First of all, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! I hope everyone will have another amazing travel year and safe travel of course!
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
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
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
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
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.
-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
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
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.