So 2008 begins with my revisit of Air Canada’s ultra-long haul flight from Hong Kong to Toronto and a new aircraft type for me – Boeing 777-200LR. Of course, my previous AC flight lowers my expectation significantly and even with that mindset, this trip is really disappointing! I have also come to the conclusion that in order to make the bottom line better and to install these new ExecutiveFirst suites, the price is severe cutback on the wine department and the food on board! The main meal is fine, but the wine selection is weak, and the F/As continue to sneak in the Korbel, sparkling wine, while asking for champagne. And yes, they serve Korbel as pre-takeoff beverage. So feel free to skip the so-called pre-takeoff champagne service! Save it for the better stuff after takeoff! F/As are attentive, but not overwhelmingly friendly! The Chinese F/As are not much better and for the first time, I actually find the Canadian F/As a bit friendlier and I find it rather upsetting that the Chinese F/As found times to flirt with the Caucasian male passengers, and then indifferent towards Asian passengers. As a fellow Chinese, I find it very disturbing. Of course, for a really new aircraft, these Executive First suites seem to break down often including my seats. In general, my AC flight was only average, and the catering definitely needs some enhancement especially the pre-arrival meal.
Air Canada uses Menzies as their ground agents but they all wear AC uniform. There are two Canadian supervisors at gate, so I assume those are AC own staff based in HK. There is a AC staff at check-in line directing various passengers to the correct line and there are four counters for elites and ExecutiveFirst passengers, and there was no wait, as the line was not too busy. The agent was friendly and immediately checked me in, but had problem with entering my BD information. I was apparently her first ever client, who uses a BD card, which she had never heard of and was unfamiliar with. At least she had the patience to find out more information about it!
Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-400 B-HOX (as CX 870 to SFO)/ B-HUD (as CX 882 to LAX)
Qatar Airways Airbus A340-600 A7-AGA
El Al Boeing 777-200ER 4X-ECD
Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER 9V-SWJ
Japan Airlines Boeing 747-400 JA8088 (New Color) to NRT
Japan Airlines Boeing 767-300ER JA608J
Lufthansa Airbus A340-300 D-AIGO from Munich
We have a choice of United Airlines’ Red Carpet Club or Thai Airways’ Royal Orchid Lounge. That is a no brainer and I went to TG’s Royal Orchid Lounge. Despite TG having two flights at that time period, the lounge was relatively quiet and I had a nice bowl of corn soup, as well as some dim sum and diet coke.
There were separate business and economy class lines, and a staff was at hand to reinforce the rules. Boarding began at 3:41pm and the loading was pretty heavy this evening with almost fully booked at J and Y. I believe J has one or two empty seats only. At each seat, there was a pillow, a duvet style blanket (no “sleeping bag”/mattress pad this afternoon), a bottle of Dasani water, and an amenity kit. F/As went around to hang jackets, and newspapers, such as Globe & Mail, National Post, Financial Times, and Ming Pao (Chinese), were available at the console in front of Row 1, and later passed around. Beverages, such as orange juice, Korbel sparkling wine, and water, were passed around.
Flying time was estimated to be fourteen hours and five minutes, but because of some holding at YYZ, extended to fourteen hours and fourteen minutes. The map function was still not working as of now (which really bothered me because I like to keep track on our locations and various flight facts), but thankfully the pilot gave us some information. We first climbed to 33,000feet before reaching to 35,000feet. Flight route took us from Hong Kong to Taipei, Southern part of Japan, Tokyo, and then towards Bering Sea, Anchorage, Northern Alberta, and then Ontario, city of Sault St. Marie and then Toronto.
Door was closed early at 4:11pm, but did not push back till 4:29pm. We took off from R/W7R at 4:44pm. Descent began at 6:23am (HK time)/5:23pm (YYZ local time), and we landed on R/W5 at 5:58pm, and parked at gate 173 at 6:11pm.
I have already reported on the Executive First suites on my last AC report on the NRT-YVR Boeing 767-300ERs. I have to say I like the layout on the 767 better and maybe it is a perception problem. I find looking out the window on the 767-300ERs a bit easier than the new 777s. I think it had to do with angle of the seats placed on the cabin. Anyhow, I got a good number of hours of sleep on the fully flat beds, despite I have to sleep on the sides. Sleeping face up is possible, but the limited width and the inability to push up the armrest made it not very comfortable on my arms. Despite no mattress pad and sleeping bag, the blue duvet is a bit longer and can cover my whole body, unlike the 763 white duvets.
However, these seats seem to break down so easily, and on my case, my seat was broke down twice. First, the seat would not move despite pressing various buttons many times. The Chinese F/A finally helped me out after her finishing taking meal order. I have to help her with latching the seat pad up. AC should use something simpler to help the F/As. Anyway, she manages to reconnect the seat control buttons with the seats, and I can move the seat to a more comfortable lounging position. Then a second problem surfaced, and my reading light would no longer turn off. It was a minor problem because I need the reading light for my meal pictures and reading obviously, as the side personal lamp really adopts a strange position. When I tried to read a newspaper with just that side personal light later in the flight when the overhead light was turned off, it was just difficult. Anyway, it was okay throughout the meal and when I went to bed, I just put on my eye-shades, which I always do anyway, and of course, the AC F/As were attentive or the light was bothering my neighbor at 5K, they turned off the light using the main panel. But when I woke up after a few hours and wanted to use the light, the side control panel just failed completely. I could not turn on the overhead light, change the volume on my headset, and use the F/A call button. When I asked a F/A later, she said that she could not do much and then just offered to reset the seat control on my seat and did not even seem to be apologetic at all. At the end, I could not read because the position of the side light and dark environment, and I watched some TV (thankfully the volume was set at a decent noise level) and then just went back to sleep. Of course, after sleeping for two hours, the F/As started to prep for breakfast, and the banging at the galley began. That is why I am not worried about missing breakfast because you can tell by the loud noises at the galley and smell of egg dishes.
But it is quite unacceptable for the seats to be already broken down so quickly. This plane is less than a year old and I cannot imagine how long will these seats last! Is anyone doing quality control here? Or are these seats design to last for a few years and the airlines will bring in a new seat then?
Another major problem – bathrooms – not the bathrooms themselves, but for a 40 something J cabin, two bathrooms are really insufficient! There is a line during busy pre-arrival times!
Beverage and Meal Service:
Compared to my YYZ-HKG flights many years ago and during the early Airbus A340-500 day, the meals and snacks are definitely not as good as before. All those individual table setup, canapé, separate salad and soup service, and Lindt’s chocolate services have all become history. Shortly after takeoff, beverage and mixed nuts began the dinner service, followed by appetizer (a choice of salmon or vegetarian appetizer, which is basically a salad), and then entrée, and then a simplified cheese board and grape and crackers service (no more fruit brochette), and then dessert and tea or coffee. A snack galley was set up after dinner, which include Roasted corn sticks, shrimp crackers, Lay’s chips, almond cookies, Milano cookies, kit kats, and Carlbury’s Time-out bars, as well as fruit basket with grapes, oranges, pears, bananas, apples, and strawberries. Snack on demand include noodle cups (chicken flavored), dim sum (shrimp dumpling, and mushroom/vegetarian dumpling – Har Gow and Vegetarian Fun Gao), sushi plate, and sandwiches. Two hours prior to arrival, breakfast was served, which was basically one tray service.
Wine list and Menu Transcript:
Featured Wine Selection
Guenoc Merlot 2004, California
Champagne Drappier Carte D’or Brut, France
La Fornarina Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy
Cev Colio Estate VQA Chardonnay, Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario, Canada
Chateau Moulin De Mallet, Bordeaux, France
Fabre-Montmayou “Prestige” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Dow’s Port 2000, Portugal
Smoked Salmon Roll with Vegetables and Remoulade Sauce with Chive
It was okay – nothing special!
Choice of Bread Rolls
Five Grains and Nuts rolls or Pretzel rolls
Szechuan Chili Wok-fried Chicken with steamed rice, steamed Bok Choy, Carrots, Baby Corn, and Chinese Mushroom
Pan-fried Pork Cutlet with Balsamic Sage Sauce, New Potatoes and roasted Root Vegetables
Sautéed Beef Tenderloin with Brown Bean Sauce, creamy Noodles, Yellow and Red Peppers, poached Bak Choy and Water Chestnuts
I had the beef entrée, which surprisingly tasty and the beef were quite tender. Not really a steak entrée, but shredded beef tenderloin with a tasty sauce. Really reminds me of beef straganoff in a fancy way! Noodles were not creamy though, which was actually good or else it would be too heavy. A passing entrée!
Gourmet Cheese with Crackers
Choice of three cheese (one kind more than before) – Goat cheese, Aged Cheddar, and a very light white cheese with Carr’s crackers and grapes
Or Mango, Apricot, and Raspberry Sorbet
Or Fresh Fruit
I had the cheesecake, which was okay with a strawberry compote and vanilla custard sauce.
777 Self-Serve Bar
On the 777, the mid-cabin self-serve bar will be open between meal services. Please feel free to help yourself to a variety of refreshments.
Sneak a Snack
Please help yourself to our fresh fruit basket.
A range of snacks is available at anytime throughout your flight: Dim Sum, Asian Noodle Bowl, Sandwiches and Sushi. Your flight attendant will be pleased to assist you.
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Watermelon, melon balls, pineapple, papaya, orange, and pink grapefruit
Herb Boursin Omelette with Hash-Brown Potatoes, sautéed Mushrooms and Spinach, baked Beans and Bacon tomato sauce
Stir-fried Rice Vermicelli with Bak Choy and Carrots
An okay Asian dish and shredded pork were added to the noodles… not a vegetarian dish!
Banana Pancakes with Vanilla Sauce, Sausage and Fruit Compote
Warmed Breakfast Pastries
Brioche or croissants
Assorted Yogurts and Cereals
Only offered as a fourth continental breakfast option… it should be offered to all passengers as a second course! AC needs to communicate better with the F/As! This is not an European flight!
The quality of dinner is actually not bad but the problem is more on the presentation, cutting of various courses, lack of variety, and the number of courses. For a 15 hours flight, the main meal service can be more spread out and canapés should be reintroduced, as well as after dinner chocolate. The snack galley is a nice concept, and the choices of snacks are abundant. The F/As were more than happy to offer you a variety of snacks throughout the flight. Drinks were available too at the mid-snack galley. Breakfast should be more spread out and I am sure that is why yogurts and cereals are offered, but the F/As obviously do not know about it and more interested in getting the breakfast service over with. On the westbound flight, a morning refreshment course with salad and dim sum was offered when I first flew the route. I am curious if it still exists, but anyhow the catering is okay, but I really miss the better quality and quantity in the past.
There is a mix of Chinese and Canadian flight attendants, and to give them credit, they are all okay especially in terms of North American airlines flight attendants. They look a bit tired but who can blame them considered that they only got twenty-four hours of rest in Hong Kong. I was not addressed by my name and the pursuer did not say his customary greeting to each elite and Star Gold members, in which the purser on my NRT-YVR flight did. My problem is more with the different attitudes expressed by the Asian-Chinese flight attendants on my flight, and it is quite obvious that they greet the Canadian passengers better than the Asian passengers. That is rather disturbing. I am not saying that they are not nice or rude to Asian passengers, but there is a subtle preference of them serving the Canadian passengers and they give them more attention or are more attentive. I also notice that the Asian/Chinese F/As hang out and talk among themselves, while the Canadian F/As talked among themselves. I almost feel like two separate groups of F/As are working, instead of a coordinated team. During their down time, it is obvious that the Canadian F/As hang out in the front galley, while the two Asian/Chinese F/As chatted among themselves in the mid-galley. Nothing wrong with it, but just an interesting sociological observation and may be interested to explore the separation and see if it reflects a similar phenomenon on modern Canadian society.
XM-equipped of course, but on demand audio and video functions, but I have only one problem – why the news, games, and map functions are still not working? The XM system has been installed for over a year, and yet the map, news, and game functions are still not installed, and there is just no excuse! Does anyone have any insight about why these programs are not installed? The map function seems pretty basic and even the more rudimentary system has the moving map display with or without personal TV system. The news function is also ridiculous because it seems the just another video channel, and the problem is perhaps the need to change the news channel every day or instead of every month, (but other airlines have no problem with), and the interactive game functions are also pretty simple these days.
The selection of television programs and movies is very good though. I think it is a good mix of the typical Hollywood stuff, with some unique Canadian programming and independent movies. But please install the map soon! I am almost dying without it!
My first international arrival experience at the Toronto’s terminal one is very positive, despite the long walk from the gate to the immigration area. We are parked at gate 174, the furthest possible. The immigration officer was pretty friendly, not as interrogative style as their counterpart at Vancouver International, and the bags came off within a reasonable period of time. My only problem is why Toronto airport has to charge arriving passengers $2 for each baggage cart (cheap comes to mind) and allowing a swarm of porters to hassle passengers to use their services ($10 + tips) for those who care. I don’t’ mind having the porter service, but have problem if they are allowed to solicit business in such aggressive manner. The new terminal one looks nice and modern, but these cheap baggage cart charges and the solicitation is just such a turnoff!
Air Canada’s new Boeing 777-200LR is definitely a better way to fly these ultra-long haul flights, and the new suites are nice. But the meals are relatively unimpressive and average at best, and the broken seat controls really bothered me much! I will continue to fly Air Canada, but it won’t be my number one choice!
I flew on AC 799 from YYZ to LAX the next afternoon and despite a seamless ground experience and a nice MLL experience (I love the hot soups for lunch), the onboard service was very disappointing. I am just shocked at the green plastic bowl used to hold the salad on a transcon flights, and the meal was actually the same as my last YVR-LAX flight, which is a shorter segment. Basically, an one-tray lunch service was served without even a separate dessert course. It is okay for a two hours and forty minutes from Vancouver to Los Angeles, but not so for a five hours Toronto to Los Angeles flight. Also the warmed cookies and ice cream service are gone and replaced by a snack basket. The new XM system is available, but the new J seats seem to have less legroom than before. I am just saddened that with all these new entertainment system, gadgets and new seats, catering really takes big hit left and right. I also know upgrading on AC flights is not as easy as the US airlines, but the monopoly that AC holds allows AC to do whatever it pleases. I like the new XM radio, but for a five hours flight, I don’t know if I am willing to sacrifice a nicer spread four course meals for a nicer entertainment system, but of course not fully operational yet.
Powercube From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 265 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (8 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 12306 times:
Hmm, after doing AC033/034(TRs posted of course) I can't agree with your conclusions more. Honestly, though, the food you received looks a little better in quality than the meals I was given. I would say AC's J specializes in being either slightly disappointing (033) or consistently average. Never once was I truly blown away by anything they have to offer. Great TR and better lav pics than I took :p
Edit: About the IFE, I would say the lack of News, Games, and Moving map are very annoying. It would also seem that on the 77W the XM radio is a crap-shoot, on 033 my XM worked, on 034 (when I needed it more) it was nowhere to be found. I would love for AC to have just a few more movies and TV shows.
to take it to even more obsessive heights, the model you can find on the 77W is the -115-B. IIRC AC uses the -110-B on the 77L with the take-off thrust-bump option, though some airlines (like EK and QR when they receive their Ls) put the 115 on both. the 11X series of GE-90s are exclusive to the HGW 77s, but the 90 can be anywhere, I.E CO's -224/ERs with 90-94-Bs.
Edit: Korbel! Are you serious! No wonder the pre-take off champagne I had on 033 tasted like a dying cat! Sorry I didn't comment on that earlier, I was in denial. I am changing my conclusion over in my TR- thank you!
ACFA From Canada, joined Feb 2007, 261 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (8 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 12084 times:
Have to agree with you about the division between chinese FAs and the rest of the crew. When I first worked the flight it reminded me of my high school which was mostly chinese, and they all segregated themselves from the rest of the school population.
CharlesMD From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 67 posts, RR: 2
Reply 6, posted (8 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 12000 times:
Wow Carfield, what a disappointing flight! The food does not look good at all and it's too bad the seat broke. Did you only chose AC to fly the new AC? Why not fly CX instead? I liked the picture of the aircraft engine and how it sticks out so far from the wing, reminds me of the 787 pictures. Happy New Year!
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 2120 posts, RR: 8
Reply 7, posted (8 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 11870 times:
I think I am disappointed because I had a really wonderful flight back in the pre-CX merger day and even during the Airbus A340-500s. I really missed the old AC, which there was competitions that forces the airline to improve and to strive for a better goal. Employees are more motivated and the food was just a bit better.
Yes, everything looked okay, but that is just these old magical touches that no longer exist, despite this can really apply to the whole industry in general.
About flying CX, that is even more frustrating... I really think CX is way over-priced and the new seats are not up to par (even compared to AC new J) and the meals are also not as good as before.
Anyway, I really want to fly 777-200LR and AC makes more economical sense for this particular itinerary. So I stick with it! I guess I am disappointed because I misses the old AC and think AC can strive to be a better carrier. I am not saying that it is bad, but is just sad to see things changed to a worst way.
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 2120 posts, RR: 8
Reply 9, posted (8 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 11811 times:
Similar herringbone design, but different seat companies... I believe...
The armrest can be raised on the CX seat completely, but on AC seats, the armrest can be pushed aside...
I think the padding is also different... the headrest on the AC seats can be adjusted electronically and include a lifted position, which is quite. The partition is also higher on the CX seats, and the AC partition seems a bit lower.
LACA773 From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 4222 posts, RR: 2
Reply 10, posted (8 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 11659 times:
Another great TR, Carfield. Thanks so much. I apreciate the compare & contrast you do from previous flights and experiences as it shows what's going on in regards to service amentities, up/downgrades to their inflight product.
My suggestion is to forward this TR to AC inflight management and see how they respond to you, especially since you paid the fare. It couldn't hurt to do so, and if enough passengers do so, they might make some changes.
I've flown AC several times as well and noticed the remarkable difference in the inflight product. It's quite sad. You can also see the remarkable changes on airlinemeals.net (I'm hoping they'll soon be updated but am not going to hold my breath) as time goes along and the intrduction of those plastic bowls in C/J which were used previously in Y.
CF-CPI From Canada, joined Nov 2000, 1399 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (8 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 11560 times:
Thank you Carfield for a great detailed report. In general the AC meals that are showing up in the trip reports lately look pretty sad by comparison to older days. The green plastic salad bowl is a joke. I am sure it is supposed to tie in with the minty green livery, but it ends up looking like a tupperware party!
My dad says that they used to serve Veuve Cliquot Brut back in the old days. How was the Drappier?
It sounds like you were lucky enough to sample both this 777LR and the A340-500. Would you care to comment on your relative impression of each aircraft?
BA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8743 posts, RR: 53
Reply 13, posted (8 years 3 months 3 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 11241 times:
Nice report and pictures, many thanks.
I really don't like the J Class seating layout on the new 777 fleet, not to my taste at all.
The whole sparkling wine thing is a disaster, AC should drop that and offer real Champagne, this is supposed to be a leading world airline, not some cheap wanna be.
The food too is unimpressive in presentation, what is with those nasty looking green bowls??!!
AC seem to be cutting the service and quality out of the airline, why on earth so so when the could create something special and steal passengers from US carriers who generally offer a poor service longhaul.
Powercube From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 265 posts, RR: 1
Reply 14, posted (8 years 3 months 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 11138 times:
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 13): AC seem to be cutting the service and quality out of the airline, why on earth so so when the could create something special and steal passengers from US carriers who generally offer a poor service longhaul.
They don't really compete on price either in J, it's something that has been bothering me since my most recent voyage with them. Much like how XM'ed 767s get a mattress and duvet, where 77Ws get a rather thin blue blanket. I think that because they offer AVOD (Not really on the levels of some of the leading system and still is largely unreliable), lie-flat seats by Contour, and a meal that you can eat and not find it overly terrible- they believe they are the best J in North America. It's like how my hometown refuses to acknowledge that the World's largest Mall is going to be in DXB soon- Canadian companies are the best because they cannot see there is anything better.
LACA773 From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 4222 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (8 years 3 months 3 weeks 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 10174 times:
The food does look horrible, and unacceptable for J class. The meal service YYZ-LAX looks inedible. Absolutely horrible. They should be ashamed of theirselves. FYI you guys and gals, like I wrote in my first posting on this thread, those plastic bowls used to be in Y for the salad and fruit (check out airlinemeals.net). It's hard to believe their cutbacks are this bad. They probably think customers don't notice that.
I think, with my recent experience on AC033, everyone in the J cabin noticed. I forgot to post this in my TR, but since this one is getting the debate. Would you like to know what desert was on AC033? You guessed it, three tiny Lindt truffles! (The kind you find at a drug store). If it it wasn't a lie-flat seat, I'd say it was more of a Y+. I wish Canada had another national airline that offered FF points.