In addition, I opted to fly in Business Class in order to experience the older (and not-so-loved) “coffin” style herringbone flat-bed seats for the first time. Air Canada calls it "Classic Pod". It is the Business Class product found in the majority of Air Canada’s international fleet.
I kept my eyes open on United Mileage Plus availability for a weekend-trip opportunity. In early November, Business Class award seats (“I” class inventory) became available the Sunday before Thanksgiving from YYZ to LAX. I quickly booked the flight. It cost me 25,000 United miles and $54 in taxes and fees.
On-line check-in evening before the flight revealed bad news. The seat map showed a 1-1-1 cabin configuration. That’s not good! A check of the flight status confirmed the aircraft type was to be a 767-300. After some additional digging, it appeared Air Canada was flying the 777-200LR earlier in the week, then switched to the larger 777-300ER on Friday and Saturday, finally scheduling the 767-300 on my flight Sunday. It seemed Air Canada had sufficient international wide-bodied aircraft available in order to be flexible with their capacity in order to meet demand on this route. Of course, this was bad news for me.
At 6 am, two hours prior to the flight, I checked in at one of many open self-service kiosks at Toronto’s Terminal 1. I had to re-enter all of my passport information – again – even though I had already done that the previous evening when I checked-in on-line. Frustrating. Electronic boarding pass was not available; I had to print out a paper boarding pass.
The seat map still showed the 767 1-1-1 cabin configuration. Darn it! Overnight, the aircraft did not switch back to the LR. I was thoroughly disappointed that I have taken this trip for nothing.
At this early morning hour, there were no lines at the U.S. pre-clearance custom and immigration checks. The line was short at the priority security check lane as well. The elevator leading up to the Maple Leaf Lounge was right at the security exit.
The lounge was quiet and dark (too dark I thought) and populated with only about 10 people. It was still early. Having experienced both the Canadian- and pre-clearance U.S.- side Maple Leaf Lounges at YYZ on a previous trip, the U.S. side was decidedly the worse of the two. It was no exception this time around.
The food selection was simple, which consisted of pastries, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, and fruit.
There were plenty of reading materials for the taking. After downing oatmeal with maple syrup, I headed into the main terminal looking for a real Canadian breakfast – Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts.
The line at Timmy’s was long. I was in line for a good 15 minutes before getting my food. Everyone loves Timmy’s! I contemplated of abandoning the queue, but with my gate within view at a distance, I could tell boarding had not yet started.
I had just enough time to grab these shots before boarding. Yup, a 767-300.
Aircraft: Boeing 767-375ER
Registration (Fin Number): C-FCAF (683)
Delivered: May 1988 to Canadian Airlines (age 26.6 years)
Photo © JetPix
Photo © Hongyin Huo
Flight: AC 791
Scheduled Departure – Arrival: 8:00 am – 10:15 am
Actual Departure – Arrival: 8:02 am – 10:24 am
Take-off YYZ Runway 23: 8:20 am
Landing LAX Runway 24R: 10:18 am
Flightaware flight track
Boarding with the first group, I quickly made my way to my seat, 4A. The only saving grace from the aircraft substitution was at least the cabin was still in the international configuration. At least I still get to experience that. “Classic Pods” found on the 767 are identical as the ones found on the 777-200LR.
Upon seeing me and my friend (another fellow enthusiast) taking photos of our seats, one of the pursers came up and greeted us. We expressed our disappointment of the aircraft change and that we specifically took this trip for the LR. He was aware of the aircraft swap and offered his apologies. He said the return flight back to YYZ later in the week maybe operated by the LR, but alas we were only taking an one-way trip.
My coat was taken and I was offered orange juice, water, and a choice of newspapers. The menu followed. A pillow and the permanently attached headphone were placed on each seat. Multiple packages of disposable ear foams were available for the headphone.
The captain announced the flight would be 4 hours and 58 minutes in duration and we would be using Runway 23 for departure. The flight time was expected to be 10 minutes longer than usual (though the reason was not specified).
We pushed back from Gate 169 two minutes late. As we taxied passed the Air Canada hanger with parked 777s, my friend and I both joked, “that’s our plane!”
We accelerated quickly down Runway 23; it was a very powerful takeoff run. Fallen items and shifting contents in the overhead bins was heard all over the cabin. After a sharp right turn west, we broke through the misty clouds over Toronto on our way to LA.
Service began with hot towel. Breakfast service began thirty minutes later, while over Lake Huron. For beverage, I was offered coffee, tea, or juice. For bread, I was offered whole wheat or cinnamon bread. I went with orange juice and cinnamon bread.
For entrée, I chose omelet with chicken sausage. Quality and taste were middle-of-road, not too bad, but not spectacular either. The cottage cheese was sweet, which surprised me. It gave a very tasty complement to the sausage. Coffee and tea were refilled when the trays were picked up. Water was offered shortly thereafter, which I gladly accepted.
I fiddled with the multitude of seats adjustments, getting recline, headrest, legrest just right in order to get into a comfortable position for TV watching. I was disappointed that House of Cards was not amongst the choices in the programming. I ended up watching a few travel and airline short programs.
"Void" behind the seat:
A self-service snack basket filled with Lindt chocolate bars and potato chips was set up in the galley. I helped myself to some. It was now one hour after breakfast and the mid-flight service began. We were served warmed nuts and a choice of beverages. I ordered Coke Zero with lemon. Flight attendants followed up with nut refills as well as the snack basket. I snacked myself silly.
Not finding anything interesting to watch on my IFE, now thoroughly stuffed, I laid my seat flat and worked lazily on my iPad. Rocking motion from the mild turbulence was putting me to sleep so I just went with it. Unfortunately, this bed felt lumpy, like a bunch-of-cushions-put-together bed: altogether not the most comfortable design. The lumbar message function, however, was useful and relaxing. The “coffin” certainly earned its name, feeling quite narrow and claustrophobic.
I managed to take a light nap for about 60 to 90 minutes. While over Las Vegas, the captain announced that we had about 200 miles to go and expect 10:20 am arrival.
Overcast skies we had for the majority of the flight was clearing. As the sights down below became visible and more interesting, the other drawback of the herringbone became apparent: I had a turn back – and way in – in order to enjoy the view. Since I was a bit distance away from the window itself, I had to lean-in to look down. This was just an artifact of the herringbone design, I suppose. The reverse herringbone (which I experienced in the American 777-300ER) did away with the turning-back-to-look out problem but still had the issue of not being right next to the window so one can look down.
At 10:18 am, we touched down on Runway 24R at LAX. Flying time was 4 hours 57 minutes. At 10:24 am, we parked at gate 28 at Terminal 2, nine minutes late. I did not get photos, but Terminal 2 was in sad shape. It was old, crowded, and exasperated by construction mess. I then realized that I have never been through Terminal 2 before. I suppose I was not missing anything.
Service on Air Canada was excellent, on par with what I had previously experienced. Being able to enjoy it in an international business cabin (especially in a design that is no longer favored by the airlines) was just the cherry on top. Curses to Air Canada for their excellent operational and fleet management, switching out the 777-200LR at the last moment, making my whole trip moot. In the future, I will just have to check-off my ride in the LR on a real across-the-ocean-flight somewhere.