In June 2012 I went from Stavanger in Norway to Calgary in Canada. I started on a Sunday morning from Stavanger and there was only 1 row (3 seats) for business class passengers and I was seated by the window. On the way to London I was served a warm lunch of salmon and pasta and the salmon was pretty good. When we were getting closer to Heathrow it was of course very busy and we had to circle for like 15 minutes before we could approach the airport – at one point we got pretty close to another plane!Both SAS and Air Canada are a part of Star Alliance and in London I stopped by the SAS lounge on Terminal 3 while I was waiting for my next flight and I only had a 1 hour wait.
The next flight was the Air Canada flight directly to Calgary on a Boeing 777-300ER. On the business class (or Executive first class as Air Canada chooses to call it) they have a 1-2-1 seat configuration but they are angled. You can see the same configuration on some of the Thai Airway flights these days (on the planes that they have leased from Jet Airways). The seat itself was not bad as you can recline it all the way down and it connects with a small foot stool in the front to form a horizontal bed. But I’m not sure about the angled configuration. If you travel alone it feels a bit weird as you are looking over to what 2-3 other passengers are doing. And if you are traveling as a couple you get a bit too far from each other to really talk without raising the voice. And if you have a window seat it is a bit tricky to look out the window as the seat is facing in towards the aisle.
When I got to my seat 3D the blanket and amenity bag had already been handed out. The amenity bag was not very impressive as it only contained socks, eye shades, ear plugs and a toothbrush – but then again, what more do you need? J There was also a headset in place and it was actually non-detachable and I think it is the first time I see that on a flight. They didn’t look that great and I was glad I was bringing my own BOSE noise reducing headset. But the sound quality was not great and I’m not sure if it was because of a problem with the socket or the quality of the actual movie. The TV folds out from the side of the seat and I would guess it was about 15” – for me it was a bit on the small side as it was not possible to bring it closer. The screen is a touch screen but I still think there is room for improvement as it was very slow to navigate around the system. But the selections of movies were quite good but games were not working. The TV can also be controlled by a small remote and this contains a small joystick that was not very easy to use. And I think it is the first time that I have seen commercials being shown before a movie on a flight!
We had to wait almost two hours onboard the plane before we could finally take off – Heathrow can be really busy! When I first got on board the plane I was offered sparkling wine and not champagne. I’m not sure why they do it like this as flight attendants were very generous with the champagne later on. The meal was served after a while and the starters were a green salad with tomato and parmesan cheese and with the olive oil/balsamic vinegar it was delicious. The smoked salmon was also served at the same time and that was also quite good. While I was enjoying the starter, the main dish was prepared. There was a choice of 4 main courses and I went for the rack of lamb which was simply excellent. I don’t think I have ever tasted so juicy meat on a flight in a long time. After the main meal I got some cheese and it was fun to try some Wensleydale cheese after seeing a Wallace and Gromit movie on a flight home from Asia recently. To round it of an apple pie was served together with coffee – all in all I have to say I’m impressed by the meal. It must have been one of the best meals I have had on a business class flight.
I took the same route back from Calgary and check-in at the airport was uneventful. The Maple leaf lounge at the Calgary airport looked a bit tired to start with but when I walked around it was quite big with various seats and it also had a nice view towards the planes parked on the outside and towards the city center. There were food, fruit, soft drinks, wine etc on offer.
Going back I had once again a Boeing 777-300ER and I had picked seat 1G. Once again amenities were already laid out on the seat when I got there but this time the toiletry bag was different. I guess it makes sense to have a different toiletry bag on a night flight compared to a day flight. Once again the service was good and I enjoyed the salad for starter together with a small dish including scallop and tiger prawn. There were several options for the main meal and I was tempted to go for meat again but as I had eaten a bit of meat during my stay in Calgary, I went for risotto instead. As I love risotto it is always a potential for disaster. The risotto served on this flight was not great in any way but it was lighter than then meat option. The meal was rounded off with a selection of cheese and a toffee apple cranberry cake.
As this was a night flight I got to test out the seat for real and when reclined all the way down it forms a more or less flat bed that provided a good place for a few hours sleep. I did wake up in connection with breakfast and got served an omelet, sausage etc. After we had landed in London, one of the cabin crew asked me if I wanted to see the cabin crew resting area on the second floor and I have never been offered this before so I said yes of course. There was a small staircase leading up to it and on the second floor there were two beds and two comfortable chairs. After a short stop in London I took a SAS flight back to Norway.
Just a few things that I didn’t like about the flights/planes/service on board AirCanada:
First of all it is a bit strange to be seated at an angle. The seat itself was pretty good but if you are traveling with someone this is not an ideal configuration. On the way over the TV that you fold out was a bit loose and the menu system on the inflight entertainment is not very good. Games did not seem to work at all both ways. And when using the BOSE headset instead of the headset that was supplied, there was a constant cracking sound. Going to Calgary there was a toilet in business class where the sink was not working.
But all in all: the service and food on board the flights were quite good and as the seat provides a flat bed for sleeping.
All in all I would rate the Air Canada Executive First Class higher than e.g. Scandinavian business class as they do provide a lay flat seat and the food is a bit better but it still does not compare with the seat and service from Singapore Airlines.
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