I arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport Terminal 1 at 0710 for the scheduled 1000 departure of flight AC15 bound for Hong Kong.
The check-in process was a complicated affair. Not only was there a long queue, but when it was finally my turn to be checked in, a power outage hit the airport shutting down all computers! Obviously this wasn't Air Canada's fault, but the airline's staff didn't respond well to the situation; there was no announcement to address people still in the queue and attendants behind the check-in desks were unable to do anything manually, so everything came to a complete standstill. The power was restored after 15 minutes and it took a further five minutes for the computers to be restarted.
Further complications arose over my name. Like many travellers with a Chinese name, my passport lists my Chinese name before my first name, while my flight booking had been made with my first name. But for some reason, this proved extremely confusing to the Air Canada attendant and it took her a long time to locate my booking on the computer – further delaying the check-in process.
I finally made my way through security at 0820 and was airside in about 15 minutes.
Business class passengers are afforded access to the Maple Leaf Lounge, which is located on level 3 at Node F. However, I was originally booked on economy class (with the possibility for an upgrade at the gate) and therefore did not have access to the lounge.
Luckily, Toronto Pearson International Airport Terminal 1 is home to a Plaza Premium Lounge, and as a Priority Pass member I was able to gain entry into this lounge. The facility was modestly sized, with plenty of seating available. The F&B selection was pretty generous, with a mix of hot and cold breakfast choices as well as complimentary drinks.
Boarding for flight AC15 began at 0915, but I only made my way to gate E77 at 0930. I approached the ticketing desk to enquire about my upgrade and was promptly handed a new boarding pass for business class. I was then allowed to line up at the business class queue where I was quickly processed. I boarded the plane at 0935.
Customers flying with Air Canada should note that the airline operates two versions of the B777-300ER – one with two classes and another with three classes. I was on the former. The two-class B777-300ER features 42 seats in business class, arranged in a 1-2-1 layout. This is a significant improvement over the three-class version, as the business class cabin consists of 36 seats arranged in both 1-2-1 and 2-2-2 configurations.
Left: Two-class B777-300ER; Right: Three-class B777-300ER
Overall, the “Classic Pod” business class product leaves a positive impression.
Each seat offers a healthy width of 53cm/21in and can be extended into a fully-flat bed, while the 1-2-1 layout means that all passengers have direct access to the aisles.
Business travellers will appreciate having their own individual power supply to charge their electronic devices, while a USB port is also available at the side of the seat.
The 30cm/12in touch-screen TV and noise-cancellation headphones were also excellent throughout.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE
There really isn’t a “bad seat” in business class, as even the middle seats are angled away from each other, meaning that individual passengers enjoy excellent privacy.
However, I would identify seats 4A, 4K, 9A and 9K as the best choice. They are all window seats situated in the middle of their respective cabins, so passengers sitting there are unlikely to experience much disturbance from movement in the galley or washrooms.
I was allocated seat 10G – a middle seat towards the back of the cabin. I was immediately approached by the chief purser who welcomed me onboard and took my coat for safe storage. An attendant soon came along with a tray of welcome drinks – I chose a glass of orange juice.
Service on the flight was impressive and I was addressed by name most of the time. Overall, it was definitely much better than the service I had previously experienced flying on a North American carrier.
Air Canada business class seat
Every business class seat came with an amenity kit, bedding and a bottle of mineral water.
The selection of movies and TV shows was limited compared to many Asian carriers, however I found the touchscreen to be intuitive and the headphones provided excellent sound quality.
Flight AC15 pushed back at 1003, after which the captain made his pre-departure announcement revealing an expected flight time of just over 15 hours, with arrival in Hong Kong scheduled for 1440 the following day.
A short safety demonstration video soon followed and by the time it ended, the aircraft was already approaching the runway. We took off at 1020 and approached cruising altitude 10 minutes later, after which the seatbelt sign was turned off and the crew began their duties.
A second round of drinks was served with a bag of nuts. This time, I chose to go for the Moko Sauvignon Blanc – a New Zealand white wine that was refreshingly crisp in taste.
An inflight dining menu was available in the seat pocket, listing options for the two meal services – lunch and brunch. The menu is as follows:
- Yellowfin tuna tataki with scallion ginger vinaigrette, passion fruit and puffed rice
- Mixed greens and grape tomatoes served with vinaigrette
- Pork loin stir-fry with jasmine rice, onions, broccoli and carrots
- Thai red curry chicken complemented by steamed jasmine rice, edamame beans and bok-choy
- Tamari roasted sablefish accompanied by bok-choy, brown rice and chilli miso vinaigrette
- Grilled AAA beef tenderloin with porcini mushroom sauce, served with garlic roasted mashed potatoes, asparagus and cherry tomatoes
Selection of cheese
- Oka, camembert and medium cheddar served with grapes and crackers
- Dark chocolate fondant cake with blackberry compote
- Ice cream
- Fresh seasonal fruit
- Fresh orange juice
- Fresh seasonal fruit
- Croissants and blueberry muffins with butter and preserves
- Parsley omelette accompanied by cottage cheese, red pepper relish, roasted redskin potatoes and chicken sausage
- Chinese-style rice congee with green onion, ginger and chicken julienne
- Sliced beef chow mein with gai-lan
Lunch service began just before 12 noon, with the tuna appetiser served first. I found the fish to be fairly bland and compensated by mixing it with copious amounts of the ginger vinaigrette. Unfortunately, the acidity and strength of the sauce completely overpowered the delicate meat, which was a pity.
Yellowfin tuna tataki with scallion ginger vinaigrette, passion fruit and puffed rice
The salad followed and this was served with bread and butter. I found the mixed greens to be unimpressive but the umami-rich cherry tomatoes were juicy and very tasty.
Tamari roasted sablefish accompanied by bok-choy, brown rice and chilli miso vinaigrette
I chose the sablefish for my main, which was listed as a signature dish by Vancouver fine dining chef, David Hawksworth. The dish was phenomenal – the flesh of the fish was soft and flaky, while the brown rice and bok-choy added texture and bite to the dish. Overall, this was the most impressive meal on the flight.
Dark chocolate fondant cake with blackberry compote
I’ve never been a fan of cheese and chose to skip the next course, proceeding straight to dessert, which was served with a glass of soy milk. The dark chocolate fondant cake was rich but not overly so, and the natural sweetness of the blackberry compote complemented the slightly bitter taste of the cake.
In-flight entertainment screen
After lunch, I reclined my seat into a fully-flat position and laid out the bedding provided. I was able to get a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep before waking up as we were flying over Japan. I spent the remainder of the flight watching episodes of the US comedy TV series Brooklyn Nine Nine.
Parsley omelette accompanied by cottage cheese, red pepper relish, roasted redskin potatoes and chicken sausage
Brunch service began roughly two hours before arrival, but it was a forgettable affair. I opted for the parsley omelette but was disappointed by its rubbery texture. To be honest, I’ve yet to be impressed by an omelette served in the air, but continually choose to have it for breakfast in the hopes of one day finding a perfect specimen. My long wait continues.
Descent was announced at 1230, with a new arrival time of 1320 – over an hour ahead of schedule. The plane landed at the specified time, and approached the gate five minutes later.
An excellent business class seat that was matched by very good service and premium amenities. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Air Canada’s ground operations, which didn’t cope well under pressure and appeared inefficient most of the time.
- CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
- SEAT PITCH 191cm/35in
- SEAT WIDTH 53cm/21in
- SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
- PRICE Internet rates for a midweek return business class flight from Toronto to Hong Kong in January 2016 start at CA$9,201 (US$6,613) including taxes, fees, charges and carrier-imposed surcharges.
- CONTACT aircanada.com