Flight Review: Air Canada, A220-300, Economy Class (Preferred), Vancouver (YVR) - Santa Ana (SNA)
Airline: Air Canada
Date: April 2022
Duration: 2 hours 47 mins
Aircraft: Airbus A220-300
Seat: 21F - Economy Class (Preferred Seat)
Inflight Entertainment: 10 inch touch screen
Inflight Meal: Available for purchase
Snacks: Mid-Flight – Beverage service (soft drinks, coffee, tea - free)
Cost for this ticket : 2,300 Aeroplan points + $61
Seating Area: 7
Cabin Service: 5
In-Flight Entertainment: 8
Meals and Snacks: 4
This is a review of my flight from Vancouver to Santa Ana aboard Air Canada's A220-300, my first time flying this relatively new aircraft.
Booking the Flight
I booked this flight just over two months prior to my departure. When I was originally searching for award space over several days, most flights were around 7,000 Aeroplan points per person. During one of my searches I hit upon award space for a mere 2,300 + $61 per person. I was able to book each of the four members of our party at that rate, which is great value.
Air Canada's dynamic pricing for award space can result in widely varying prices depending on when you book your flight and when you are travelling. When demand is high, the award redemption price reflects the high demand. For example, Ladi recently flew a similar route from Vancouver to Los Angeles but it cost him 28,111 points per seat as he was travelling during the high season (Spring Break) travel period (Ladi's review of his flight on the 737-Max 8 can be found here).
US Entry Requirements - Covid Testing
At this time (April 2022) flying into the United States requires a negative COVID antigen test taken one day before your flight as well as proof of vaccination. I find it kind of silly that if you drive across the border from Canada into the US you aren't required to have proof of a negative test, however, it's required if you fly into the US. In any event, I had a virtual COVID test the day prior to my flight which I arranged through "Rapid Test Trace", a Canadian company that I found through a Google search. The cost for the virtual test was $30 per person, though you have to supply your own Health Canada approved rapid test. In British Columbia, rapid tests are available free from many pharmacies, so an overall cost of $30 isn't too bad. Overall, my experience with Rapid Test Trace was okay - but not excellent.
I booked my virtual Covid test for 8:15am the day prior to my flight. You receive an MS Teams invite via email for your virtual test. The morning of my test I dutifully signed into the MS Teams link about 5 minutes before the appointed time. However, by 8:20am the nurse had not yet logged in for the appointment and I was getting a tad concerned as to whether the appointment had been missed. However, the nurse did appear on the MS Teams stream a minute or so later (without any apology for being late) and everything went smoothly after that. After the test, and while I was still in the meeting, the letter was emailed to me that confirmed my negative test result and which I would have to upload to Air Canada in order to check in.
My wife and son also booked tests arranged through Rapid Test Trace, though they had scheduled their tests for later in the day. My son had his test scheduled for 5:00pm and the nurse was 15 minutes late to join the MS Teams appointment to conduct the test (again, with no apology for being late).
Similarly, my wife had her test scheduled for the last slot of the day which was 6:30pm and by 7:00pm the nurse had not yet shown up to conduct the virtual test. This was particularly concerning because by this time my wife had called Rapid Test Trace to find out the reason for the delay their office was closed. We also sent an email, with no response. We began searching where else we could get testing done prior to midnight since it was required that a negative test be conducted one day prior to your flight - and by this time we had a real concern that the company had missed this appointment. Finally, by about 7:10pm, the nurse arrived on the MS Teams stream to conduct the virtual test. Again, with no apology for being late. Frankly, I find being 40 minutes late for the appointment to be unacceptable particularly when the email confirmation you receive from the company states: "If you are late for your appointment, you forfeit your appointment and will not be refunded".
I get that perhaps appointments throughout the day run over sometimes and so by the end of the date perhaps a nurse is running well behind schedule, however, perhaps more staff need to be added to ensure that doesn't happen or, at the very least, send an email with a heads up that the nurse is running late. While I'm pleased that at the end of the day we all received the documentation we needed, I'm undecided whether I would use the services of Rapid Test Trace the next time I travel to the US. On the plus side, the letters confirming the negative tests are immediately received after the test, but being so late for appointments with no notice is pretty poor customer service especially when the same leeway is not provided to the customer.
Check-In and Boarding
In order to check-in, I was required to upload my letter showing proof of a negative COVID antigen test and my proof of vaccination.
As I generally decline to pay for seat assignments in economy class, I typically try to check in as close to the 24 hour check-in window as I can to check out the seats that I have pre-assigned in case I wish to change the seats if possible. For this flight I was pleased that my wife and I were seated together and that we had been assigned preferred seats. My best guess is that Air Canada takes into account elite status when allocating seats. Whatever the case, I was pleased to see that we would have seats with a little bit more space.
The morning of the flight we arrived at the airport about two and a half hours before our flight. This was my first flight to the US since March 2020. Typically I would arrive two hours before a US departure flight. When I checked in for the flight the app suggested arriving at the airport two hours before the flight. However, when my wife checked in for the flight, the app recommended arriving three hours before the flight. We decided to arrive at the airport two and half hours before the flight. I am glad we did as the situation at Vancouver International Airport - US Departures terminal was a bit of a mess.
When we arrived at the check-in area there was a very long line streaming down the terminal. I was pleased that my American Express Aeroplan Reserve credit card would provide my party with access to the priority check-in line. The priority check-in also had a line, perhaps 20 people ahead of us, but I assumed it would move relatively quickly particularly in comparison to the huge line up for regular economy check-in. Boy, was I wrong.
The priority check-in line had only two agents. One serving super elite guests and the other serving all others in the priority line up. I don't know if people were negotiating mortgages when they reached the front of the line but, wow, did it ever move slow. Some people seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to check-in as they looked on their phones for the proof of vaccinations or proof of Covid tests. Seriously, how can some people be so ill prepared for something as simple as checking in for a flight. After about 30 minutes in the "priority line" (which seemed to be anything but) we came to the realization that the much longer regular economy check-in line would have been far quicker but by this time we had already invested too much time in the priority line and there was no point in switching lines. After about 40-50 minutes we reached the check-in counter and were quickly checked in and had our bags tagged. I felt sorry for the desk agent who had been left understaffed by Air Canada as people were becoming frustrated with the lengthy delay in checking in.
Once our bags had been tagged, we headed to security to drop off our checked luggage and join the security line. The regular line up for security was the longest I had ever seen it. However, there was a line for NEXUS and priority passengers. Again, my American Express Aeroplan Reserve card grants me priority security so, with some trepidation, I joined the shorter line for priority security fearing that it would end up taking longer just as with check-in. Luckily, this time, the priority line was actually of great benefit and we were able to quickly move through security. From there, we went through US immigration as at Vancouver International Airport you pre-clear US Immigration in Canada. The line-up through immigration was not too bad so we made it through that process in a decent time.
We arrived at the gate about 15 minutes prior to boarding. Having gotten to the airport 2 1/2 hours before departure I had planned to spend some time in the Maple Leaf Lounge to grab breakfast and do a review of the lounge. Unfortunately, with so little time, we quickly hit the lounge and had a quick bite to eat. Disappointingly, there was no hot breakfast being served at all. With so little time in the lounge, and no hot food to speak of, I abandoned my plan to do a lounge review.
Once boarding was announced, we boarded the plane in zone 2, another perk of the American Express Aeroplan Reserve credit card which can come in particularly handy to get you on the plane before most of the other passengers when there is still overhead storage space available.
Today, we were flying on an Airbus A220-300, an aircraft I was particularly interested in experiencing as it was originally designed by the Canadian company Bombardier and built in Canada. The particular aircraft we were flying on also sported the retro Trans-Canada Air Lines livery, which looks very sharp.
Once we boarded the plane and settled in, the pilot announced that there would be a delay on the taxi way of 60 - 90 minutes due to a shortage of air traffic controllers. In addition, due to the delay in the taxiway, the aircraft would need to take on more fuel, which would cause a further 30 minute re-fueling delay. The word of the day with Air Canada seemed to be "delay" from start to finish! In the end, the flight was only delayed about an hour, which was a relief.
Seat Area (7/10)
Air Canada has 28 A220-300s in its fleet, all of which are relatively new aircraft.
Aircraft interior characteristics
Number of Seats
1 - 3
12 - 36
93.98cm (37 in)
76.2 cm (30 in)
52.07 cm (21 in)
48.01cm (19 in)
15.24cm (6 in)
7.62cm (3 in)
Power Ports (110 volt connection, no adapter required)
USB-A and USB-C
USB-A and USB-C
I found the slimline seats equipped on the aircraft to actually be more comfortable than Air Canada's hard product on the 737-Max 8. The seats are about an inch wider than on Air Canada's 737-Max 8, so there is a little more room, and it is noticeable. In fact, the A220-300 offers the widest seats out of any economy class product in Air Canada's fleet.
The economy class seating is in a 3 - 2 layout, meaning that the rows of two seats are perfect for travelling couples and takes away the dreaded middle seat.
The Preferred economy seat provides a fair bit more space between your seat and the seat in front of you (seat pitch), in the range of 34 inches rather than 30 inches with a regular economy seat. If you need more space, I would recommend a preferred seat. In the image below you can get a feeling for the spacing of a regular economy seat compared to a preferred economy seat.
The A220-300 also has extra large windows (11in x 16in), so I would recommend the window seat for this aircraft so you can sit back and enjoy the view. It actually has the largest windows out of any Airbus aircraft. Generally Airbus aircraft have narrower windows but that is not the case with the A220-300, presumably because it was engineered by Bombardier rather than Airbus.
Each economy seat has a touchscreen display on the seatback in front of you. The bottom of the screen has a USB-A and USB-C port along with a headphone jack. I was particularly pleased to see the USB-C port as I find it is relatively rare to find those on aircraft while USB-C is increasingly ubiquitous on newer electronic devices .
Cabin Services (5/10 Points)
The service and staff on this flight were fine. It is generally what I expect from Air Canada, competent enough staff but not service that stands out.
The aircraft was equipped with Wi-Fi which was available for purchase. I did not have a need for Wi-Fi on this relatively short flight, so I cannot comment on the quality. 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:
Price (Cdn$ or Aeroplan points)
$7 or 700 points
$11.25 or 1500 points
Ultimate Pass (Includes Streaming)
$13.75 or 1400 points
$24 or 2400 points
Air Canada Plan
$65.95 / Month
In-Flight Entertainment (8/10 Points)
Every economy class seat is equipped with a 10 inch touchscreen.
Air Canada generally has a very comprehensive selection of entertainment options, including feature movies, regular movies, TV shows, music and audio programs, games and an interactive map. There was more than enough to keep you entertained for a less than three hour journey to Santa Ana.
Overall, I have to say that Air Canada does a fairly good job with its entertainment offerings.
Meals and Snacks (4/10 Points)
In economy class, meals are only available for purchase. There is complimentary (non-alcoholic) beverage service with alcoholic beverages available for purchase. Of note, Air Canada didn't offer any food for free, not even a small snack bag of pretzels.
Putting aside the check-in process and the delays, I enjoyed my first flight on Air Canada's A220-300. It's a great regional aircraft with a good layout, a bit more space in the economy seating area and larger windows compared to a 737-Max 8. The complimentary upgrade to a preferred seat provided even more leg space. If given the choice between the 737-Max 8 or the A220-300, which travel on similar routes, my slight preference would be the A220-300.
When In Vancouver:
Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa: https://www.pointspals.com/post/hotel-review-hilton-whistler-resort-spa-whistler-canada
Other Air Canada Flight Reviews:
787-800 - Business Class YVR-YYZ