Featuring a new Trip Report on Airliners.net, what to expect…
How is flying just for fun interpreted? People sometimes call me sick…
So, the deal is that time ago, my family decided to move to Italy for 6 months to take my sister to study the language near our relatives in Rome. It’s been a long-term plan that finally arrived thanks to my sister’s wise idea of graduating without any faults.
This trip has been on schedule for at least two years, but my vacations were going to be a bit awkward if I didn’t add some spice to it. My parents decided to go the easy way using Alitalia from CCS to FCO – as direct as it sounds. That is indeed a very boring trip with an aircraft that’s unfortunately out of shape (no entertainment, old equipment and infinite other lacks-of) and the pricing for the ticket isn’t that attractive either. Adding the juice to the trip was a must for me.
I decided to contact my friends and cousins in Italy and let them know that I’d be going a few days before my parents, just for fun. With the help of a very good friend of mine in CCS, I found an AMAZING itinerary with the best airplanes in the world (at least for me) for a cheaper price than the ones my parents got for their direct and boring hop over the Atlantic Ocean.
My first leg, to begin with my so-called illness, is from CCS to YYZ with a shiny and good-looking A319. The flight is scheduled to last nearly 6 hours and Air Canada is an airline I’ve admired and wanted to ride in numerous times, but have never been able to actually test it. So, to keep on going with this insane trip for some, and out-of-mind for others, I booked myself on the following YYZ – FRA flight, still with AC, but in the aircraft I consider the sexiest and most elegant looking: the 777-300ER (77W from now on). If I could, I’d end my trip in FRA, as my goal was uniquely to fly this aircraft. But, what the heck, I have to get back to America! (I currently live in DAB, so I need to get back there when my trip ends).
Once I get to FRA, I have to find my way to FCO. Unfortunately, the pricing from CCS to FCO (with all the stops, of course) was too high, so I decided to purchase the ticket as follows: CCS – YYZ – FRA – YYZ – MCO and then a separate intra-Europe ticket FRA – FCO – FRA with LH. Anyhow, the latter ticket was an absolute gift, 5 euros plus taxes, so hesitating on purchasing it was not an option. So, there I was, with a ticket that would put me inside an A321 and an A300 to then, fly the other plane I’ve been running after for so long, the A340-600 (A346, from now on). I was supposed to fly back to YYZ on the 77W, but when I saw the code-share between LH and AC, I decided to fly on the long Airbus just to add some more taste to this trip that promises a lot! Finally, back in America, the A319 would take me back to MCO for a 50-minute drive to DAB.
Caracas Intl Airport (CCS) – Toronto Lester Pearson Intl (YYZ)
Air Canada Airbus A319
Photo © Hongyin Huo
Toronto Lester Pearson Intl (YYZ) – Frankfurt Main Intl Airport (FRA)
Air Canada Boeing 777-333ER (77W)
Photo © Jerry Pang
Frankfurt Main Intl Airport (FRA) – Rome Leonardo da Vinci Intl (FCO)
Lufthansa Airbus A321 (A321)
Photo © Marco Toso - SpotIT
Rome Leonardo da Vinci Intl (FCO)- Frankfurt Main Intl Airport (FRA)
Lufthansa Airbus A300 (A300)
Photo © Sven Ole Niwek
Frankfurt Main Intl Airport (FRA) - Toronto Lester Pearson Intl (YYZ)
Lufthansa Airbus A340-600 (A346)
Photo © Roland Nussbaumer
Toronto Lester Pearson Intl (YYZ) – Orlando McCoy Intl (MCO)
Air Canada Airbus A319 (A319)
Photo © Mike McGill
Day 1. August 3rd, 2008.
My mom said, “You almost devastate yourself partying every day, you shouldn’t have gone out so much…” Those were her words after a crazy vacation down in CCS. Summer time down there is an absolute blast and I didn’t waste a second, I squeezed the juice out of every chance I had to go out to drink and party, and I must say that I was left out without energies on the day of the flight. Actually, I had in mind an alcohol and junk food diet… let’s see what are the odds of keeping it.
Air Canada serves CCS in the dark. They come from YYZ at 23.30 and go back at 00.30. It’s indeed a weird choice of timing, but in the end, it’s much better than the normal hours. The airport by then it’s desolated, as only two flights depart (AC and LA). I got there at 22.40 and, surprisingly, I was the last one to check in on this flight to the north of the continent.
The check-in desks LH and AC share at CCS (sorry for the blur, no photos accepted in this area)
After answering numerous times the same question to the so-called Canadian Officer (who was perhaps more Venezuelan than the flag itself), “has your luggage been with you at all times?” I handed over my passport and got a boarding pass with a blank in the seat selection box. I must highlight that I worked my butt off to reserve specific seats for the entire journey, as I wanted it to be PERFECT. Anyhow, it was 23.15 at night, and I didn’t have a seat. The AC staff member told me to wait some 15 minutes so they could figure out what was going on with the computer’s brains… I obviously agreed to wait, while I imagined myself sitting in the last row in a middle seat, next to two large people… tense situation, isn’t it?
Those thoughts rapidly vanished when the desk guy called me with an out of the blue look and a rather raw smile: “Sir, I believe you are going to be put in First Class! You’ve got a 03A seat!” I’ll let you all envision my face (I find it quite useless to describe the feeling xD)… be my guests!
So, yes, as some of you say, the always-desired Upgrade Ferry touched me. This was my very first flight in a Star Alliance airline, and there, I was being upgraded for a redeye flight… WHAT ON EARTH COULD GO BETTER!?
I then ran to my parents to break the news and they smiled not wanting to believe me. Unfortunately for them, I had the evidence on my hands, yes! Boarding pass to Toronto in Business Class! Sweet!
Soon after the exciting moment, we went to pay the Airport Tax and then proceed with the time-honored goodbye. The next step was to go through the deserted security checkpoint, which at the moment was absolutely empty. In less than 3 minutes, I was through and found myself sitting in front of the assigned gate 15, next to the pilots who were doing the preflight briefing (with all the charts and flight plan papers on their laps).
The pilots sharing the waiting hall with their payroll providers
CCS International Terminal at Midnight
At 23.36, the A319 landed and parked in front of my eyes. I was very excited yet a bit sad for leaving CCS again for at least 7 months. It took the AC staff some 30 minutes to prepare the aircraft and soon enough, at 00.05 they called for boarding.
Naturally, I was the first one on the queue and boarded rapidly, reaching the spotless A319 in a matter of seconds. I managed to take a couple photos of my seat and those ones in the back.
Flight #1: AC075 CCS-YYZ
Airbus A319 C-FYJI
Scheduled Departure: 00.30
Actual Departure: 00.36
Duration: 5h 43m
Scheduled Arrival: 06.30
Actual Arrival: 06.33
Photo © Hongyin Huo
Photo © Michael Fast
My seat for the next 6 hours
Once seated, I started relaxing and enjoying that lucky moment that I bet won’t happen again for a long time!
The touch-screen PTV
Leg space (39’’)
Day 2: August 5th, 2008.
White plane pushed back under the deep black skies
Push back was at 00.36. The engines were turned on in a matter of seconds and without even realizing their sound, we started taxiing at 00.40. We reached the holding point at Runway 10 and, without stopping, we rolled down and became airborne at 00.45. Even though it was at night, I managed to take a video (at least look at the strobe light xD ). Enjoy!
Takeoff Runway 10
Take off was powerful and long. We then turned northwest headed towards Curacao and then North America. The rise to the announced FL380 was smooth and uneventful. Right after takeoff the very polite and impeccable-looking Flight Attendants began the meal service (even though it was very late). I was surprised on how nice they were, being used to the commonly rude and angry FAs that serve CCS on a regular basis.
A thirty-eight thousand feet meal
The purser Pierre addressed me by my last name and asked whether I wanted Shrimp or Meat for my main course (entrée), and if I had any requests regarding the wine I wanted to drink. I had already eaten back in the city a traditional Hervido de Gallina and an Arepa, but decided to at least give this meal and service a try since I had been upgraded and I had to enjoy it! I took the meat option with a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Here’s the evidence.
Diet Coke with Lemon
The Main Course
It’s of vital importance to mention that I accompanied my meal with some entertainment provided by the PTVs that AC has given to their A319 fleet. However, seemed like this specific A319 had been experiencing some trouble with their entertainment system as it crashed several times during the flight, making it impossible to finish the movie or do anything else with it (no map, no games, no nothing!).
Thankfully, I decided to sleep as soon as I finished my meal and didn’t need to use it. However, the FA then told me that it wasn’t working at all.
The meal was good. The salad was a bit cheap but good in size. The meat was abundant, cooked to perfection and the rice that came with it was well cooked and heated. I would have preferred the meat without the sauce that soaked it, but in general, the flavor was good and I can say I was satisfied for a meal in a flight of that type.
Soon later, the FAs picked up my tray and offered me some EFE ice cream (Venezuelan brand) accompanied by warm cookies. I got it while I was resting my eyes, so after a blink I found that nice surprise in front of me.
That was a nice way to close this meal and try to close my eyes for the remainder of the flight.
Sleep? Who said sleep?
Anyhow, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep through the flight. Not being able to accomplish a full sleep, I opened my eyes one-hour prior landing in YYZ. The FA awakened me asking whether I wanted some coffee, which I surely accepted, and then we began our descent towards Toronto. I went to the lavatory and managed to look back at the packed Coach class, which according to the Purser, the flight was 97% full, not weird for a flight coming from Venezuela!
On a special note, the A319 (A320 family I’d say) gives a sense of space that other airplanes like the 757 and 737 don’t have. It’s a fact that Airbus must be really proud of, as no competitor has been able to replicate it. The cabin is much more spaced and the sound from the engines is less notable. Kudos for Airbus!
The sun coming out on the right side of the plane
AC’s fleet nicely displayed in the in-flight magazine
Finally, the sun came out and we were approaching a new airport to me, YYZ.
Landing with the rise of the Canadian Sun
We flew over the right side of the airport and immediately over the Bombardier factory.
Finally, we made a left turn to align with the runway and land at 06.33 on runway 06L-24R. Here are the photos and video.
Smooth Landing in YYZ
My next ride! Yeah!
As you’ve all seen, landing was smooth and quick. The A319 needed very little amount of runway without making a scandal with its very quiet engines. It was a very comfortable flight served by a team of magnificent FAs who were never skeptical to perform their duties. Even though I had my eyes closed throughout most of the flight, I felt the purser several times bringing me water and stuff such as the Canadian immigration card. I ended up very happy and satisfied from the flight and crew’s performance, not to mention my joy of being upgraded in the first place.
Welcome to Canada, monsieur.
At 06.45, we parked at the gate and disembarked in an orderly manner to then step into an absolutely stunning airport. I was definitely stunned by the amount of glass and how bright and clean it looked. Rapidly, the immigration booths showed up in front of me. Usually, immigration officers are all angry-looking, rude and unfriendly people; but for the first time a gorgeous girl (I’d say under 25 years old) took a look at my passport and then at myself. She immediately asked me what the heck I was doing in YYZ and after hearing my reply, she laughed her botox off and welcomed me to Toronto. Sweet!
Then the always boring and mandatory activity of expecting your luggage not to appear showed up on stage. It was a while until the first bags came out, an all of the sudden, a huge breaking sound changed people’s face from blissful to irritate. There was some sort of problem with the carousel, something that held our bags from an extra 15 minutes. However, I was blessed by the day’s good luck and I got my bag a while after the problem was fixed. The next step was to send it to FRA. Accordingly, I had to drop it off at the specified kiosk where I got assistance from an Air Canada lady who gently put the tag in my bag - a sign that meant I was free to step out and go to meet the city… but first, I needed to go and get a room at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel.
I had to take a short ride on the airport’s train to head over to Terminal 3 (where the hotel is). There I got my room in less than 5 minutes (without reservation) for a fare of 99 Canadian Dollars. There, I dropped off my bags to then go and get some decent breakfast to calm my hunger. With my tummy full, I went to the arrivals area of YYZ and took the Airport Express Shuttle to Downtown Toronto (I paid 30 Canadian Dollars for a round trip). Here’s my 5-hour layover in Toronto expressed in images, enjoy.
Rogers Centre from above, closed
Scary picture! I could barely look down!
One last burger before heading to the old continent!
My cousin and his friend who took me around in Toronto
Finally, the photo of my room at the Sheraton Gateway in YYZ
After spending a really nice and relaxed day in Toronto, time to come back to the airport arrived. I took the Airport Express once again from the Westin Harbor Hotel in the Downtown area and got back at the Sheraton Gateway hotel at 14.30. I had enough time to take a shower and get dressed before my next two legs to the old continent.
On my way back to the Terminal with the train
Glancing at the Glassy Terminal
At 15.30 I checked out of the hotel and stepped once again into one of the coolest terminals YYZ has.
I passed through the security checkpoints without any hassle (I must say after this trip I found ridiculous the way the TSA handles passengers… more on this to follow) and in less than 10 minutes I was sitting in front of a huge-engined wide body that caught my eyes since the very first moment I looked at it on the websites. There it was, the very unique reason of my trip through YYZ – The 77W.
C-FIVM, only 3 months old as of the day of the trip, delivered on May 13th, 2008
After checking that everything was as planned, I decided to take a walk around the area to see some more stuff. The EK 77W and LH A346 were part of the scenery (what a bummer!), as well as the AZ 763 with the new color scheme (which I find extremely beautiful).
Then, my legs started sending me hate signals as I’ve been pushing them quite hard throughout the day in Toronto, so I decided to chill in front of the gate until we were called to board.
Flight #2: AC075 YYZ-FRA
Boeing 777-333ER (77W)
C-FIVM (first flight, 01/05/2008)
Scheduled Departure: 17.30
Actual Departure: 17.43
Duration: 7h 15m
Scheduled Arrival: 07.00
Actual Arrival: 06.54
Photo © Mathias Henig
Photo © John Ballantyne
Cutting and Boarding
Accordingly, at 16.45 boarding commenced. Obviously, the 77W boarding process is long and tedious. This particular one is configured to carry 349 people (42 in J and 307 in Y), and me, being seated in 20K (third row after Business Class), would be one of the last passengers to board. However, I was too excited and kind of cheated. I boarded with one of the first groups regardless of my position and there, the moment I’ve been expecting finally arrived!
Walking down through the jet bridge at 16.54, I managed to shoot a couple photos of this amazing plane.
Thanks to the glassed jet bridge
Once inside, I got to see the breathtaking First Executive Class, all configured to give you the best possible comfort in the air. All this, however, was perhaps my point of view as many of the passengers sitting in J were long-faced people who seemed to be paying penitence. Who understands people these days?
Windows, Wings and Massive Engines… something else?
Seconds later, I reached my 20th row. I placed my carry-on bag on the bulkhead and then sled into my window seat to be given a rather surprising shock once I saw outside the window: WHAT A DAMN BIG WING WITH WHAT A DAMN BIG ENGINE! Sorry, but yes, I was stunned.
I tried to relax and calm my excitement by looking around at what would be my home for the next 8 hours. The PTV had a very nice size, the leg pitch wasn’t bad at all (compared to Iberia, of course) and the sit was wide enough to be comfortable in a 7-hour hop.
Leg space (32’’)
Finally, at 17.27 (three damn minute ahead of scheduled departure) our humongous 77W was pushed back to then give intro to one of the top 3 best parts of the flight.
Juicy Engine Starting
As we pushed back, some sort of roar was felt around the cabin. Vibrations accompanied with an indescribable sound touched my head as my face was attached to the window trying to collect as much as possible from this cool moment. No time later, the engine was on, and yes, it became so silent that it was quite hard to realize it was sucking in fuel, air and God knows what else.
Anyhow, flaps and (huge) spoilers down and the brakes released meant the beginning of our taxi around the YYZ taxiways. Then, the ailerons and speed brakes showed off how big they were and by 17.34 we were on our way to the assigned runway.
Taxiing to the assigned runway
So, from this point of view the poor 737 is being harassed by the Rolls-Royce Trent 892 engine, which seems to be a lot bigger!
Holding for clearance
Mom, how do airplanes fly?
In less than 10 minutes, we reached our holding point and, without holding, our beautiful airplane lined up with the runway and performed a $@#%! takeoff into the Canadian skies at 17.42. (No words available for this part. Please have a look at the video. I believe you’ll understand me)
Believe it or not, thrust and wing flex capable of making people go nuts
Before taking off, the racked wing tip couldn’t be seen. However, once we were in the air, the wing flex was so physically powerful that, there it was. What an AMAZING piece of machine!!! Have a look.
Right after Takeoff
In other airplanes I never realized the speed the machine gets once it becomes airborne. The 77W, however, gave a sense of speed that amazed me. Here’s a video taken after we climbed a couple thousand feet.
Climbing over the clouds
After the spoilers and flaps were retracted, the cabin became even more silent. No vibrations and feelings of drag were felt. The powerful Boeing climbed us without hesitation to the announced FL380 in a short amount of time. With small corrections, we lined ourselves towards Europe in a clear and beautiful blue sky. Was the aircraft in heaven or was it me instead?
Leveled at FL380
Nice plane, Nice cabin, BAD FOOD!
Once established, the crew began to serve all the passengers. Luckily, I was seated in the third seat of the economy cabin, for which I was served rather quickly. According to the goaded FA, the choice for the meal was Beef or Chicken: “Watcha want, Beef or Chicken.” I went for the beef, which came with a portion of steamed vegetables and mashed potatoes. Along with it, there was a piece of bread (rather cold for my taste), a salad and a chocolate mousse for dessert. In the end, it was a common meal that can be found in any airline of the world, nothing special, but nothing uncommon either. I had a Diet Coke to drink and there it is, enjoy.
Right after the meal, the crew came back to pick up the trays in a synchronized manner, as if they had timed the minutes the passengers usually take to finish the food. I cleared my table and began re-watching the movie I couldn’t finish in the CCS-YYZ flight, 21.
Mood-Lighted Movie Nearing the Speed of Sound.
4 hours into the flight, after finishing the movie, the crew turned off the lights and the blue ambient from the Business Class section could be seen. I wanted to be there so much! But, not this time. I need more miles to collect!
The people in J seem to be having a back time…
Then, I decided to close my eyes and try to sleep a bit.
Day 2: August 6th, 2008.
The white lights woke me up and the angry-looking FAs started serving (or throwing down the aisles) breakfast. For me, it was a thousand times better than dinner. It consisted of a muffin, apples, yoghurt and an orange juice.
Cabin during breakfast
I drank a coffee to try and get rid of my sleepiness (which wasn’t successful at all) and glancing out the window, the fast 777 cleared off the clouds and there it was, Europe.
Willkommen nach Deutschland!
The sense of speed could still be felt and we began descending and making turns to approach the Frankfurt area at 06.25.
There the captain came on the PA announcing our arrival within the next 30 minutes. As a matter of fact, 20 minutes later, I saw FRA on my window (we were making a right downwind approach) and we continued heading West for at least 8 more minutes, until we made a sharp right turn and lined up with runway 7R.
FRA from above
The flaps and spoilers were deployed and I managed to see the humongous main landing gear being taken out on the reflection of the massive right engine, isn’t this awesome!?
I know it may sound sick, but, I’m in love with this plane!
Were we going too fast?
Downton FRA, on final approach
Landing in FRA with the parking break on!
Then, we passed next to the Commercebank Arena Stadium and landed at exactly 06.54 – six minutes ahead of schedule. Once again, an indescribable landing shown on video gave end to a trip I had been expecting for a long time.
Landing in FRA
On a particular note, I felt the landing a bit too tough. As soon as the wheels touched the ground (smoothly), the airplane began braking abruptly. I felt as if the aircraft were breaking in an extreme manner, not comfortably. I assumed we had to stop quickly for incoming traffic, but who knows, maybe some of you guys have something to say here?
Soon, we parked at the gate and disembarked the aircraft. I managed to take some photos at the First Executive Class cabin and then I had to put the camera away so I could have my hands free for the immigration lines and then the hassle to connect to FCO.
Unfortunately, for my next flight my intentions of writing a report were exterminated because of my lack of sleep. As soon as the A321 took off to FCO my eyes closed and opened back when on final approach into 16L. Apologies, but, there was nothing special with that flight anyways!
1) In the fist place, Air Canada proved to be an amazing airline with a fleet that can be a cause of envy to the rest of the world. The A319 and the 77W were both spotless. The latter has proven to be an incredible aircraft; I’d say a miracle of engineering and of design. I was absolutely pleased of the performance of the flight and, despite the grumpy service of the YYZ-FRA crew, the CCS-YYZ proved to be impeccable.
2) The food in both flights was ok. If I had to choose, I’d go with the breakfast that was served in the YYZ-FRA flight, for being simple and common. The dinners were ok, but I think they could be much better.
3) Air Canada, scored 7/10
4) CCS has improved considerably. I’ve had the chance of visiting this airport numerous times and the modifications that have been taking place in it are positive and I believe it will enhance the capacity and comfort of the passengers that will come and go. Score, 7/10.
5) YYZ is great. I loved its design, its people, and its staff. Nobody caused any trouble, especially the security officers. Here I’d like to make emphasis on the TSA officers in the US, who I believe are the main cause of concern to passengers at the time of traveling. We, the passengers, are their job, not their cattle. I believe traveling can be a beautiful thing, but if there are people who believe to be superior like the TSA agents, then yes, it’s a pain in the butt. And please bear in mind that not only the agents in YYZ were good, also the ones in FRA and FCO. I think that there’s a bit of a misunderstanding of how the TSA has to handle people. Traveling is a service and a need, and they are there to make it safer, not a tedious environment to be in. Anybody disagrees? YYZ scored 8/10.
6) LH was awesome as well. Even though I slept during most of the flight, the service in the ground was superb. Their facilities in FRA are top notch and I’d be looking forward on flying them in Business Class soon. As I said before, I need more miles to collect! FRA scored 9/10.
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