Zonks From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 166 posts, RR: 0 Posted (4 years 8 months 2 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 25258 times:
28 February 2009, Saturday Air Canada 8118
Portland International (PDX) 10:20 Vancouver International (YVR) 11:24
Bombardier Dash 8-300
C-GETA at PDX
Since my last trip, there have been some major changes in my life. I decided to chuck in my job that left me overworked and unhappy and headed back to university to finish up the degree I still hadn't finish after... oh, a decade or so since I enrolled! Of course, late February and early March is still a time that school is in session and the only reason I ended up on this trip was to head home to Hong Kong to attend the funeral of my great grandmother (my father's grandmother). She was quite old, around 115 years old so it wasn't unexpected but nonetheless, it was still with a heavy heart that I headed home to Hong Kong for the first time in two and a half years.
I initially wanted to go back for less than a week but all of the tickets were too expensive if I chose to stay less than a week. I eventually settled on a US $860 fare on Air Canada, connecting through YVR. NW was also an option with a connection in NRT but I wanted to avoid their poor food if possible. Not to mention that the prospect of arriving at HKG at around 10pm didn't really appeal to me.
I was dropped off at PDX around 8:45am by a friend and my girlfriend and headed over to the UA counters with my one bag to check in. At PDX, UA handles the check in process for all AC flights. The line was long but moved quickly, although there were some people who were a bit slow with the EasyCheck-in machines. I don't fault them for that but there weren't enough UA staff to help people who needed assistance. I eventually made my way to an EasyCheck-in machine but had problems locating my reservation. I first tried scanning my passport, then entering my Mileage Plus number, and then the actual Mileage Plus card. After that didn't work, a credit card (Mileage Plus branded to boot!) didn't work and I eventually had to dig up the confirmation number off of my iPod Touch in order to pull up the reservation. I waited for a minute or two for an agent to take a look at my passport and tag my bags and after that it was across the hall to drop off my bag at the x-ray machine.
At PDX, AC operates out of the E concourse, which they share with UA. I suppose share is a bit generous. Basically, AC only operates out of gate E6, which is located below the rest of the concourse. It's a holding room for various commuter flights that require one to walk to their plane. Since AC only schedules Dash 8s into PDX, they only operate out of this gate.
With this in mind, I proceeded through the security checkpoint located just outside of concourses D & E. It was a pretty quiet at PDX on a Saturday morning, so security was a breeze. The E concourse hadn't changed much since I was last there (probably last April to catch a UA PDX - IAD flight), although I did notice that the Laurelwood Brewpub was now open. As much as I love beer (and Laurelwood is pretty good), I felt a bit odd going there for breakfast. Since I had time to kill, I walked down to the D concourse which was a bit busier. I passed on the food options once again, partly because my stomach wasn't feeling too well. I did, however, go to Powell's Books and told myself that if they had anything by Anthony Bourdain, I'd buy it. Lo and behold, they had a copy of his writing compilation, The Nasty Bits, which I gladly purchased.
Current advertising campaign to encourage people to fly directly from PDX to NRT, FRA or AMS. Sorry, not this time!
LH advertisement at PDX. Of course the gentleman in the picture is happy, he's got an empty seat next to him!
As much as I enjoy the old font, someone should probably update this
Well, at least these are new
N590HA leaving for OGG or HNL
N589AS pulling out of a gate at the C concourse
Too early for a beer...
I eventually made my way to gate E6, which was packed as multiple flights leave from this gate, including a United Express flight to LAX that's operated on a CRJ. I felt bad for all of those people and sort of wondered why they would subject themselves to that. Our flight was delayed as our plane hadn't arrived from YVR and while my notes mention that we only left ten minutes after our scheduled departure time of 10:10, it certainly felt longer than that. Once the plane arrived from YVR and all the passengers were offloaded, it was a quick turn and soon I was walking out to the plane that would take us to YVR, C-GETA, a Dash 8-300 that's been flying for almost twenty years.
Crowded gate E6, although this is before it got really bad. I absolutely abhor this gate
Covered walkway leading to our plane
Closer look at the fuselage of C-GETA
Boarding was pretty quick with the flight attendant taking a look at our boarding passes to confirm whether or not we could sit in our assigned seats due to her need to balance out the plane. I ended up seated next to a gentleman in 6C but since the plane was only about half full, I was given permission to move up to 5A. Soon after, the recorded safety announcement came on and we taxied past the D & E concourses before making a 180 degree turn onto runway 10L and taking off. When off the ground, we quickly made a left turn to head north towards YVR by way of the state of Washington.
Not much to note on this flight. The service, as expected, was minimal and involved a snack & beverage run. I declined both and thumbed through the inflight magazine, EnRoute, and spent my time staring out the window. It was cloudy from about Kelso to the southern fringes of Seattle but once over Seattle, I could make out downtown and the Space Needle. Eventually we headed a little west, flying over the lovely San Juan islands and we approached the Lower Mainland. We made a left over Delta, near the Alex Fraser Bridge and then made a simple approach onto runway 26R. We didn't taxi long and soon found ourselves at the Transborder gates allocated for smaller commuter planes.
KPDX overview on a typically cloudy Pacific Northwest day
Propelling us towards Canada
Overflying Ballard, a cool Seattle neighbourhood located north of downtown
Flying over some of the San Juan Islands
Alex Fraser Bridge in Delta, British Columbia
I hadn't been in YVR for a little over five years and had forgotten how long of a walk it is from where my plane had parked to where Canadian immigration was located. After quite a long walk, I arrived at a seemingly deserted Canadian immigration post. This obviously was not a busy time of the day for Transborder traffic to connect to other international traffic but the sense of desertion was only enhanced by the fact that YVR seems to rely on natural light. Where I was and on this day, there wasn't too much of it so it made everything seem a bit dark. The immigration official was very nice and we had a nice chat about grandparents and great grandparents, along with what courses I was taking at university. He also asked when the last time I was in Vancouver was, which was about four years ago, although that was a land crossing. I was waved through and then proceeded down the escalators to the International concourse of YVR.
Pictures at YVR during my layover Shops at the International Terminal
Stream located in the International Terminal. Very nice touch
Large fish tank, which can be seen from further away in the picture above
Electronic departure FIDS. Also, a seven hour delay to start off your Mexican vacation doesn't seem like fun at all
Corridor at YVR
Poutine from the A&W. It was pretty good considering it was fast food and, you know, not in Quebec. For those of you not in the know, Poutine are fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. Good stuff that keeps a lot of doctors employed in Quebec!
28 February 2009, Saturday Air Canada 7
Vancouver International (YVR) 13:10
Hong Kong International (HKG)[/b] 18:45 +1
C-FIVQ at YVR
My layover at YVR was not long at all and was actually the right amount of time. Enough time to not feel rushed and to be able to grab a bite and wander around. It seemed like at this hour there were a bank of flights leaving for various East Asian destinations. I was a little perplexed as to why two alliance partners, CA & AC would operate flights to PEK at pretty much the same time. Oh well, after all they're the professionals, not me.
Gate 54 at YVR
Children's play area next to gate 54
CA A330 for PEK
Another view of C-FIVQ
Boarding was nothing remarkable and was called by rows, working their way from the back to the front of the economy cabin. I was seated in 22H on the aisle and initially only a young woman occupied the window seat, leaving the middle seat free. However, in front of us was a mother and her small child and behind us, the grandparents. The young lady ended up switching with the grandparents before the cabin door closed, so I did end up with people next to me. The cabin seemed to be in a good mood as everyone seemed to speak Cantonese and was helping each other out in terms of storing things in the overhead bins. I don't believe we had a 100% load factor but it was very close. Considering the economy and the fact that it was early March (post Chinese New Year and pre spring break), I thought that AC should be happy with this. Then again, who knows what their yield on today's flight would be.
Down the jetway
I should also mention that this was my first time on a 777-300 and boy, she was a very beautiful plane. This was one of the reasons I elected to connect through YVR (and a subsequent five hour layover on the way back) as opposed to fly through NRT on NW. I noticed how little the sides of the plane seemed to curve and how the bins barely seemed to be there. C-FIVQ had her first flight in late November, so she was still a very new plane.
Mood lighting on the 77W
The safety demonstration was given through the IFE and all announcements were made first in English, then French, Cantonese and Mandarin. Cabin crew seemed to be a fifty fifty mix of Chinese flight attendants and your Caucasian Canadian crew. Take off was completed on 26L and soon I settled in for a long ride over to HKG.
IFE during a pre departure cabin announcement. Note the USB port on the left
Power port which didn't work, of course/
Anyone would frequents a.net is pretty aware of AC's endless IFE issues. Mainly, there are complaints that it is slow and responsive. In addition to that, there are endless complaints about the moving map not working. A bit embarrassing to a company which touted its XMed planes with so much fanfare. To me, every thing seemed fine during the safety demonstration but once the system was switched on and I tried to see what television programs were available, I got this screen:
Unfortunately, I had this screen in front of me for the next thirteen hours of my life. My biggest complaint wasn't even that the system couldn't work but since, as I found out on my HKG - YVR flight, turning off the screen involved an onscreen command, I could not even turn the darn thing off. Very annoying, especially when the cabin is dark and I'm trying to sleep.
I'm not one of those who cares about the IFE one way or another, although with all things being equal, I'd rather fly on a carrier that has it but it's not a deal breaker for me. Instead, I had my alternative IFE:
A good book, Anthony Bourdain's "The Nasty Bits" and some red wine
I also had the company of a couple magazines I bought at YVR (Maclean's, Sports Illustrated's commemorative Montreal Canadiens centennial issue and The Hockey News' commemorative Montreal Canadiens centennial issue), along with peering out the windows located near the bathroom.
During the first beverage run, which took place not long after we reached cruising altitude, I mentioned to a flight attendant in Cantonese that I was having issues with my IFE and if she could come take a look at it when they weren't so busy. She came back by after the meal service and said that since only isolated seats were having an issue, they couldn't reboot the whole system. She mentioned that there were a couple of empty seats and that I was free to switch seats if I wanted to. I declined as I didn't want to end up in a middle seat for the remaining eleven and a half hours or so. They also made an announcement at some point about the system but nothing was ever resolved.
Red wine from the initial beverage run
For the first meal service I had the chicken, which turned out to be chicken in a red sauce on top of Orzo. Of course, as with all North American carriers now, there was no menu on an intercontinental flight. Tsk tsk. This bothers me to no end because you have no idea what you're getting until you peel the foil off. Accompanying the main was a beet salad and a berry cobbler. After that, I killed time reading and occasionally wandered around the plane.
The second meal came around six hours later and consisted of roast beef, potatoes and vegetables, along with a fruit cup. The food was somewhere between good and okay and definitely better than NW's PDX - AMS catering. Blech. Finally, a snack was provided four and half hours later (or about an hour and a half before arrival) of a meat, cucumber and some cream spread sandwich, a small bag of apple slices and then a curry chicken Cup Noodle. I would say that cabin crew was alright about making water runs. Nothing amazing but they also didn't all just hide in the galley for the rest of the flight.
Snack, although without the Cup Noodles that came later
I should also mention that I ended up helping the grandfather next to me with the IFE, partially because his English wasn't very good and couldn't really navigate the system. It's a bit odd to me that there's no options to run it in any language besides English and French. He also wasn't given headphones when a flight attendant came around with those prior to takeoff, so I handed him mine since I wasn't using it. You know, since I didn't have an IFE. At some point the grandparents busted out a bag of chocolate chip cookies and insisted that I take two or three, which I thought was awfully nice of them. About an hour before landed, I also ended up talking for awhile with the gentleman directly behind me. We talked about Portland and Winnipeg, which was where he usually resided. Once again, a nice mood in the cabin probably partially due to the fact that we were all looking forward to returning home to Hong Kong.
We approached HKG by flying south of Hong Kong Island and then making a right to line up with 07L on the northern coast of Lantau. We were greeted by a dark and cloudy HKG and taxied for awhile to gate.
My impressions of the 777-300ER were very positive and I loved the plane. I can't wait to be on another one again. AC was alright and outside of the IFE failing, the crew were fine, as was the food. I'd probably fly them over any of the American carriers, at least if I'm travelling from PDX to any point in East Asia.
I should also mention that I did do the reverse HKG - YVR - PDX six days after I arrived in HKG. Unfortunately, I was running a fever and other fun stuff during the flight, so I didn't take any pictures or for that matter, really enjoy AC's service. The IFE worked and I utilised it a bit. The food was decent but I have no recollection of two of the services. However, the congee (rice porridge) served prior to landing was exactly what I wanted and needed. Cabin crew was good about getting me hot water when I went to ask for some in the galley (for my Lemsips) and my seat mate (a nice man from Drayton Valley, Alberta) and I chatted for awhile.
HKG pictures (on three separate occasions over six days) Arrivals Hall A
Leading to the buses
Do you know the way to Terminal 2?
HKG ceiling pattern
Main terminal building, airside
C-FITW operating as AC8 HKG - YVR
MF 737-800, a rare sight for this Portland resident
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 2, posted (4 years 8 months 2 weeks 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 24659 times:
Not bad, not bad at all. It seems as if AC do keep their passengers well fed. On the basic IFE systems alone, they are already having problems running it so I don't think you will see other language options being added in for now. Those Chinese FAs you mentioned, were they based out of HKG or YVR?
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1803 posts, RR: 9 Reply 3, posted (4 years 8 months 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 23781 times:
Thanks for the report!
it is interesting to note that Air Canada has followed Korean Airlines' service procedure to westbound trans-Pacific service. Serve lunch after takeoff, dinner midflight, and snack prior to landing. Traditionally (except Korean Air and Asiana) they serve the main meal after takeoff, and another light meal prior to landing, and have snack on demand in between.
I agree... Vancouver is a nice transit point for Pacific NW. Air Canada is better than most American carriers, although AC service seems to be heading down rather than improving... but still AC seems to the better North American airline.
PlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6503 posts, RR: 79 Reply 4, posted (4 years 8 months 2 weeks 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 23486 times:
Very nice report with many good pictures. I read with special interest because I'll fly on AC's A319, 763, 77W and E190 in May.
Quoting Zonks (Thread starter): Unfortunately, I had this screen in front of me for the next thirteen hours of my life. My biggest complaint wasn't even that the system couldn't work but since, as I found out on my HKG - YVR flight, turning off the screen involved an onscreen command, I could not even turn the darn thing off.
Quite a shame. I find it ridiculous that they spent a huge amount of money to install an advanced IFE system on the entire fleet (including narrow-bodies and regional aircraft), but apparently aren't able to get the problems fixed.
Zonks From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 166 posts, RR: 0 Reply 8, posted (4 years 8 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 22681 times:
Quoting BlatantEcho (Reply 1): For some reason, I really like the PDX-YVR flight. The -300 just seems like a funky fun plane to get the job done on that route.
Next time do the PDX-NRT trip as a comparison, we need more trip reports on the long hauls out of Portland.
The -300 works well enough although they were sort of showing their age in the interior if you looked close enough. I much prefer the Q400, although QK doesn't have any of those in its fleet. In the end for such a short hop, it doesn't matter too much.
I'm sure at some point I will fly PDX-NRT-??? although I'm not too fond of NW. I don't think DL will be much better.
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 2): Not bad, not bad at all. It seems as if AC do keep their passengers well fed. On the basic IFE systems alone, they are already having problems running it so I don't think you will see other language options being added in for now. Those Chinese FAs you mentioned, were they based out of HKG or YVR?
Thanks for the compliment.
Having other languages available seems like such a basic thing but you're probably correct on this point, unfortunately. I didn't get a chance to chat to the FAs, so I'm not sure if they're YVR, HKG or even YYZ based.
Quoting Carfield (Reply 3): I agree... Vancouver is a nice transit point for Pacific NW. Air Canada is better than most American carriers, although AC service seems to be heading down rather than improving... but still AC seems to the better North American airline.
YVR was much nicer on the outbound than on the inbound. Actually, I was just annoyed as the luggage took forever to come out post US immigration. Not just that my luggage didn't show for a long time but that there was no movement on the luggage belt. Overall, US customs & immigration was much more of a breeze than at YUL. I agree that YVR is pretty much only effective for SEA & PDX, although with SEA getting more and more Transpacific service over the years, I'm sure YVR has lost some transit traffic to ICN.
You also got it correct in terms of AC being the better/best North American airline. Service was fine, nothing special but also nothing awful. New planes also help.
Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 4): Very nice report with many good pictures. I read with special interest because I'll fly on AC's A319, 763, 77W and E190 in May.
I'll be on the E190 myself in about two weeks, so I was quite curious about the IFE myself. Not expecting much service on a DEN-YUL flight. I'm sure you'll like the 77W but remembering your past trip reports, it might not be anything special to you!
Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 4): Quite a shame. I find it ridiculous that they spent a huge amount of money to install an advanced IFE system on the entire fleet (including narrow-bodies and regional aircraft), but apparently aren't able to get the problems fixed.
Spot on. It would be one thing if this was a month or six months into the XM program but at this point it is really ridiculous, especially when some travellers may select AC over another carrier just for the supposedly superior IFE.
Quoting LH4116 (Reply 5): Wow, I was quite amazed to see that AC now provides such a good quantity of food on their trans pacific flights. I thought that they only served one main meal, and then a small snack
I'd also been on the YVR-HKG route on AC twice earlier this decade and I can't remember if there was a second hot meal or not. I do remember that even back in 2001, they would serve Cup Noodles as a snack but I don't recall a sandwich and some fruit going along with that.
I think AC is just responding to their competition on this route by providing more food and then again, thirteen and a half hours is quite a long time!
Quoting LH4116 (Reply 5): It's nice to see that you also like Anthony Bourdain, I'm a big fan of him as well
Yup, I'm a huge fan! I like that he goes out of his way to avoid the typical tourist things, even in such tourist places as Cairo and Venice. Thanks for your compliments!
Quoting Vio (Reply 6): Good report. I flew from PDX to YVR a couple of times, both with Horizon and AC Jazz, but never had the chance to fly on to HKG. Nice report with nice photos.
Thanks! If I had a choice, I'd take QX over QK anytime. I much prefer the fun, relaxed atmosphere on QX and for a North American carrier, the free wine/beer is a great touch. I also like how they make sure that the aforementioned wine/beer is from somewhere on the West Coast in order to support the communities they fly into.
Quoting Caleb1 (Reply 7): Great TR. I'm glad that you included pictures with this report.
Thanks! Sometimes I wonder if there are too many pictures, so thanks for that.
BA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8352 posts, RR: 55 Reply 12, posted (4 years 8 months 2 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 22217 times:
Nice report and pictures.
AC look pretty decent in Y on this sector, food looks ok and enough of it to keep you going.
Quoting Zonks (Thread starter): Unfortunately, I had this screen in front of me for the next thirteen hours of my life. My biggest complaint wasn't even that the system couldn't work but since, as I found out on my HKG - YVR flight, turning off the screen involved an onscreen command, I could not even turn the darn thing off. Very annoying, especially when the cabin is dark and I'm trying to sleep.
- What a shame & amazing to find the IFE issues are still outstanding!
Directorguy From Egypt, joined Jul 2008, 1626 posts, RR: 11 Reply 13, posted (4 years 8 months 2 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 22049 times:
Thanks for the trip report. Some nice pics.
Sorry about your great-grandmother.
AC seems able to feed and water its Y pax well. However it's a shame that their IFE isn't too reliable. IFE is a make-or-break for me, and I can't bear 3h+ flights without AVOD. YVR-HKG would probably kill me.
StarAC17 From Canada, joined Aug 2003, 3292 posts, RR: 9 Reply 16, posted (4 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 21317 times:
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 12): What a shame & amazing to find the IFE issues are still outstanding!
I have only been on one AC flight with the XM IFE but there was no problems except for the map not working.
Ironically I was on a recent QF (who touts that their IFE is the best) SFO-SYD and a BNE-LAX flight and they had to reboot the IFE once on both of these flights, so its not just AC who has this problem. On the SFO-SYD flight it happened with 2 hours left and I didn't care but on the BNE-LAX flight it was 2 hours in and I would have gone nuts but the reboot worked.
Quoting SANAV8R (Reply 15): Although I have one question, what purpose does the USB port located on the side of the screen serve?
I don't know (I think it would be to service the unit) but I used it without issue to keep my I-pod charged on a recent YYZ-SFO flight .
Agmyvr From Canada, joined Sep 2001, 143 posts, RR: 0 Reply 17, posted (4 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 21199 times:
Quoting Carfield (Reply 3): it is interesting to note that Air Canada has followed Korean Airlines' service procedure to westbound trans-Pacific service. Serve lunch after takeoff, dinner midflight, and snack prior to landing. Traditionally (except Korean Air and Asiana) they serve the main meal after takeoff, and another light meal prior to landing, and have snack on demand in between.
I think the meal service Lunch/Dinner/Snack of AC on the YVR/HKG route has been that way for many years.....(even during the later CP years)