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by Haas Mroue
| Flight: AC541 |
Route: Toronto, Ontario (IATA: YYZ/ICAO: CYYZ)-Seattle, Washington (Sea-Tac) (SEA/KSEA)
Date: May 3, 2006
Aircraft: Airbus A319
Departure time: 1740
Arrival time: 1945
Passenger: Haas Mroue
| ||PHOTO: BRIAN MCNAIR|
Check-inCheck-in was very quick and efficient at the dedicated Executive Class counter at Toronto Pearson Terminal 2. Directly facing the check-in counters is the US immigration and customs pre-clearance point, a process which was quick and easy. Lines at the security checkpoint were thin and the entire process of check-in, clearing immigration and customs, and going through security took less than 15 minutes. Bravo Air Canada!The Maple Leaf Lounge may very well be the best airline lounge in North America, save for the lack of windows whatsoever. But the ample choice of cozy seating areas completely makes up for it. An excellent selection of beverages (including a range of complimentary alcoholic drinks) is available from the self-service counters scattered throughout the area. There are quiet zones, TV zones, and several Internet-ready computers available free of charge, complete with printers and telephones. Snacks included delicious dips with pita bread and bite-size vegetables. Boarding Boarding began a bit late at 1720, but proceeded very quickly even though every seat in both classes was filled on this A319. I had the bulkhead seat 1A with extra leg room. Seats were wide and comfortable, but offered no special amenities (such as personal IFE, etc). However, Air Canada is launching a North American premium product this summer that promises to have the best business class seats and service on the continent.The very well-groomed and professional male flight attendants took care of passengers’ coats and welcomed us by name. Canadian newspapers were distributed although there were no drinks offered before takeoff and no blankets or pillows on the seats.
In FlightThe captain greeted us at the scheduled departure time of 1740 and informed us of a short delay because of last-minute bags being loaded.We pushed back at 1755 and after a long taxi (passing a just-landed Aeroflot 767) we were airborne at 1810.At 1820 drink orders were taken and duly served. Champagne was available in the form of Spanish Cava served in a split, not poured out of a big bottle. Drinks came with a packet of cashews and not heated in a ramekin like on United or some other Star Alliance carriers. There were no menus but the gracious FA offered us two choices—chicken teriyaki or beef with potatoes. Hot towels were distributed at 1845.The dinner service began with a green salad with large chunks of green peppers and feta cheese. The salad was pre-tossed with the dressing, unlike US carriers that always provide dressing ‘on the side’.A British Columbia Jackson Triggs Chardonnay was the white wine selection of the evening, and though smooth and buttery, it was served at almost cabin-temperature and chilled enough. There were two choices of red wine: Merlot or Shiraz.A choice of three different bread types was offered and the steak was quite tasty, although served lukewarm. The carrots underneath the meat were refrigerator-cold and the mashed potatoes were edible, but not exactly delicious. Wine and water were refilled quickly by the sole male FA who was very professional throughout and very attentive to his 14 passengers.A tiny piece of Lindor chocolate was served with the coffee or tea after which most passengers settled in to watch the movie: King Kong. We passed over Michigan, Minnesota, and Montana before the movie was over and the FA served freshly baked macadamia nut and oatmeal cookies, along with ice cream, 90 minutes before landing. We passed over Spokane, Washington, before beginning our decent into Seattle where, despite our departure delay, we arrived right on schedule at 1945 and pulled into the N-gate area used by United and this sole Air Canada flight. Bags took 35 minutes to appear on the carousel. Overall impressionAir Canada’s Executive Class is an excellent product for business travel and service is highly professional, blending European efficiency with North American friendliness. While the check-in, lounge, and onboard service were flawless, the lack of menus, chilled white wine, and properly heated main courses were inconsistent with an airline wishing to tout its product as the best in North America.Air Canada may wish to tweak its in-flight service a bit to match its other Star Alliance partners, but apart from the delayed baggage unloading at Seattle, AC does offer a premium product superior to most North American carriers.
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