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SYD/YVR/SYD on Air Canada - benchmark for Qantas to YVR in January

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RooFlyer

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No so much a trip report, but brief recount of AC 34 SYD-YVR in Business (and later, return journey AC33) as a benchmark for January QFservice to Vancouver.

I’ve done this trip a number of times and this one was pretty typical. AC and QF share a lot incommon – both legacy carriers, on the pricy side with a tendency to uneven performance, but can be relied on for a decent trip in J, especially if you know and can anticipate the foibles of the airline and journey.

I was only going to do the flight, but can’t resist a plug for Novotel Darling Harbour. I could have had a 6am departure ex HBA to connect with the 11:30am departure from SYDof AC34, but that’s a bit of a disgusting hour to start a long haul where Iknow I won’t get much sleep (I never do) AND you should never trust morning departures from HBA.So I went up to SYD the day before.

When I checked on line for hotels downtown a week prior, Inearly had a coronary. I knew they were expensive but :shock: :shock: !; I try to look after the client …the Rockford Darling Harbour was amongst thecheapest (of those I would stay at – and I’m not THAT fussy) and was ~$350! But I must say the room was great. Really big (I don’t think they are all likethis), well laid out with plugs handy at the desk stc.

And a great view over Sydney, with the RooFlyer Sydney office there, far left, middle of lower pic J

Novotel Darling harbour.jpg


To the airport, check-in Row B (since SYD has helpfully taken out the airline signs from outside the building), as usual by QF uniformed staff. Directed to the ANZ KoruClub, but I had other ideas.

SQ Silver Kris lounge beckoned, as I was keen to have a stickybeak after the renos. At the entrance a pursing of lips by the junior lounge angel as to my request to enter, but senior angel said ‘It’s OK, we have room’. And indeed they did. Me and two others. Nice lounge, some good eats and a bench for laptop with plugs to hand.Just before boarding I wandered down to the Koru Club to see if there was any change to boarding and as usual, it was a zoo, vindicating my original choice of lounge.

Boarding was good – first call to J, status etc of which there were many.

I love QC’s herring bone J seating. Six rows in the forward J cabin 1-2-1 and I think another 6 in the next cabin (TPAC 777s haven’t been reconfigured like TATL have), with a galley in between (serving the cabin behind and is the 'snack station in between meals).Themiddle pair of seats allows couples to talk, but somewhat awkwardly, each withheads turned at 45 to 90 degrees each.

I got my favourite seat – 6A. Row 6 on this 777 is decidedly the best.With a bulkhead behind, there are cupboards onthe aisles where otherwise the seat behind would have their feet, and this forms a nice cosy private space AND there is extra elbow room / storage roomdue to the geometry.

AC34.jpg

When the bed is deployed, the shelf at your right elbow flips up to give more side room and your left elbow is below the shelf on the left. Decent, but not voluminous storage space for stuff, but that area in the corner is a bonus for row 6.No mattress/seat cover thing for the bed, and it would improve comfort by having one.Nice large pillow.

You do get noise from the galley behind, but you are pretty well insulated by the bulkhead behind and the cupboard beside you.

Out of meal times the galley was pretty quiet. (There’s also a galley up front, so the Row 1 end also gets it as well).

Great thing is that you get proper Canadian newspapers from previous day on boarding, brought overnight on the inbound flight. Will QF give us original Oz papers in VYR I wonder?

Pre take-off juice or Champagne (Drappier, Carte d’or Brut) in a plain glass.

AC crew are quite different from QF. Many tend to be quite jolly and chatty and it brightened the whole cabin on boarding when the CSM started ‘wisecracking’; itset the tone for the flight. Unfortunately there are a minority of FAs who fall into the ‘I’m bored’ category.

I don’t think I’ve ever had status recognition on AC (I’m 50K Elite – sort of QFF Gold) – but not even when I was at the highest tier (100K Super Elite), although I think they take meal orders in order of status(but meals are served front to back – see below).

After an 11:30 departure it was drinks and nuts then lunch served shortly after. Here’s the menu and wine list:

Menu.jpg


Again I lament the absence of any Canadian wines. Whites and pinot noirs from BC, especially the Okanagan are good to excellent. Surely they could come to a supply / price agreement with some-one?



 

RooFlyer

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Strapped in for the ride :)

Not a very long one this time PF :)

The tucker ispretty good without being exceptional for business. My lamb cutlets were very nice.

Dinner 1.jpg


Cheeses were 'orrible and the Apple Normandy cake definitely would have been betterwith a dollop of cream.

Dinner 2.jpg


Breakfast (’brunch’) was served 90 minutes out from YVR. I always have the apple pancakes with strawberry compote and maple syrup but this time it was over heated and dry. Extra maple syrup called for! Although they take meal orders ordered by status, they serve front to back; Row 6 being the rear most in the cabin gets served last and this showed.

Breakfast.jpg


Oh, no PJs on Air Canada of course. The amenity kit ispretty basic – along the lines of the current QF amenity kit (at least for blokes).

Straight forward descent into Vancouver. Row 6 means you are by the door and one of the first off. Then an extraordinary, ludicrously long walk to immigration; on Google Earth, it was 2/3 the length of the entire terminal. Not sure if I’ve ever experienced anything like it; but if there's gunna be a blood clot, this is where it will appear! Funny – when I clear customs in Calgary (ie flight from LAX) I always get grilled about the nature of my business (I’m a geologist, visiting frequently), with several visits to thesecondary interview room where the words ‘work permit’ are usually heard. But I always get though OK, as my technicalvisits are always relating to a specific carve out provision not requiring a work permit (specialist skills not available in Canada). But in Vancouver – it’s never an issue – 3 proforma questions, pro forma answers, and I’m through.

Luggage comesoff carousel almost immediately (remember the long walk), then clear customs (walk through), drop off bags for domestic flight, then … OMG … half of the initial long walk back again, to the Maple Leaf Lounge!!

Domestic MLL in YVR – sorry, no pics – isn’t bad, but it gets crowded. Showers available and modest eats (fantasticif you like soup and salad and/or muffins). Machine coffee only. Wi-fi isalways hopeless. Hard to connect to, and slow.
So it was avery typical AC TPAC trip. Comparing it andother AC TPACS to my last couple of QF A380 trips to LAX, overall I couldn't say that one was better than the other.

If you are a taller person say, 6’ or over) than I think the QF skybed would be morecomfortable. The AC beds give you a bit more elbow room when lying down, but there is a hard surface at both heat and foot end.I’m about 5’11” and my feet are just touching the foot end if I lie out straight.

I prefer the QF IFE selections and I think it’s a bit more extensive as well. Headphones aren't noise cancelling and pretty crap. Meals – on both airlines you get good and bad ones, but usually edible J. No meal pre-selections on Air Canada.

If there is a ‘Your Bookings’ area on the AC web site, where you can select seats or check the booking in general, I’ve yet to find it (only allowed I think if you make your booking on the aircanada.ca site; I always use a TA and she fixes the seats).

Lounges – have to give it to Qantas, especially if you are a Plat or P1 and can access the Flounge in SYD. In Vancouver, not sure which one Qantas will use, but I suspect the Air Canada lounge will be better.

On-board crew. On balance, give to Air Canada although there are good 'uns and ordinary 'uns on both (all) airlines. But AC crew just seem to go a bit further in projecting enjoyment.


I’ll review thereturn leg on AC in a few weeks.
 
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RooFlyer

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ps sorry about the joined up words. As usual, I've written it in Word and copied and pasted into AFF. But both my posts above end up with a lot of joined words. When I go back and put spaces in, others join up :oops:
 

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Story in a sidebar.

Trip down to Chicago on United. Meet client senior chap there and we fly back to Calgary together (I'm on board as I type this - love internet access on long flights). I'm *Alliance gold, he has no status. No worries, I say, be my guest in the United Club!

I get TSA Pre Check; he doesn't. I walk through security in 1 minute; then wait 30 minutes while he crawls through 'Premier Access' security (which he bought). Then we have to go to T1 Concourse C (satellite), which is a hike. When we get there, the United Club is one way and our gate is at the other end of the concourse; 30 mins to boarding. He suggests we grab a Starbucks near our gate as he wants to board early (understandable).

Groan - no lounge; no relaxing pre flight G&T after a hectic day.

The things we do for clients :( :-| :)
 

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Return journey on AC Calgary-Vancouver-Sydney

Check in Air Canada in Calgary in 'Priority' lane (Star Gold and above). 10 people in this queue, one agent serving. NO pax in the non priority queue, 3 agents doing nothing. After a few minutes, I can't stand it. Walk over to one of the roving helpers and ask if the agents doing nothing can take some of the priority people. Told that they are USA check-in and not able to take bags (as you take them yourself through US customs and immigration). I mention that maybe they can check people in, then people can put their bags onto the regular bag conveyor. Answer 'we'll see'. Lo and behold in a couple of minutes two of the otherwise un-busy agents call priority pax over to check them in. :rolleyes:

Surprisingly (to me) my bags were inter-lined to my VA connection in Australia, but I couldn't get a VA BP.

Big 'priority' fail, Air Canada!

Through security, which, as usual in Calgary is achingly inefficient and slow; similar to LHR.

AC Maple Leaf Lounge is still undergoing renovations and extensions, so is cramped. A new served bar is open (previously self service). kt sure if this is an improvement; my G&T is awful, with completely flat tonic. I ask for a fresh one.

The E190 service to YVR is just over an hour and a good flight in 2A as usual. Chicken pot pie is offered on the 5:15pm flight. I decline, as I'm going downtown in YVR to have dinner.

At YVR, put carry-on into luggage store ($6.50 for the bag), then onto the train service to 'Waterfront' downtown Vancouver. Costs about $9 from the airport; coming back the other way costs about $4 :(

I make a beeline for the Cactus Club next to the convention centre. Typical Canadian restaurant, with young ladies in black cocktail frocks serving, and typical of the type of restaurant, multiple TV screens showing (ice) hockey and extreme sports footage. But the menu is good and service efficient. In and out in an hour, a walk around the waterfront and Gastown, then train back to YVR.

That's the Vancouver Winter Olympics torch (relocated) in the middle of the pic.

Cactus Club.jpg


YVR international is pretty dead this time of night (after 9pm), so quick through security for once.

The Maple Leaf Lounge is much the same as other internationals of AC - basic eats (specialising in 'soup and salad') and bar; nice cookies. Plenty of room. Does the trick, but compares poorly to other airlines' international lounges in their home country.

Walk to the gate is a bizarre, twisting and turning down various corridors effort; it went on and on, skirting some airport renovations. Eventually at the end I found myself in a small holding pen and after some chaos, we boarded, 30 mins late.

We are delayed by 45 mins in the end. The flight begins in Toronto which is always a crapshoot wrt timeliness. Eventually depart at 12:30am. I'm in 6D on the 777 and its an excellent seat. Bulkhead behind, with extra elbow room and storage space due to lack of herringbone seat behind. Absolutely no noise from the galley behind the bulkhead, and total privacy due to cupboard on the aisle side.

As soon as the seatbelt light is out, I'm in sleeping mode, and the AC seat is quite comfortable. With a duvet underlay like QF, it would be sensational.

Unusually, I get quite a bit of sleep. There was a meal service after departure, but I was oblivious to it. Woke up about 5 hours before landing and looked at the IFE. Almost nothing appealed and the touch screen is its usual touchi-ness.

Breakfast was the same choice as the trip over - pancakes with berry compote and maple syrup and a sausage. It was dried up on the way over, but this one was good.

AC33 breakfast.jpg

Crew was typical AC - quite efficient and responsive; cheerful for the most part. There are 3 bathrooms for the 12 x 1-2-1 layout and there was usually some-one waiting, but not too bad.

All in all a good trip, made better for the sleep. We landed 70 mins late and had to endure the bug spray for a further 15 mins.

So, knowing QF is going to do this route in January (and, cross fingers, with greater permanency sometime after that :)), and assuming it will be a 747 with similar service to the LAX run, how might they compare?

Lounges: At SYD, QF would win hands down, either J or F Vs Air NZ zoo or SQ if you have status. At YVR, it wouldn't be hard to beat AC's Maple Leaf Lounge. Not sure what QF could use - Plaza Premium?

Bird and seating: QF a 747 and Skybed Mk2 (I assume) Vs AC's 777, herring bone. I'd give it to AC by a modest margin.

IFE: Qantas far superior

Drinks and menu: Not much in it.

In flight service: I'll give it to AC - usually more cheerful and although both can be uneven, I've had fewer outright bad service experiences on AC

I'm really trying to be on one of the QF services in January; hope it exceeds expectations :)
 
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clazman

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I can't believe there are restaurants (if you can call them that) that only sell Poutine.

I am hoping that QF embrace Canadian foods... decent lobster, bear claws .... the list goes on.

Canadian tourist board ... should throw money at this route as Canada is truely gods country....
 

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Check in Air Canada in Calgary in 'Priority' lane (Star Gold and above). 10 people in this queue, one agent serving. NO pax in the non priority queue, 3 agents doing nothing. After a few minutes, I can't stand it. Walk over to one of the roving helpers and ask if the agents doing nothing can take some of the priority people. Told that they are USA check-in and not able to take bags (as you take them yourself through US customs and immigration). I mention that maybe they can check people in, then people can put their bags onto the regular bag conveyor. Answer 'we'll see'. Lo and behold in a couple of minutes two of the otherwise un-busy agents call priority pax over to check them in. :rolleyes:

Are you the new AC CEO? With this kind of management skills you should be, you could turn that airline around! :mrgreen:
Could you do something with Aeroplan if you have time...:p
 

RooFlyer

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Are you the new AC CEO? With this kind of management skills you should be, you could turn that airline around! :mrgreen:
Could you do something with Aeroplan if you have time...:p

Taber-nac x 2

Aeroplan is absolutely beyond redemption, or fixing. If QF's Red Roo wants to get some solace when the droppings hit the fan here, they should head over to the Aeroplan pages on Flyer Talk! Who would have thought those otherwise mild mannered and polite Canadians could be so, ummm ... Aussie like!

Every year I swear that I'll start crediting to United 'next year' but end up forgetting to tell the TA to switch numbers and before you know it, I'm earning on AC again. Not this time! I've just hit 75K Elite and that's the last flight to Aeroplan :)
 

erik19283

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Taber-nac x 2

Aeroplan is absolutely beyond redemption, or fixing. If QF's Red Roo wants to get some solace when the droppings hit the fan here, they should head over to the Aeroplan pages on Flyer Talk! Who would have thought those otherwise mild mannered and polite Canadians could be so, ummm ... Aussie like!

Every year I swear that I'll start crediting to United 'next year' but end up forgetting to tell the TA to switch numbers and before you know it, I'm earning on AC again. Not this time! I've just hit 75K Elite and that's the last flight to Aeroplan :)

I used to enjoy Aeroplan quite a bit with the ability to do mini-RTW trips, but it seems too difficult if not impossible now that they "enhanced" their program at the end of last month. :evil: The sad part is that I still have so many miles with AP that I will have to keep using them for a while.
 

defurax

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I used to enjoy Aeroplan quite a bit with the ability to do mini-RTW trips, but it seems too difficult if not impossible now that they "enhanced" their program at the end of last month. :evil: The sad part is that I still have so many miles with AP that I will have to keep using them for a while.

I find the availability quite good for SQ and TG flights, with very reasonable taxes/surcharge. That's how I spent most of my Aeroplan miles.
 

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I used to enjoy Aeroplan quite a bit with the ability to do mini-RTW trips, but it seems too difficult if not impossible now that they "enhanced" their program at the end of last month. :evil: The sad part is that I still have so many miles with AP that I will have to keep using them for a while.

The mini RTW was a good lurk, but the 'rules' - stated and unstated - were simply Byzantine. Twice I started to plan one but gave up each time as I discovered late in the planning that I'd made a stuff up (and even the answers you get on the FT thread are usually contradictory :( ).

Usually TG redemptions for me. Can never find a SQ one when I want it.
 

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Rather than start a new thread for the Qantas version of SYD-YVR, I thought I'd tack it on here. This is how things stood after completing the AC return trip:

So, knowing QF is going to do this route in January (and, cross fingers, with greater permanency sometime after that :)), and assuming it will be a 747 with similar service to the LAX run, how might they compare?

Lounges: At SYD, QF would win hands down, either J or F Vs Air NZ zoo or SQ if you have status. At YVR, it wouldn't be hard to beat AC's Maple Leaf Lounge. Not sure what QF could use - Plaza Premium?

Bird and seating: QF a 747 and Skybed Mk2 (I assume) Vs AC's 777, herring bone. I'd give it to AC by a modest margin.

IFE: Qantas far superior

Drinks and menu: Not much in it.

In flight service: I'll give it to AC - usually more cheerful and although both can be uneven, I've had fewer outright bad service experiences on AC

I'm really trying to be on one of the QF services in January; hope it exceeds expectations :)

Here we go with the Qantas version:

As usual, proceedings began at HBA and a points upgrade to Jcame through a couple of days prior.

Qantas Club at HBA was crowded as usual and the QantasLink717 is behind schedule, as usual. Anywaythe flight goes well and a nice lunch on the way to SYD.

Overnight at the Novotel Darling Harbour.I stayed here earlier this year and was putoff by renovations I wasn’t expecting, so I thought I’d give them anothertry.It’s not badly priced and close to my Sydney office.

I think it was the same room as last time!Large, well-appointed and nice views acrossto Darling Harbour and the city. The office at bottom left, just above the orange banners.

YVR1.jpg

I needed an early night, so ate at the hotel restaurant. After the renovations, across the face of the hotel, facing the city and Darling Harbour is a terrific open lounge/café/restaurant area:

YVR2.jpg


I was at the restaurant before too and it is quite an oddaffair – sort of a 3 section menu (‘The Ternary’), ‘Wine Bar’, ‘Asian Kitchen’and ‘Grill Kitchen’. The Wine Bar selection all look like entrees, and thegrill kitchen all mains, but the Asian kitchen appear to be a mix – but youtell that only by the prices. I ask thewaitress which items are which and she struggles.But the views are, again, excellent.

YVR3.jpg

Anyway, the tucker was OK and I enjoyed a couple of beersand turned in.

Sometime during the night my Accor Gold ‘Welcome’ envelopewas slid under my room door, along with 2 welcome drink vouchers. This place hasn’t quite got it together.

I visited a couple of friends around town in the morning then headed off for the airport, in plenty of time for lunch in the F lounge. Quite quick check-in and security/immigration, then up to the lounge, bang on noon. I was afraid that it would be crowded, but it wasn't. Plenty of room and a table by the window. I haven't been to the Sydney F lounge for quite a while, and it was like meeting an old friend again. The views are great (I know you've seen this a million times, but I love it). Hey, there's Air Canada heading out to YVR!

YVR4.jpg


Lunch - again, all seen this before, but where else can you get tucker like this in an airline lounge (sorry Air Canada, Koru Club need not apply). Salmon Carpaccio and of course, salt and pepper squid, all with a nice NZ Sav Blanc. I'd show you the dessert - nectarines with ice cream, almonds and 'croissant' (actually a little slice of what I'd call apple strudel) - but that would be sinful.

YVR5.jpg


Fantastic start to the Qantas experience.




 

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Apologies for the crook punctuation above. It happens when I copy from Word into AFF. If I edit to correct the spacing and save, other spacing errors occur. I guess I'll just write directly into AFF.
 

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Not too much excitement in this one, boomy.

So I bade the F lounge goodbye. QF75 was departing was from gate 37. Where? I don't think I've ever ventured up that way before. Oddly, I found the 'Premium' queue already well formed, even as an announcement was made that boarding would be delayed by 15 minutes due to catering (more on that later), and the non premium pax were sensibly still in their gate lounge seats / on the floor. I hope this isn't the start of a trend; it happens a lot in Nth America due to scarcity of overhead bins compared to the huge amount of carry on.

YVR6.jpg


We boarded about 20 mins late. I had chosen the exit row on the upper deck. I hadn't been on a 747 for well over a year and it was nice to be back - again, like visiting an old friend. You knew how everything worked, and where everything was. I posted the LH pic below pic on AFF 'View from my office' and the guy next to me asked "Did you just post to AFF?" - and showed me my pic on his phone! You never know who's going to be next to you :) . Didn't catch your handle, sorry. The next thing he did was to tell one of the FAs that the menus we had were for the YVR-SYD journey. Ooops. They were all like that, and quickly withdrawn.

The trip was pretty stock-standard. The food was nice, the wines were good and the FAs were all good, and good company. The MK2 seat/bed had the droops, but was fixed by putting my carry-on underneath it. The loos were over-taxed time-wise. For breakfast I had the pancakes with maple syrup, just to compare with the AC ones. I think Qantas beat 'em! Breakfast was served individually as pax became awake from about 2.5 hours out of YVR, and being a crummy sleeper, I was one of the first. Cabin lights were held dim, which was good for those still asleep.

YVR7.jpg


Now I want to say something about the CSM on this flight. I would never make this comment to QF, but it was a bit odd and quite retro. At first, he went round the front of the upper deck cabin with the usual greeting (or so it appeared) & handing out Canadian immigration forms and a bit of a chat, but it was obvious that he was doing the old fashioned peering at the paper manifest, then greeting the pax (the ones in front of me). No iPad. On his coming to the second half of the cabin, I got only: "Canadian immigration form for you to fill out", and I think some others got much the same. Maybe the manifest was screwed up, but no greeting, no chat, no welcoming at all. It wasn't a matter of being my being miffed about this - no biggie, but it was just odd. I tried to engage him another time and got maybe 6 words out of him. Don't know what was going on.

Anyway, we landed a bit behind schedule in YVR and did the usual long walk to immigration - and I got a shot of the old bird out the window. Hope to see her there again, soon! Pretty quick customs, bag retrieval and customs, into a cab and downtown to my hotel - the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

YVR8.jpg


The Fairmont chain in Canada is well known for the grand old dames of hotels, put up in prime locations during the golden age of rail. The 'Castles' where the rich and famous over-nighted as they crossed Canada. I rarely do Fairmonts as they tend to be expensive (to very expensive), and the hotels are old. But this time I found a "three x the miles" offer from Air Canada Aero Plan AND if I joined the President's Club, I got about 1/3 off the rate. This made it cheaper than the client's usual digs in Vancouver (which weren't bad either :)), so we booked it - for about 9 nights, so I hope I made the right choice! I saw from trip Advisor that the hotel was undergoing renovations - maybe that's why the rates were attractive.
 

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Hmmm. I may have to refer you to a dr.ron TR for great food photos. More likely to get museums here. :) The brekkie pic above is likely as good as the tucker shots will get.

If its any consolation, its been 10 degrees max today and has been teeming with rain since I arrived - and I mean all the time. I'm jet-lagged to the max and have spent the day in a small room listening (or, often, not listening) to a short course on Canadian Mining Company Stock Exchange disclosure rules and policies. Breakfast was at Starbucks and lunch at a sushi take-away in the food court (no photos :)).

Tomorrow (Saturday) its a half day course on the BC Government's GIS web site, and Sunday its an investment round-table, before a full week of mining and exploration conference, which may get the pulse rate up above comatose, except for day 2 which is 'Provincial Mines Departments up-date', when I suspect I may be recovered enough to slink off to a bar with some drillers.

Don't get me wrong, I like the travel and Vancouver's a nice spot, but I can't recommend listening to Canadian mining regulators for more than, say 10 minutes at a time.
 
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