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Flight Review: Air Canada, 777-300ER, Business Class, Vancouver (YVR) - Toronto (YYZ)

Updated: Apr 11, 2022


 

Airline: Air Canada

Flight: AC188

Date: March 2022

Duration: 4 hours 21 mins

Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER

Seat: 10A - Business Class

Wi-Fi: Yes

Inflight Entertainment: 18 inch touch screen

Inflight Meal: Full Hot Meal

Snacks: Mid-Flight – Chips and Chocolate Bar

Cost for this ticket : 15,800 points and $33.73 (+ 4 e-upgrade credits)


 

Rating: 6.8

Seating Area: 8

Cabin Service: 5

In-Flight Entertainment: 8

Meals and Snacks: 6


Introduction


In March 2022, I returned to the air for the first time in a few months with a flight from Vancouver to Toronto with Air Canada on its 777-300ER in business class.


Booking the Flight


While generally it's prudent to try to book award tickets as far out as possible to have the greatest number of options available to you, in this case it wasn't possible. The purpose of the trip was to attend a couple of Toronto Raptors' games with my son over Spring Break and the Raptors had only recently re-started ticket sales to allow fans to attend games after Covid restrictions were lifted. As a result, I found myself booking tickets about three weeks prior to my trip knowing it would be during the potentially busy spring break travel period.


As luck would have it, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was space available on a direct flight between Vancouver and Toronto (I suspect those who are smarter than me headed south to enjoy some warm sunshine rather than to head east where it was colder than in Vancouver). Better yet, economy class tickets could be had for a steal at only 4,300 points and $34, which is phenomenal value! However, that was not the case with business class seats, which were priced at 72,900 points.



I recently earned 35K Elite status with Air Canada. I use the term "earned" loosely as I didn't earn the status by taking flights and paying cash fares. Rather, with Air Canada there are opportunities to earn status using Aeroplan branded credit cards. Along with status comes these magical credits called "e-upgrades" which, it turns out, are quite valuable. In a future post I will cover how one can earn elite status with Air Canada through a credit card.


It was e-upgrades that allowed me to fly in business class on this flight and not pay the going rate of 72,900 points. I will save the details on the ins and outs of e-upgrades for another post, but suffice to say, I was able to book a Latitude economy class fare, which is a pricier fare class, for 15,800 points + $33.75.



After booking, I then applied e-upgrades. To upgrade to business class from economy class was 4 e-upgrade credits for each seat.

Since I had booked a Latitude economy fare, I was able to immediately confirm that my upgrade to business class had cleared - success! I consider 15,800 points to be a great deal for a lie flat business class seat for an almost 4 1/2 hour flight which otherwise would have cost $1,264 at the time of booking.


Check-In and Boarding


I completed my check-in online using Air Canada's app. At that time, I also indicated that I would have one piece of checked baggage and the app indicated that the price would be $0 since two checked bags are included on a Latitude fare. In any event, as an American Express Aeroplan Reserve credit card holder one of the perks is one free checked bag.


At the airport, it was a simple task of having a baggage tag printed at the self-serve terminal and then placing the luggage on a self service luggage drop. The luggage drop is quite nifty. Your luggage tag is automatically scanned and whoosh, off it goes!


Prior to boarding the plane, I headed to the Maple Leaf Lounge for a bite to eat. Travelling in business class, I had access to the lounge (you will see a little lounge logo on the boarding pass). Again, though, as an American Express Aeroplan Reserve credit card holder, I would have had access to the lounge even if travelling in economy class.


While in the lounge, I had a perfect view of the aircraft I would soon be boarding. This Boeing aircraft was manufactured in December 2008.


Air Canada 777-300ER, Fin 740

The aircraft was about 15 minutes or so late in boarding. Even once we boarded there was a further delay before we departed.


Seat Area (8/10)

Air Canada has 18 Boeing 777-300ERs in its fleet, consisting of two layouts. One layout has 40 business class seats, featuring a main business class cabin (with 26 seats) and a mini business class cabin (with 14 seats). The second layout has a single business class cabin with 24 business class seats. For this trip, the aircraft layout was the former with two business class cabins.

Aircraft interior characteristics

Air Canada Signature Class

Premium Economy

Economy Class

Number of Seats

40

24

336

Configuration

1x2x1

2x4x2

3x4x3

Rows

1 - 11

12 - 14

18 - 64

Seat Pitch

Individual pod

94 cm (37 in)

78.7 cm (31 in)

Seat Width

53.3 cm (21 in)

50.8 cm (20 in)

43.2 cm (17 in)

Seat Recline

Fully lie-flat bed

20.3 cm (8 in)

15.2 cm (6 in)

Air Canada's business class, or "Signature Class", on the 777-300ER uses the Rockwell Collins Super Diamond seat with a reverse herringbone layout. The seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration, with each seat having direct aisle access.


As I have never flown in the mini-cabin of the 777, I decided to try it out and chose seat 10A for this flight. At the time I booked and chose my seat, all the seats were available in the mini-cabin so I thought there might be a chance of having a relatively empty cabin. As it turned out, the mini-cabin ended up being full for this flight.


While I am excited before any flight, there is a particular excitement I feel when travelling business class. I boarded the flight and instead of making the typical left turn to head to the business class cabin, I made a right turn and headed to the business class mini-cabin to find my way to seat 10A.

Looking across the business class mini-cabin
The Business Class Mini-Cabin

The color scheme and design of the seating and cabin area is pleasant with its neutral beiges and greys. While it may not scream cutting edge style or luxury, it is welcoming, relaxing and comfortable. The subtle blue lighting is also a nice effect.


Waiting for me at my seat is what I have come to expect in Air Canada business class: a mattress cover for the seat, a blanket, a pillow, a bottle of water, headphones and a CleanCare kit. The CleanCare kit includes a mask, hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. I like the fact that the CleanCare kit is ready and waiting when you arrive at your seat so that you can immediately wipe down the area if you are so inclined.

Seat 10A

Settling into my seat - check out that PointsPals swag!

CleanCare kit

I found the seat and the surrounding area to be very clean - kudos to the Air Canada cleaning crew!

Lots of counter space with two windows

The seating area has a small storage area accessed by flipping up a portion of the countertop.

Storage area

Inside the storage area is the remote for the in flight entertainment system, USB charging port, AC plug and the headphone jack. It's a handy spot to be able to place your phone, wallet, glasses, etc. out of the way. There is also a small gap between the lid and edge of the storage area that allows a charging cord to extend out of the storage area so that you can use your phone while charging but still have the lid closed so that you have a flat counter space.


110V AC plug
USB port and headphone jack
IFE remote

The seat has a digital touchscreen that allows you to control various features. Using the touchscreen you can call for service, adjust the lighting, adjust the seat and use the massage function. In addition there are two physical buttons to the right of the touchscreen that allows you to use one touch to put the seat in the full sitting position or the full recline (bed) position.

Seat controls

The seat controls allow you to customize your seat adjustment to your desired position, as well as having three pre-set seating positions: sit, relax and rest. As this was an afternoon flight, I never fully reclined the seat into rest mode.

Seat controls

The comfort settings allow you to apply a massage function to the headrest, lumbar or mattress of the seat. It's rather generous to call it a "massage" function. Essentially, it feels like a rubber bladder in the seat being inflated and deflated repeatedly.

Seat comfort settings

The ambiance menu on the touchscreen allows you to turn the overhead light on and off. In addition, there is a second light underneath the footrest that you can also turn off and on. I'm not entirely sure of the utility of the footrest light, perhaps on a dark plane if you drop something it could come in handy.


Ambiance (lighting) controls

The seat has an armrest that can be raised and lowered. This is a handy feature as lowering the armrest when the seat is reclined for sleeping gives you a bit more width making the bed more comfortable. As well, when the armrest is raised there is an additional storage space under the armrest.

Armrest lowered
Armrest raised
Storage area below armrest

The tray table is affixed immediately below the IFE screen. There is a trigger under the table that allows you to release the table and pull it closer to you. As well, the table can be unfolded to increase the size.

Tray table

There is also a small reading light on the top side of the chair which pops out to provide lighting.

Reading light - off
Reading light - on

The pods are fairly private as you can see from the picture below.


Overall, I found the seat to be very comfortable. The individual controls allow you to place the seat in whatever position you desire. The seating area has a lot of counter space and sufficient storage for your odds and ends, as well as a charging space. I also found that mini-cabin was relatively quiet being a small cabin and the fact that seat 10A is away from any disturbances such as a lavatory or galley. I wouldn't hesitate to choose this seat again (indeed, I chose the same seat on my return flight).


Cabin Services (6/10 Points)


Cabin Staff

Upon arriving at my seat, the flight attendant came by, welcomed me aboard and handed me the dining menu. Typically the primary in flight host will come by and introduce themselves, this did not occur on this flight.


During the course of the flight and the meal service, the flight attendants were efficient and pleasant enough. I've never had the service on Air Canada "wow" me, but it has always been adequate with not a lot to complain about. This flight was no different.


I did find the service lacking somewhat in the manner in which meal orders were taken, more on that later.


Restrooms

The restrooms on the 777-300ER are an adequate size with a grey decorative wallpaper on one wall displaying tree branches with maple leaves. The restroom also has a window, which is a nice touch. The restroom is stocked with Vitruvi hand cream and hand wash which are quite nice with a lovely scent, not surprising given that Vancouver based Vitruvi is an aromatherapy brand. I did notice a couple of used paper towels on the floor, but overall the restroom appeared to be clean midway through the flight when I visited.


A loo with a view!

In-flight Wi-Fi

In-flight Wi-Fi was available on this aircraft but I didn't have a need for it on this trip so did not purchase a Wi-Fi package. The table below sets out the Wi-Fi pricing in Canadian dollars. Air Canada also allows you to use Aeroplan points to purchase Wi-Fi packages:

Package

Duration

Price (Cdn$ or Aeroplan points)

Browser Pass

1 Hour

$7 or 700 points

Full Flight

$11.25 or 1500 points

All Day

$34.95

Ultimate Pass (Includes Streaming)

1 hour

$13.75 or 1400 points

Full Flight

$24 or 2400 points

Air Canada Plan

North America

$65.95 / Month

Global

$89.95

Entertainment (8/10 points)

The business class seating on the 777-300ER comes with an 18 inch high-definition touchscreen.

18 inch high definition touchscreen

The entertainment offerings are quite comprehensive, including just released movies, lots of older movies, an abundance of TV shows, music channels, flight map and video games. There was ample entertainment options for the less than 5 hour flight from Vancouver to Toronto.


As noted above, the storage console houses a remote control for the entertainment system. I particularly like that Air Canada's remote has a small screen on it that allows you to display the in flight map on the remote control. There is also the option of having a small window on the entertainment screen, but I much prefer simply putting the in-flight map onto the remote display to it doesn't clutter up the main screen when I am watching a movie.

Entertainment remote with in flight map display

Air Canada also provides noise cancelling headphones. Typically I prefer to use my own Bose noise cancelling headphone, however, on this flight I went to use them only to find out that I had left them on and they were completely out of batteries. As a result, I had no choice but to use the Air Canada headphones. I can say that the Air Canada headphones are not as good as my personal headphones, either for sound quality or noise cancelling properties. That being said, they were adequate and did the job. Unlike Ladi's recent experience on Air Canada's 787-800 (see that review here) the headphone jack and headphones worked without a problem.


Meals and Snacks (6/10 Points)

This flight included lunch. The menu is below:


Lunch Menu


Non-Alcoholic Beverages


Wine List


Spirits, Liqueurs and Beer

When the flight attendant came around to take meal orders, I found the process a bit odd. First, the flight attendant took the order of my son who was sitting behind me. She then bypassed me and took the order of the passenger seated in front of me. She then left the mini-cabin without taking other orders. She later returned and took the order of the passenger seated ahead and opposite me and then the order of the passenger directly opposite me. She then headed to the next seat behind and opposite me at which time I stopped her and indicated that my order had not yet been taken. She looked at her list, apologized and took my order. There seemed to be no real rhyme or reason to the order in which she was taking meal orders.


Some time later, a different flight attendant than the one who took the meal orders came to my son who was sitting behind me and told him that they had run out of beef tenderloin and asked him for his second choice. He changed his choice to the ravioli. About 5 minutes later, I saw the flight attendant state the same thing to a passenger a couple rows up. A minute later the flight attendant arrived at my seat and told me that they had run out of beef tenderloin and indicated that they had cod available or a very nice chicken meal, different than the one on the menu. I asked if I could have the ravioli and I was told that they were also out of ravioli. As a result, I settled on the chicken meal with a sneaking suspicion that the chicken meal she described, being different than the menu item, was probably from the Premium Economy meal service. Another member of our party was sitting in Premium Economy and I later learned that, indeed, the chicken meal I had was from the Premium Economy meal service. Personally, that's not a big deal, but I am surprised that they ran out of practically every entrée option on the business class menu.


I've never quite understood how Air Canada determines who gets what meal in business class as they typically NEVER have sufficient meals on board to ensure that you get your first choice. I have heard that it is based on elite status. I have heard that it is based on the fare class your purchased (i.e. the more expensive the fare class, the greater the likelihood you will have priority to get the meal you choose). I have heard that the closer you sit to the first row, the more likely you are to get your meal choice (i.e. first come, first serve). In this case, the flight attendant popped all over the place taking meal orders, which seems to dispel the idea that it is based on the lowest row numbers being asked first and getting their choice. As well, I have 35K elite status, which is on the low end of elite status, yet my son sitting behind me has no status and managed to get the ravioli, an option that wasn't available to me. Finally, I don't know how it is that Air Canada could pack so few meals that the only business class meal selection that was available of the four on the menu, was the cod. In my experience it is more often the case than not that Air Canada will not have your first meal selection, particularly if it is beef. One might think that Air Canada would load on more beef meals given that it always seems to be the most popular and runs out first, but apparently not.


Before the meal service, the flight attendant came by with the drink cart and offered a package of roasted salted almonds. The almonds were fine, though I would like to see Air Canada up their game and do what Turkish Airlines does in providing a small bowl of warm assorted nuts rather than a package of almonds.


I requested a glass of the James Bryant Hill, Pinot Noir. A bottle of this wine costs about $15-$20 in Canada. Unfortunately, the wine was served way too cold - practically like a chilled white wine. Once it warmed up, it was quite nice.


Pinot Noir and Almonds

Prior to the meal service, the flight attendant placed a tablecloth of the tray table.


The first course consisted of a green salad, along with the appetizer of smoked salmon and a side of ciabatta bread. It was nicely presented with individual salt and pepper shakers and a cloth napkin with cutlery.


The mixed green salad was fine. It was fresh and was served with a small bottle of balsamic vinaigrette.

side salad

The smoked salmon appetizer was very good. I prefer the hot smoked salmon filet style to the thin cold smoked salmon or lox. There was a healthy portion of smoked salmon, so no complaints there. The fingerling potato and mixed vegetable salad was fresh and flavourful and was the perfect accompaniment to the smoked salmon. I thoroughly enjoyed the appetizer.

Smoked salmon with fingerling potato and vegetable salad

I was less enthusiastic about the ciabatta bun. Ciabatta buns tend to be a little denser and crunchy to begin. This bun was tough and chewy and not all that enjoyable. What didn't help was the hard as rock butter which was practically impossible to spread on the bun. Some soft butter or margarine could have provided much needed moisture to the bun perhaps making it a little less tough.

The hockey puck... err, ciabatta bun

Once the first course was completed, the empty dishes were promptly cleared from my tray. I must say that the flight attendants were very attentive in walking down the aisles and clearing plates as soon as a customer finished their meal. There was no feeling of being rushed but once you finished it was quickly recognized and your plate was promptly cleared.

My main course was then delivered, being my chicken dinner. Unfortunately, since it was not a menu item in business class, I can't even recall the name of the dish. The presentation was good and it did look tasty. The dish had a hint of spice to it. Overall it was fine, but not memorable.


For dessert, I ordered the brownie with caramel and pecans. At that time I also ordered my usual after meal drink of a glass of port, which on this flight was the Dow's Port. The port paired nicely with brownie as it was not overly sweet and quickly refreshed the palate.

Brownie with caramel and almonds, paired with Dow's Port

As for the brownie itself, I have had this dessert in the past as it seems to be a mainstay on Air Canada's business class menu. Almost every time I have it, upon my first bite I have a hint of regret in ordering it because it seems like a pretty average brownie. Then, with the next bite I hit upon the caramel and pecans, which are marvelous. So, bottom line, I like the brownie when its paired with the caramel and pecans, which is what keeps me coming back, but the brownie alone... meh.

Brownie with caramel and almonds

At the time of delivering my dessert, the flight attendant who had been providing the lunch service to me noted that he had heard that I had not received my choice of meal and he apologized noting that "they didn't give us enough". I thought it was nice that he acknowledged that and offered an apology. I think it's important to realize that such mishaps are not the fault of the flight crew. I responded to him that I completely understood that sometimes these things happen.

In-flight Snack


In the latter half of the flight, a snack was offered, consisting of a bag of chips and a Lindt dark chocolate bar. I passed on the snack as I was feeling just comfortable after the meal service.


Conclusion

I found Air Canada's hard product on the 777-300ER to be quite good and competitive in the long haul market. I would recommend the mini-cabin and the location of seat 10A as it provided a quiet and relaxing experience. While I think Air Canada could up its food game, it was adequate. I felt similarly about the overall service provided and I think they could do a better job in ensuring that at least your second meal choice is available. All that being said, I wouldn't hesitate to fly business class with Air Canada in the future.


When In Vancouver:

Hotels:


City Tour:


When In Toronto:

City Tour:


Other Air Canada Flight Reviews:


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