The summer season of 2010 was getting closer and closer and it was time to travel again. I had more time to travel this time so I would be combing Florida, South Carolina and another US city (will leave it a surprise for the moment). On this trip I wanted to add an aircraft that was on my must-fly list which consists of the MD11, A310 and the B753. I finally decided to fly KLM’s MD11 between Amsterdam and Montreal (covered in the first part of this series trip reports.).
In the beginning of June I was putting my itinerary together, after booking my long haul flights it was time to look at my domestic/transborder legs. Getting from YUL to Florida I had the chance to fly on almost every American carrier. CO, AA and DL were more expensive, UA and US had some good deals. I would have originally have chosen for US from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale via Philadelphia. But then a sudden sense came to me to check Air Canada, and indeed there was a cheaper fare with a plane change in Toronto, never have tried Air Canada before I decided to give Canada’s flag carrier a try on this segment. The flights would be operated by an A320 on both segments, however I could not select my seat unless I gave the credit card number that it was booked with, the ticket was booked by my mom in Florida.
A week before my flight I received an email (exactly at 1800 Belgian time, 1200 Montreal time) notifying me about the new cash-free cabin concept. 6 days later I found myself in the Park Inn Hotel near YUL after arriving from a wonderful trip with KLM from Amsterdam. The Park Inn is a definite value for it’s money it was a clean and well maintained hotel. The swimming pool was closed however, not that I really cared about that. I ate a quick dinner in the hotel and took a little walk but before 2100 I was about to crash and was already in a deep sleep at that time. The next morning I was wide awake at 545 I checked my email and found out that there was another email from Air Canada, this time an invitation to check in online. This was sent exactly 24 hours before the departure of AC411. However since I was over the middle of the Atlantic ocean at that time I could only check in 6-hours prior to departure, I decided to give it a try. Then I found out there was an equipment change to a 767-300 on the Montreal-Toronto leg. I was glad to have the chance to test out their international product as well, I chose a seat in the back of the plane so I could hear the flap noise of the 763, one of my favourite noises in the aviation world Upgrades were offered for 99 CAD (YUL-YYZ) and 299 CAD (YYZ-FLL) which I declined. You could also buy a maple leaf access card which I declined as well. After that it was time for breakfast and to pack again to and arrived at the reception at 930, just in time for the shuttle. But it did not came, finally after one hour it arrived. Apparently I just missed the 930 shuttle, after a 10 minute drive I made it into the quiet domestic terminal of Montreal.
@ the airport
I searched a vacant machine where I could print my boarding passes, up to now there was still a 767 on the segment to Toronto with the seat next to me open. Once this was done I went to drop my bags of, the whole process was seamless. Before passing security I explored the airport that had a few to no people in it. The main terminal is very modern and spacious, almost like some European airports. Then it was up to the security where there was a little line, I was quite surprised about how friendly everybody was, TSA really could learn a lesson here at Montreal. By 1110 I was in the domestic terminal, the first thing that caught my attention was the advertised flights between Air Canada/Rapidair and Porter airlines on the Montreal-Toronto market. Gate 1 was being used for my flight today, when I arrived at the gate the aircraft had already came in from Toronto and was being turned around. C-GHLU would be the aircraft today, since my shortest widebody flight was 6hours and 10 minutes (Continental 777 between Newark and Brussels in 2007), this will be my shortest widebody flight. There was very limited traffic in this part of the terminal, with an exception of our 767 to Toronto there was an Embrear 190 (C-FALW) heading to Halifax and a Porter DH8 to Toronto city-centre. After a quick stroll I returned to the gate area, announcements were made for people travelling on later flights to Toronto with no checked baggage that they could switch to AC411. At 1130 the boarding began for the ExecutiveFirst cabin, shortly after that it was my time to board.
I boarded the plane and passed thru the Executive first cabin which had the new herringbone seats. It may be me, but those seats always look on the narrow side when passing them, but I have never been in them so maybe it is more spacious than it looks like. The Y-cabin looked very spacious as well. When I arrived at my seat I found the aisle seat occupied by a rather large Canadian man (from now on 28H) installed him in his seat and had his food and all his other stuff in my seat. Since 28H was always showed vacant on the seat map I asked him if this is row 28, he only tapped the overhead panel. When I got seated into my seat he madly said to his companion in 28F that he could not believe that they let people sit beside other people and got up. Don’t ask me the sense here? A few minutes later he came back smashing all his stuff back in the seat, apparently the Flight Attendant had told him to wait until the boarding process was complete. To make him in an even better mood the person in 27H reclined his seat, now he was getting really angry. A few minutes later he moved back to row 29, and I was glad to have 2 open seats after all. The flight turned out to be fuller than first expected, there were a lot of deadheading crewmembers on our flight, It was hard to spot who was deadhead and who was actually working the flight. A short departure delay was announced due to a crew member who had not arrived yet, at 1211 we pushed back. In the mean time an Air Canada A319 arrived at gate 5 and was being prepared for the 1300 departure to YYZ. In the distance I could see 2 777’s parked at the international terminal, at 1221 we took off on runway 6R passing the Park Inn hotel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53xaknvGRjc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcQtawwQSOM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WZMa7-GdHU
Soon after takeoff the flight attendants started the service which consisted off a small snack and a drink, enough for the 57 minute journey to Toronto. Then I noticed the IFE was turned on so I stared to explore it. The system had 45 movies, about 55 television shows and 25 cd-playlist and an excellent moving map feature. This was more than enough to stay entertained on a long-haul flight, let alone a 57 minute flight to Toronto. On this flight I just played a little with the moving map and browsed thru the system. At the end I watched the Toronto arrival video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ-xFs8e0Rc
I was just getting settled in when we were already starting our descent into Toronto, the entertainment system would remain on until we are at the gate in Toronto. Approach was uneventful and by 1315 we touched down on runway 33R, while we were taxing in the flaps started to retract. This was the best IFE for me. We passed the international terminal were there was one 77W from Air Canada and a 330 from Jet Airways that came in from Delhi via Brussels. At 1322 we parked at the domestic terminal gate 125. On the way out I was able to talk to the pilots and flight attendants about the recently started service from Toronto to Brussels via Montreal. The ones who flown to Brussels loved the city and the ones who had not done Brussels yet we could only advise how good the city is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXmqSf6uReg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I3TzzUiHpI
After I deplaned I went to the FIDS screen to see where my next flight would leave from. When I found my flight I only could see a American flag, so I went on to the transborder clearance. Just as Montreal, Toronto is a nice and airy airport. There is open as Brussels (terminal A) or Paris CDG (Terminal 2E (not the rest)). Without any problems I found the US border pre-clearence facility. You claim your luggage and move on to the immigration booth. After some questioning due to my one way ticket from Montreal to Ft Lauderdale and since I only arrived in Canada the day before from Amsterdam. Once this was completed I went to drop off my baggage and passed security (again much more friendly screeners than most major US airports). By 1415 I found myself in the terminal bound for US flights, traffic consisted mostly of Air Canada going to various points in the US with an exception of a United Express E170 going to Denver. Most other US-based carriers were parked at the regional jet concourse. At this time I was starting to get hungry, so I grabbed me a bite to eat. I have forgotten the name of the restaurant but it is at the very end of the Transborder concourse. When I finished eating I spotted a very familiar plane, C-GHLU which had just flewn me in from Montreal. It was being towed to the international terminal before being prepared for a flight to Tel Aviv later on this afternoon. In the distant I could see EI-DIP an Alitalia 767 in the new skyteam livery. To be honest, I think it is not a bad livery after seeing it and the Delta 767-400 in the skyteam livery. By 1510 I discovered the most annoying, my camera’s battery was almost dead, so I quickly went to gate 161 to find a plug which there thankfully was. Our plane had just arrived, C-FTJP was our plane down to Florida this afternoon. After some waiting for my camera to be charged the boarding started and by 1545 I was ready to board.
I was greeted by a friendly young flight attendant and I soon found my seat 21F, there was somebody sitting in the aisle but the middle seat was still open. After I got settled in I noticed the IFE system was already turned on, another feature found on the seatback was a plug on the IFE-console of the middle seat what would be handy just in case… I also noticed that the seats on the A320 had no headrests like on the 767 aircraft, but seating was still comfortable. Boarding was almost completed and seat 21E was still empty. I was hoping for an empty middle seat, but that was soon crushed when a woman in the 40’s came who was seated in the middle seat and her companion a few rows back in the middle seat. After waiting a few more minutes the doors were closed and the safety demonstration began but there was no sound, after a few reboots the flight attendants made a manual safety demo. Taxing out there was more traffic than a few hours ago when I arrived from Montreal. Most of the traffic was ifcourse Air Canada, in the distant at terminal 3 I spotted a KLM 747 from Amsterdam and an Air France A340 to Paris CDG. After some waiting the A320 lifted off from runway 24R at 16h27 (Was this the same runway that the Air France A340 ran off in 2005?). After takeoff we made a southbound turn into the US, this was the end of my short visit into Canada. I really enjoyed my stay and wish I stayed longer, but that’s a reason to come back. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAbXe8zk3uk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUhA0YnMuaI
Shortly after take-off I started to explore the IFE system which was identical to the IFE system on the Montreal-Toronto sector. However when I switched to the moving map there was a message saying that this function was unavailable, this remained like that for the whole flight. About 30 minutes after takeoff the meal service began. This time you could chose from Air Canada’s buy on board program which is called ‘On Board café’. You could by snacks between 3 and 7 dollars but all non-alcoholic drinks were free. I purchased some Appels with caramel dip and a chocolate bar. Both tasted very good and were worth its money. Later on flight attendants passed around with water rounds frequently, I have not counted the exact amount of minutes but it was more frequent than any other flight that had a similar length in duration.
After some playing with the IFE system I went found some aviation related documents to watch including an interview with the captain of the Air Transat glider in 2001. The flight it self was quite bumpy with the seatbelt sign plinging on and off frequently. Unafortunaly I could not take that much pictures because of the bright sunlight. As we neared the end of the flight I went to the back a talked a little with the flight attendants. By now it was almost time for our descent into Ft Lauderdale http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYQp2r0CaiQ
At around 1845, just a little over 2 hours after leaving Canada we started to make our descent into FLL. As usual we followed the coast line to Fort Lauderdale before making our approach to runway 9L, finally I would be able to make pictures again after facing the sun for a few hours. At 1903 we touched down on runway 9L and just about 2 minutes later we were at terminal 2. We were parked next to a Delta 757 (ex-NWA), after making a last picture up front it was time to leave the aircraft since the plane was leaving back to Toronto at 1950. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1tK_hfw2oM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t670MgZYBD8
The airport was rather calm with just three flights arriving at the time. Ours and a Delta flight from Atlanta and from New York JFK, I could claim my bags by 1925 and by 1930 I was out, however my mom got stuck in traffic coming back from Miami so we could only leave by 1945. When we did leave the airport I could see C-FTJP departing back to Toronto. The rest of the ride was uneventful and by 2035 I was home in Palm Beach Gardens.
Flying Air Canada was a pleasure, due to an equipment swap I got the chance to test out the hard-product that they have on longer flights. This is the best IFE-system I have had on any transatlantic flight, let alone the short hop from Montreal to Toronto. The seats were very comfortable and spacious. The A320 flight was pleasant as well, however it was missing some options on the IFE system like the moving map and so on. The buy on board program has good food for reasonable prices, the frequent water runs was a nice touch as well. I hope I ever get a chance to fly them again in the future, especially on longer flights. Montreal and Toronto are nice airports to be in, very easy to navigate and friendly staff, some US airports really should take a look at this.
Air Canada 0411: (Total 87%)
Departure: 90% (Everything went smooth and friendly)
Aircraft cleanliness : 100% (Everything was kept exceptional clean and fresh)
Seat Comfort: 100% (One of the most comfortable seats to be seated in in Y.)
Crew: 70% (Nice and efficient set, not much one can say about an hour flight.)
IFE: 90% (Here is where Air Canada scores, AC has one of the best out there.)
Catering: 70% (Enough for the short flight from Montreal to Toronto)
Arrival: 90% (Finding my way was a breeze.)
Air Canada 0908: (Total 81%)
Departure: 90% (Plenty of shops, restaurants to keep yourself busy.)
Aircraft cleanliness : 70% (Aircraft was clean en kept clean)
Seat Comfort: 70% (Quite comfortable comparing to other carriers)
Crew: 80% (Friendly and attentive crew, made several water rounds during the trip.)
IFE: 80% (Same options as on AC0411, but missing some options like the moving map.)
Catering: 80% (Decent buy on board program.)
Arrival: 70% (Everything went pretty smooth here in FLL.)
As a bonus I would like to give a list of regs I spotted in YUL, YYZ and FLL
lychemsa From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 997 posts, RR: 3 Reply 2, posted (3 years 1 month 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 20063 times:
True they have good entertainment and decent legroom, nice crews. But on long haul their food is average.
My flight from GVA to YUL was not cleaned; garbage in the seat pockets with old in flight magazines. Maybe I am prejudiced as they lost my suitcase (forever) and after 2 months they informed me that it would most likely never be found. Compensation was a joke; less than allowed from IATA rules. When it comes to customer service that is a word that is not in their vocabulary. They just don't care. I avoid even on free Award tickets. Also passing US and Canadian customs in YUL on connecting flights to / from Europe is a pain.
PlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6503 posts, RR: 79 Reply 6, posted (3 years 1 month 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 19237 times:
another interesting and detailed report from you, good to hear you had a nice experience on Air Canada. I have mixed feelings about the airline after flying FRA-YYC-LAX and SFO-YUL-FRA last year. Seats and IFE are indeed good - as long as it works. However, catering was average, portions were quite small and F/As didn't react to calls.
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): 40th flight on the Boeing 767 series
35th flight on the Boeing 767-300(ER)
It seems you're an experienced 767 flyer.
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): When I got seated into my seat he madly said to his companion in 28F that he could not believe that they let people sit beside other people and got up. Don’t ask me the sense here? A few minutes later he came back smashing all his stuff back in the seat, apparently the Flight Attendant had told him to wait until the boarding process was complete. To make him in an even better mood the person in 27H reclined his seat, now he was getting really angry. A few minutes later he moved back to row 29, and I was glad to have 2 open seats after all.
Ah, such guys should simply stay at home!
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): In the distant I could see EI-DIP an Alitalia 767 in the new skyteam livery.
EI-DIP would be an A332 in Air One colors - the Skyteam 763 is EI-DBP.
MSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2472 posts, RR: 15 Reply 9, posted (3 years 1 month 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 18863 times:
@Everybody: Thanks for the comments, I'm glad that you enjoyed reading it. Based on the received feedback it seems that it was my lucky day on AC. Personally I have found them to be better than similar flights on CO, US, DL, AA and even SN. Of course this was my only flight with them. I'm quite surprised to hear about the 'average' reputation on AC long haul flights.
@lychemsa: Have not been able to test the transfer facility in YUL. I came in the day before (so YUL being my final destination of the day.).
@PH: I red your reports (Nice reports BTW, enjoyed reading them), having the lights cut on the majority of the YUL-FRA red eye can be a pain indeed, sorry to know about the map not working on most of your flights. About the call buttons, while on the ground in Montreal a passenger 2 rows ahead of me pressed the call button multiple times without being answered. The 767 is indeed a very familiar plane to me. Most 763 flights have been on Delta (Brussels-Atlanta, occasionally Brussels-New York JFK or Paris CDG-Cincinnati.) or KLM (Amsterdam-Atlanta). Only one 762 (US Amsterdam-Philadelphia) and a couple of 764 flights (CO. Brussels-Newark-Brussels and Amsterdam-Newark/Houston-Amsterdam). Thanks for correcting me on the registration of the AZ skyteam livery plane, it was very hard to see from the US-terminal and was almost sure that it was DIP.
Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
Palmjet From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1116 posts, RR: 17 Reply 10, posted (3 years 1 month 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 18838 times:
Nice report and pics - enjoyed reading about your AC experience. I flew with them in 2003 from Sydney to Toronto via HNL and YVR, and then again from Toronto - London. This was before all their cabins were refurbished in the style that you experienced, but back then I enjoyed all my flights with them. I'd certainly fly AC again.
akhmad From Netherlands, joined Sep 2005, 2421 posts, RR: 53 Reply 12, posted (3 years 1 month 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 18225 times:
Thanks for this great insight review of AC and the Canadian airports. Never been on AC myself, nor to Canada.
Pity about your unruly fellow passenger. Luckily he moved away for the remaining of the flight.
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): Later on flight attendants passed around with water rounds frequently, I have not counted the exact amount of minutes but it was more frequent than any other flight that had a similar length in duration.
744 From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 446 posts, RR: 0 Reply 16, posted (3 years 3 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 15343 times:
I have had one of the best flights on AC320 and 77W. The planes were fantastic, baggage arrived on time. The crew were not very friendly and were most senior grumpy crew. The catering sucked between YYZ to LHR. The great IFE and drink service made it all up. AC is indeed a JEWEL compared to other North American carriers like US,UA,DL etc.
I fully agree....had my first flight on AC last month, flying YYZ-LHR, on my way to India......was quite apprehensive because of the negative things I'd heard about AC (from fellow Canadians!)......
Courteous and helpful ground staff, on-time departure, clean and excellently maintained aircraft (773), courteous and helpful FA's, efficient and good drinks service, excellent lunch....what more could one ask for....? I can't think of anything that I could criticize on my flight....I will definitely choose AC in future!
buck3y3nut From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 871 posts, RR: 0 Reply 20, posted (2 years 11 months 1 week ago) and read 12681 times:
Excellent trip report. I fully agree that experience on AC is truly better than many of the American Legacy Carriers. I do had a great experience flying across the Atlantic to ZRH.
Thanks for writing this report and sharing it with us
travelR From Australia, joined Sep 2010, 91 posts, RR: 0 Reply 22, posted (2 years 11 months 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 11753 times:
Great trip report MSS658. Very detailed and quite interesting. The pictures were very good. It seemed like you had a good run with AC. I think that you got them on a good day considering the mixed reports on them.
Quoting MSS658 (Thread starter): I boarded the plane and passed thru the Executive first cabin which had the new herringbone seats. It may be me, but those seats always look on the narrow side when passing them, but I have never been in them so maybe it is more spacious than it looks like.
I actually got to try these seats when I flew them from EZE to SCL, the plane travelled onward to YYZ. It was only a small price difference between Executive First and economy so decided it was worth the difference. The seat wasn't that narrow and very comparable to Upper Class on VS. The only thing I didn't like about it was the same as VS which was that the seat was facing away from the window but apart from that I got to have an hour doze on a fully flat bed on a 2 hour flight!