- Slave Class to Toronto [here]
- Sightseeing in Toronto
- One of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Niagara Falls
- WestJet Take One: Toronto to Yellowknife via Edmonton
- Spirits Dancing on the Lonely Planet: Aurora Hunting
- Subarctic hiking and fishing
- WestJet Take Two: Yellowknife to Calgary
- A First in Delta: First Class to Seattle
- Alaska with Delta’s Comfort Plus
- Spencer Glacier Sea Kayak and Hike via the Alaska Rail Road
- Anchorage in the rain
- Redeye in Domestic First: Anchorage to Vancouver via Seattle
- Home with Air Canada: not dead yet!
This is the first of many posts on my summer trip to see the Northern Lights and Glaciers in the subarctic North. But first, we went to Toronto to see the city and the Niagara Falls.
We wanted to fly our city’s home carrier Cathay Pacific at first, because it was far more superior in its economy offering from Hong Kong to Toronto, with its 9-abreast configuration rather than AC’s 10-abreast 777s. But AC ran a promotion so we grabbed 4 tickets to Toronto (flying from Vancouver on the way back, the domestic segments not included). Not exactly a deal (~US$900 per person), but it was much cheaper than flying Cathay, and with my Star Alliance Gold status, we figured that it was the better option (lounge access, priority luggage etc.)
Fast track to the day of departure: the flight was scheduled to depart at 15:10, so we arrived around 3 hours before the flight was schedule to leave to leave ample time for lunch and others. Little did we know, AC does not open its check-in counters until 2.5 hours before departure. There were lines forming already in the economy line, but we were first in line in the Business Class / Star Gold queue. Interestingly, the highest priority in check-in is only afforded to Altitude 100K members, not even Business Class passengers.
Air Canada’s check-in counters are located in Aisle D in HKG
Priority Check-in signage
Ticketing counters for SATS HK, who handles AC in HKG
AC’s Economy signage – note that almost all passengers would need to go through here despite online check-in due to document checks after Canada’s new visa policy
Still no one…
By the time I finished check-in, the Economy lanes were filled with people and the queue was extended to beyond the aisle – it was going to be a very full flight.
The premium counters were quite empty though…
We then went to Terminal 2 for lunch. Terminal 2 is a rare gem, in my opinion, offering affordable dining experiences in contrast to the overpriced food in Terminal 1 or in the secured area. There is a food court on the top level of Terminal 2 that is often quite crowded but not full (not as crowded or busy as the Terminal 1 food courts in the secured area). If you have extra time in HKG, Terminal 2 is your go-to for food!
Artwork in the walkway to Terminal 2
After lunch, I guested my mother into the SilverKris Lounge – my favourite Star Alliance lounge in the airport, and easily my favourite lounge in HKG (I have not visited the Priority Pass lounges, though I have heard enough bad things about them; I have not done the First Class lounges, Qantas, Virgin, SkyTeam and Emirates yet; I suspect I would fall in love with Qantas later this month!)
The SilverKris lounge in HKG features hot/cold food selections, made-to-order noodles (Wonton or Laksa), an open bar and lots of different seating arrangements. I have reviewed the lounge a number of times. Suffice to say, it is an outstanding outstation lounge for SQ, yet it has an inbuilt flaw. Its location means that there is no view or no windows in the lounge, which could be a problem for some (United or Thai, the other two Star Alliance partners have lounges above the concourse, which feature a more open space).
Food-wise, there is a good mixture of Western and Oriental food. Also, if you feel a bit peckish, snacks like prawn cakes or cup noodles are always available. Of course, one could always stomach an HD ice cream!
There is an open bar, with champagne, wines, spirits, liquors, cocktails (Singapore Sling) and beer (on tap and in can!)
I opted for a Gin and Tonic, and my mother went for a Singapore Sling.
Then I had a spontaneous wine tasting at the bar. I liked the German Riesling the best, it was quite sweet.
The Chilean Sauvignon Blanc was not bad either. It was as good as some of the NZ ones I have had before!
I enjoyed my stay at the lounge. As ever, the lounge was comfortable and a good place to relax in. The staff on duty were all very friendly and attentive: not to mention the bartender who offered a wine tasting! It was a fun change to the normal lounge visits!
Soon enough it was boarding time. The flight was boarding at gate 49, which was one of the furthest gates in the airport. It took a good 20 minutes to get to the gate! But decent enough for an after-lunch stroll!
An El AL 772 for Tel Aviv.
After passing a few more gates, we eventually got to gate 49 and met our chariot for the first time.
The typical gate shoot
Air Canada boards by zones. Zone 1 is for Business Class passengers and what they call the “Super Elites” (Altitude 100K) and Zone 2 is for Premium Economy passengers and Star Alliance Gold members. Then Zones 3-5 are for general boarding.
Once pre-boarding was called, passengers formed queues in their corresponding zones, though some Mainland Chinese travellers try to get to the front of the line via Zones 1 and 2. Luckily, the agents rigorously enforced the boarding zones.
This 77L features AC’s newest “pod” product (B/E Aerospace Diamond Seat) in its Business Class.
The Premium Economy Class cabin
And finally, the slave class
I snagged the bulkhead window, but the legroom was painfully little. Despite being the bulkhead, it was almost impossible to get out without disturbing my neighbours.
Really bad quality earphones
PTV with new IFE
Boarding completed on time and we taxied to take off. I have an over wing view, which was not at all that exciting. Luckily we took off in 15 minutes and we were in air for our 15-hour journey to Toronto.
Inflight map in front of me, on the wall
Can’t remember what I watched, it was not something interesting though…
Snacks and drinks were soon offered. I opted for a G&T and some club soda. The pretzels were good, too. I would prefer to have a can of tonic water to go with my gin, though – loved the small bottles, though!
And got that from the flight attendant when he walked around collecting trash…
Dinner was soon offered, menu was available in the IFE:
The tray was painfully small but the bread was warm (this would be the only warm roll this trip)
I chose the beef. It was passable. If I designed the meal, I would have gone for mash potato, which would have been easier and moister. The potatoes were too dry to eat…
The sun soon set as dinner service concluded:
Over Japan at the moment
After dinner drinks were offered… I chose Bailey’s on rocks. Again, I loved the small bottles!
Over Russia/Alaska, the Sun came back! (Note: It was quite funny as the final stop in my journey was Anchorage and I was above the city over a week before!)
A second meal was offered. This time everyone got a cup noodles, a sandwich and a pack of biscuits. Cup noodles was not a good call. By the time I got the noodles, the noodles soaked up the soup already. But, again, it was passable. So far, I was quite satisfied with the amount of food we got – as CX would happily serve us two meals instead of three.
The final meal was served about 2 hours out of Toronto. A bit weird to be serving breakfast prior to arrival, but rice porridge was something easier to eat after 13 hours on a plane. This was the worst meal of the flight, but was still okay. Bread roll was cold… Inedible!
Wrong safety card loaded onto the plane? This is a 77L not a 77W!
My TV went dead for the last few hours of the flight
But that was fine – as we were nearly there
Goodbye (never again, hopefully!)
AC is not too bad in terms of its soft products. We were well fed with edible food and if one should feel peckish, biscuits and pretzels are always available in the gallery, the same with drinks. A good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks was present. Crews were present and helpful, cheery at times.
The inflight entertainment was bad. It did not function half the time, and half the time it did function, there were not the entirety of options as promised in the magazine and online. Limited movies and TV selections for an ultra-long haul flight were not desirable.
The seat was equally undesirable. 3-4-3 configuration reduces the seat width to 17 inches as opposed to the usual 18 inches. I felt cramped even at bulkhead. I could not possibly leave my seat without physical contact with my neighbour. The curved wall in front of me was a huge obstacle and I nearly fell over trying to get out.
I tried it and I don’t see a need of going back to this “slave class” travel.