Flying the Dreamliner on Air Canada
As a real avgeek (aviation enthusiast) I’m not going to limit myself to writing only about my journey of becoming a commercial pilot. I also do love flying as a regular passenger on different airlines and over the years I have accumulated considerable experience in organising travel for myself and my family. This time I would like to talk about my experience of flying Air Canada on a Boeing 787 on a flight I took with my wife from Brussels to Montreal (later changing over to Air Canada 767 on an onward journey to Fort Lauderdale).
I have flown Air Canada before and considered it a slightly above average airline compared to others. This was my first time in a Dreamliner and in premium economy (seats 14A 14C).
The boarding experience was nothing in particular; in general smooth although zone 2 where our seats were placed was never called for by the gate staff so we lost 10 minutes waiting for the call which never arrived. Not a good start, especially if you count on boarding early thanks to buying the premium economy package.
The premium economy on the AC Dreamliner is composed of a separated section of three rows of seats in 2x3x2 configuration. This obviously gives a completely different experience from the standard economy section which has 3x3x3 configuration. There is more space everywhere, both in front of you and at your side. You can see this specific configuration at Seatguru.
The cabin had a nice feel and design although the dominant grey colour gave it somewhat sad appearance. It was in general clean and tidy although in the corners under the seats you could clearly find some old dirt. The toilet was clean and had a window, which is a nice feat if you decided to use it at 35000 feet.
One practical problem was a lack of adequate storage space for small items; the slot in the seat back was very small and I had to tuck most of my stuff into the seat corners. The complimentary bottle of water couldn’t find its proper place and was tossed about for half of the flight. Another issue are the Dreamliner windows which actually have no window blinds but can be dimmed to a different degree by a switch. As the flight was during the day and at a certain moment we wanted to take a nap we soon realised the drawbacks of this solution. In reality even if you dim the window to a maximum degree it still passes some light and the sun’s contours are still visible so it does not provide the same sleeping comfort as a traditional plain simple plastic blind.
The in-flight service on the Brussels-Montreal route was average and in fact much worse that on the following flight we took with AC from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale. The flight attendants were hardly smiling and gave up an impression of considering passengers as a bunch of unruly kids that need to me brought back in line. This was in contrast to the second flight were the attendants were warm, friendly and forthcoming to the degree that it made us feel welcome and appreciated.
A few words on the meal service. I was not particularly happy that the dinner was served immediately after take-off at 11 o’clock in the morning. I understand that there is a certain chronology of the meal service on a given flight but I would assume it is possible to start serving it between 12.00-13.00 with a light welcome snack served beforehand. As the timing of different elements goes, another small hiccup was the fact that the final snack arrived a few minutes before the hot serviettes intended to wash hands. They were never picked up again before the end of the flight.
The AC premium economy gives you a privilege of choosing your mean a la carte from 2-3 options, which is welcome and the options on the menu looked quite promising. However, unfortunately as we have ordered a special meal we were not given a choice and had to be content with what we received. It would have been nice though that those passengers ordering a special meal would also be given a choice, at least between two options. Another annoying aspect: there was champagne or any other sparkling wine available. At a time where you can even get it on a Ryanair flight this was disappointing.
The final word on the entertainment system, which I found quite good with a good selection of films and an engaging safety video. As an avgeek I particularly appreciated the possibility to view different configuration of the animated airplane model with the flight route.
This was actually the first time we decided to take premium economy tickets on a transatlantic flight due to the fact that their prices are usually significantly higher than the standard economy ticket. Partially being fed up being cramped for 8-10 hours in economy seats and partially due to reasonable prices (double the economy price), we decided this time to check out the better option. My overall opinion: If can afford it I would choose this option again over the economy. The main reason: space and privacy. I feel like a human being not like a sardine and I feel my personal space is protected. I would have expected that that I am also treated like an individual by the personnel. Unfortunately on this flight it did not happen. I assume however that not all is lost for AC, since we were much better treated on a connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale. Could we receive a better service on the flight? Yes, we could. However, despite a number of shortcomings the experience was overall good but didn’t make me feel any connection to AC so next time it will have to compete with other airlines for my choice.