately, Air Canada started operating the 8am flight using a 767-300ER which uses their international Business Class lie-flat seats (a service they started since 25 March this year and is available on selected transcontinental routes only). I had the option of either Sheraton Gateway or ALT Hotel. Sheraton was conveniently located next to Terminal 3 (and it was accessible via a skybridge) while ALT Hotel is located next to Viscount Station (the last stop for the Pearson Monorail). ALT Hotel was not connected to the station and therfore no covered walkway. Luckily, the heavy rain was reduced to a mere drizzle by the time we reached Pearson. I went to bed at 8:30 pm so that I could wake up at 4:30 am the next day. As my tickets were Star Alliance award partner ticket, I was not able to do online check in and neither could I do counter check in (as counter check in could only be done 12 hours before departure). I decided to go to bed earlier and do the check in tomorrow morning instead.

 

We woke up at 4:30 am the next day and we got to the check in counter by 5:30am. Air Canada had a separate priority check in counter for their premium passengers and Star Alliance tiered passengers. Pearson was noticeably busy at 5am as there were many flights (mainly Transamerican flights) departing Pearson in the morning. Air Canada has flights to San Francisco and Vancouver at the same time as my flight to Los Angeles. Despite that, it took me only 10 minutes for me to settle my check in. Boarding passes were issued and luggage weighed. The one difference however, was that we did not get to drop our luggage at the check in counter. We had to go through US Customs pre-clearance first before we could drop our luggage. This arrangement was only meant for those travelling into USA and not for those on international flights.

IMG_5467
Boarding Pass

 

Due to the difference in immigration clearance, passengers going into USA had a different entry point into the transit area than those travelling to international destinations. We had to go through an automated customs clearance machine (which in my opinion was quite hard to use). The machine was meant to separate passengers into 2 queue (those who don’t need a more stringent immigration check vs. those who need). Unfortunately, we ended up in the latter. We waited for about 30 to 40 minutes to clear the US Border Control. We were on the verge of giving up on trying out Maple Leaf Lounge. Thankfully, Pearson had a priority security lane. After clearing US immigration, we were then able to drop our check in luggage before going through security check. The security check in Pearson was no different than those we encountered in JFK and Logan. However, we were not allowed to bring our heat pack on board in our carry on (surprisingly, we had no issue on our flights from JFK and Logan). Not wanting to create problem, I duly discarded them in the bin. We got through the security at abt 6:45 am. As we still had a little time (boarding were to commence at 7:20 am), we decided to try out the lounge. We took the elevator 1 level up and it opened straight into Maple Leaf Lounge.

Maple Leaf Lounge in Toronto was big and spacious. This was not unexpected as Toronto is one of Air Canada’s hub (and a major airport). The lounge was quite busy as Air Canada had many transcontinental flight departing in the morning. Nevertheless, we had no problem in getting a seat. The breakfast spread in morning was rather limited – with toasts and pastries, fruits and salad. There was no hot food at all. The one feature I liked about the lounge was the coffee machine. It dispensed a variety of coffee (regular and decaf) and you get to see how the coffee was prepared in the machine. The lounge provided a very good view for plane enthusiast and should provide a lot of natural lighting during day time. When we were there, it was still pretty dark (made worse by a cloudy and rainy day).

 

We spent about 30 minutes in the lounge before going to our gate. We reached the gate at 7:30 am where boarding had just commenced. There were 2 zones for boarding, one for priority (Premium Class passengers and tiered Star Alliance members) and one for regular. There was no queue at the priority line and we got on board without any waiting.

IMG_5469
Separate prioirty boarding area

 

Date : 19 November 2015

Flight : AC791

Plane : Boeing 767-300 ER (C-GSCA)

Photo taken : iPhone 6+

Seats : 6F/6K

Duration : 5 hours 25 minutes

Once again, Air Canada screwed up my seating arrangement. I pre-booked 2A and 3A when I booked my tickets through the Krisflyer agent (and this was confirmed on my Singapore Airlines iPhone app). However, I was assigned 6F and 6K during check in and I could no longer change my seats as the J cabin was full (all 24 seats were taken).

Business Class seats in Boeing 767-300ER was arranged in a 1-1-1 configuration (using the Herringbone layout). It was not easy for us to talk across the aisle without disturbing the other passengers. Although it wasn’t a big issue, this was the second time (out of two flights) Air Canada had screwed up booking.

Nevertheless, North American Krisflyer redemption on Star Alliance Partner remained one of the sweet spot of Krisflyer partner award (especially on transcontinental flights). At 20,000 miles one way for Business Class, this is definitely a good redemption (United charges 25,000 one way on Mileage Plus). The downside however, was the limited availability. United p.s. woud be another good redemption (but even more limited availability). One worry I had prior to flying was an equipment downgrade. From my tracking on Flightradar 24, this flight had equipment downgrade (to A320/A321) a few times over the last 2 weeks. Thankfully, we got to fly on the 767. This was only the third time I have ever taken a 767 (my 2 previous experience was on a Royal Brunei and Air New Zealand), but my first in the front cabin.

IMG_5470
C-GSCA, our 24 year old bird for the day

The C-GSCA we took was a 24 year old plane which first flew in 1991. As mentioned earlier, the Business Class cabin was arranged in a 1-1-1 configuration using a Herringbone arrangement. This allowed a longer pitch for each seat with very good privacy. The drawback was that looking out the window would be much harder. Row A would be a good choice for single traveler as it offered even more privacy. Those seated in row A will face a wall (which is the back of row F). Passengers in row F will come to face those in row K. There were a total of 24 Business Class seats and we had a full cabin that morning. Boarding of all passengers (both J and Y) was done from door 1L. As a result, the aisle got a little busy as everyone would go through the Business Class cabin (hence less photo opportunities). We also got many remarks from Economy Class passengers who went “wow” as they walked past. The seats are indeed different from those served on A320/A321 (similar to those on ERJ-175 which I took to Toronto). The seats on the 767 were Classic Pods (as opposed to Studio Pods found on the newer 777 and 787). The seat offered a pitch of 70” (75” in bed configuration) with a width of 20.4”. There were no Premium Economy in 767 while the Economy cabin was configured in 2-3-2 (similar to other 767s). The seat was very comfortable except for the lack of a lumbar support. This could be a problem in sitting and lounging position. Putting a pillow at the back however solved the problem. There is an ottoman that can be used as foot rest (or as a companion seat during flight). When the seat was in flat position, the ottoman formed part of the bed. Although narrow, sleeping in the classic pod was actually very comfortable. The presence of walls on both sides of the seat made me felt more “secure” during sleep. Those with claustrophobia may not like this seat though.

 

The seats came equipped with a few seat control option ranging from chair recline, leg rest incline and headrest position. There were also 2 buttons that functioned as one-touch button for upright mode and flat mode. Each of us had one pillow and one nice blanket. A pillow to the back is a must for lumbar support and it would be nice to have one for the head. Thankfully, many passengers ‘discarded’ theirs into the overhead bin as it was a morning flight. I was more than happy to take over these unwanted pillows J .

 

Each seat came with a 12” retractable touch screen TV (similar to that of the ERJ-175 but with more varieties). The size of the TV was way smaller than Air Canada’s competitors. However with the distance of the TV from the seat, the size was just nice. There was a magazine rack on the right and a headphone hanger on the left. The headphone, deserved a special mention. It was a noice cancellation headphone (quite comfortable with adequate sound isolation, but not as good as the Bose provided by Singapore Airlines) that was hardwired to the seat (hence not detachable). There were overhead lamps as well as seat lamps. Overhead bins were however quite small (compared to newer planes) but I managed to fit my backpack and my TUMI Vapor nicely. Each seat has a USB port and AC adapter (but both were very well hidden).

 

Once everyone were seated, we were offered pre-departure beverages. Only water and juices were offered on the ground. The crew also distributed the menu and took our breakfast order. We did not leave the gate until 8:40 am as the captain informed us over the PA that they needed to test the engines as one of the engine had given some problems earlier. Thankfully it was nothing major and the engines did not shut down over North Dakota :P.

 

With the engine issue rectified, we were soon on our way. After taxiing onto the runway, the plane went into full thrust and took off smoothly. Once in cruising altitude, the crew began preparing for breakfast service and in the meantime, offered us more beverages. The entertainment system was made available from gate to gate. Just like its counterpart on my previous flight, the touch screen was not very sensitive and laggy. However, the 767 had a manual remote which could be used for those who were not comfortable with the touchscreen.

 

Breakfast consisted of only 3 options. Both my wife and I chose the first option, omelette with chicken sausage. The table was set up nicely for meal and soon I was presented with the first course – comprising a plate of fresh fruits, bread from the bakery basket and a yoghurt. The fruits were OK and the bread was fine too. Next came the main. It wasn’t very well presented (for Business Class) but thankfully it didn’t taste as bad as it looked. However, I would say a Singapore Airlines Economy class meal would have be on par with what I had that morning. I ended my breakfast with a cup of coffee.

 

After breakfast, I had a movie before I decided to take a nap (I felt tired from waking up at 430am carrying 2 luggage weighing more than 25kg each and waiting for 40 minutes for immigration check). Cabin light was slowly dimmed for passengers to rest. I only managed to sleep for less than an hour. I decided to catch some movies and I managed to catch Pixels and Mission Impossible 5. Throughout the flight, we were constantly offered beverages (soft drinks, juices and both still and sparkling water) along with chips, chocolates and nuts.

 

Soon, we were reaching Los Angeles and the plane began its descent. Cabin lights came up and the crew were busy preparing for landing. Despite the 40 minutes delay, we were on course to reach Los Angeles only 15 minutes behind schedule. More importantly, the engine did not gave us any trouble and other than some slight turbulence, we had a very pleasant and smooth ride. The plane landed smoothly at Los Angeles International Airport and we made our way towards the baggage area. Los Angeles airport was quite busy that morning with a visibly long queue along the security area (possibly in response to the recent threat made against New York City). As we had already cleared immigration in Toronto itself, we only need to collect our baggage before making our way to the cab queue. We got our luggage in less than 5 minutes after the conveyer belt started to move and there were no queue at the cab stand. It took us about 30 minutes to reach downtown LA at a cost of $46.50 excluding surcharges and gratuities (flat fare). We felt quite warm as we went from a single digit temperature in Toronto to a high 28 Celcius in Los Angeles. Sun, sand and sea, here we come!

Tips :

  • North American redemption using Krisflyer is a sweet spot (20,000 miles for one way Business Class)
  • Aim for Air Canada’s transcontinental using International Business Class seat or United’s p.s cabin (but limited availability)
  • Tickets cannot be redeemed online.  Call in to Krisflyer’s hotline
  • Single traveller should aim for Row A
  • For those going into USA, try to give at least 2.5 – 3 hours for check in and USA pre-clearance (longer if taking Economy class without Global Entry / Nexus)
  • For those who are used to premium service from Asia based airlines, do lower your expectations of cabin service (Air Canada is far from from Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines)

 

Total miles burnt – 40,000 miles burnt (for 2 pax)

Total Surcharges spent – SGD $246

Total distance flown – 3,500 km (about 5 hours 20 minutes)

 

 

 

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