They Nailed It! Flight Review: Emirates, Sydney to Christchurch

I joined the ‘New Zealand Snow Safari’ tour for solo travellers with Encounter Travel and flew with Emirates, Sydney to Christchurch.

I’d flown Emirates just once before, but it was eight years ago, and although on the same route my memory of the flight was  vague.  I was looking forward to trying Emirates again.  Emirates ‘nailed it’ on all levels of service, comfort, inflight entertainment and their meal service.

AIRLINE & FLIGHT
Emirates Flight EK418

FLIGHT DATE
16 August 2015

THE ROUTE
Sydney, Australia to Christchurch, New Zealand
2160 kilometres (1342 miles)

AIRCRAFT
Boeing 777-300ER

MY TRAVEL CLASS
Economy

THE FREQUENCY
Emirates operates, EK418 Sydney to Christchurch daily

THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Emirates offers their own loyalty scheme called Emirates Skywards. It’s free and easy to join online at www.emirates.com

When you fly with Emirates, add your frequent flyer number to your booking to accrue points, on eligible fares. If you are flying with one of their airline partners you may also be eligible to earn points towards your frequent flyer membership. They have 12 airline partners affiliated with their loyalty programme and include, Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin America, South African Airways and Japan Airlines to name a few.

Also, if you are a member of other partner loyalty programmes with Emirates you can convert these points to miles with Emirates Skywards.

  • For the banks, these include American Express and Citibank – Australia.
  • For hotels, the list is extensive including major hotel chains such as, Crown Hotels, Hilton Worldwide, International Hotels Group, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International and a number more.
  • Plus other partners include select car rental companies and some retail and lifestyle brands.


EMIRATES CODESHARE PARTNERS
Emirates have an extensive network of worldwide flights to over 140 destinations. Also, they codeshare with a few carriers including airlines such as Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin America.  For Australians, they generally have good flights options to many destinations, via their hub, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

FLIGHT MANAGEMENT & CHECK-IN
I checked in online and printed my boarding pass.

I arrived to the Emirates bag drop queue 2 hours and 20 minutes prior to the flight departure time. I had no wait, and the bag drop off was quick and easy.   The representative at the counter was friendly and welcoming, with well wishes for my travels.

BAGGAGE

Checked Luggage:
Emirates have some generous luggage allowances and it’s calculated based on total weight.

For my economy fare, I was permitted a total weight up to 30 kilograms with total linear dimensions per bag not exceeding (length + width + height) of 300cm (118 inches), per piece.

If you are a higher tier Skywards member you may be eligible for more checked luggage allowances than the standards.
Otherwise, in general terms (excluding Canada, North and South America), it’s 30kg in economy, 40kg in business and 50kg in first class. A note about flights starting from the United States if your first carrier is not Emirates, you will need to check with the carrier for allowances.

Carry-On:
Restricted to one piece of carry-on baggage with a weight up to 7kg (15lbs), that does not exceed 55cm x 38cm x 20cm (22” x 15” x 8”). There is the exception of duty free purchases of liquor, cigarettes and perfume in reasonable quantities are also permitted in addition to the carry-on limit.

If your carry-on is a bag with built-in wheels it must be less than 114cm (45”) in total dimensions (length, width and height).

TIME IN THE AIR
From Sydney to Christchurch, it’s a scheduled 3 hours and 5 minutes.  Our push back from the gate was delayed as our aircraft had been held up when it departed from its origin, Dubai.  Finally, we took off at 10:35am. We caught up a bit of time but still, we arrived later than our scheduled arrival time to Christchurch.

THE SEAT REVIEW
My seat:  29H (aisle, right hand side)
Economy seat configuration is 3-4-3 (in a few rows there are some different configurations)

Total seat capacity for the flight:  364
8 privates suites in first class / 42 seats in business class / 304 seats in economy class

On boarding, they offered two Australian papers to read.

Papers onboard from Sydney

Papers onboard from Sydney

Then, waiting on my seat was a pillow, and earphones. The only thing I missed, which always impresses me, is a bottle of water at your seat when you board. As an average sized female, with a height of 166cm, the seat comfort was good. The head rest had adjustable sides so you could rest your head easily and get extra support.

  • seat pitch is 81cm (32”)
  • seat width of 43cm (17”)

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Top notch.

In flight entertainment, ice.

In flight entertainment, ‘ice’

Their inflight Entertainment is called ‘ice’.  Maybe they want to rethink that name? It stands for ‘Information, Communication, Entertainment’.  But for me, it instantly conjured thoughts of the drug Ice, and the battle to kerb its horrendous impact on society.

That aside, they have an impressive entertainment line-up of on demand entertainment, with over 2000 channel of movies, TV shows, music and games. The screen is seat back and is it’s a digital widescreen.

‘Film Club’ is Emirates inflight entertainment magazine, with over 200 movies including the regular Hollywood line up, foreign films and the classics.  It’s easy to use with a touch screen option or you can use the hand held device from the console.

Plus, they have an inflight magazine, ‘Open Skies’.

THE SERVICE
A commendable inflight service.   Service was prompt and delivered with a smile.  It was a short flight so there was not a lot to judge but my experience was pleasant.

ABOUT THE MEAL
The flight included a main meal and beverage service, including alcohol.  I opted for a vegetarian meal, booked in advance. Yum! Great option.

Inflight lunch meal, Sydney to Christchurch, EK418

Inflight lunch meal, Sydney to Christchurch, EK418

TIP: If you have special meal requests, remember to request them before you travel, and at least 48 hours in advance.

It was an early lunch service. The main meal was a vegetable ratatouille with couscous and mashed peas (I love peas, so I was happy). The starter was a hummus with a lemon wedge, and dessert was scrumptious.  Tea and coffee were offered, following the meal service.

ABOUT THE ARRIVAL, CHRISTCHURCH
Christchurch Airport services domestic and international flights and is one of the main gateways to New Zealand’s South Island.  On our flight, we were handed the Customs and Border Protection form for arrival to New Zealand.

At Customs Control
The baggage collection area at Christchurch is not large. Bags came out in a reasonable time frame and clearing customs was a quick and orderly process.

TIP: New Zealand, like Australia has strict customs regulations. Be sure to accurately answer the questions on the declaration form and declare items that are restricted, to avoid financial penalties.

The Arrivals Hall
The arrivals hall is small but it has all the conveniences you may require including a few ATMs, car hire desks and mobile phone stores. There’s an ATM that dispenses major international currencies also.

The two mobile phone companies were;  ‘Vodaphone’ and ‘Spark’. Both offered great value plans for purchasing a local New Zealand SIM card for calls and data (be sure to check your phone is not ‘locked’. If it’s ‘locked’ then another SIM card will not work. You need to check this with your provider at home).

Airport to City Transfers
Super Shuttle is a major provider of airport shuttle services in New Zealand. If travelling solo, it’s a lot better value to book the shuttle as taxis are around NZ45-50 to the city centre. The shuttle is only NZ24. My vehicle seemed very new and the driver was a wonderful welcome to the town, with some interesting facts and figures to share. 

THE VERDICT
Excellent! Would I fly them again? Yes

A SIDE NOTE
Although my tour started from Christchurch, a lot of travellers to New Zealand in winter are coming across to ski from Queenstown or Wanaka.  On my last visit many years ago I booked a flight Sydney to Queenstown. However, we never landed in Queenstown as the weather conditions meant that flights were diverted, and in my case to Dunedin. Since I’ve mentioned my story I’ve heard others report the same experience. This meant a long, and cold bus transfer from Dunedin to Queenstown. It took a bit of the shine of the trip.

There’s a few reasons to consider Christchurch as your arrival point;

  • the drive between Christchurch to Queenstown (about 6 hours drive time) is incredibly scenic
  • flights into Christchurch from Sydney can be considerably less than the direct flights to Queenstown.
  • avoid any chance of a flight not landing in Queenstown due to poor weather conditions.
  • Christchurch needs the tourist dollar. It’s still got a long way to go to make i’s way back to its pre-earthquake status, back in 2012

A Solo Traveller, interested in New Zealand?
Some solo traveller trips to New Zealand coming up:

New Zealand Adventure, 10 days 30 December 2015 – 8 January 2016 for ages 30 to 49 years
New Zealand Highlights, 16 days 6 – 21 November 2015 for ages 55 years & over 
New Zealand Ultimate, 11 days 30 December 2015 – 9 January 2016 ages 55 years & over

My review is subjective, based on my own experience and it does not give any guarantee that you will have the same experience or opinion as me.

Spot On! Flight Review: Virgin Australia, Sydney to Los Angeles

I joined ‘Mayan Magic, Mexico & Guatemala’ tour for solo travellers. I flew with Virgin Australia, Sydney to Los Angeles, before making my way to Guatemala City on a Delta Airlines flight direct from Los Angeles.

I’ve flown Virgin Australia internationally before, a few years back, Sydney to Abu Dhabi. There were a lot of similarities and no surprises, which I say as a good thing. I was hoping it was going to be as enjoyable as I remembered from last time, and it didn’t disappoint.

AIRLINE & FLIGHT
Virgin Australia VA001

FLIGHT DATE
1 March 2015

THE ROUTE
Sydney to Los Angeles, direct.
Just over 12,000 kms.
AIRCRAFT
Boeing 777-300ER

THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Virgin Airlines operates their own loyalty scheme called, Velocity. When you fly with Virgin Australia, add your frequent flyer number to your booking to accrue points, on eligible fares. If you are flying with one of their partners you may also be eligible to earn points towards your Velocity membership.

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA CODESHARE PARTNERS
It means you have access to a large network of flights when you book with Virgin Australia with access to their partner flight routes, like Delta Air Lines, Air New Zealand, Etihad and the list goes on.

MY TRAVEL CLASS
Economy (booked using points from my Velocity membership)

THE FREQUENCY
Virgin Australia operates, VA001 Sydney to Los Angeles.

FLIGHT MANAGEMENT & CHECK-IN
There’s no online check-in, so it’s just check-in at the airport.

I arrived to the queue for check-in about 2 hours and 45 minutes prior to the flight departure time. It was a reasonable queue and the wait to check-in was about 20 minutes. As I’ve always experienced flying with Virgin domestically, it was the same with the international flight check-in; the representative at the check-in counter was friendly and welcoming.

TIME IN THE AIR
From Sydney to Los Angeles, it’s a scheduled 13 hours and 50 minutes. We pushed back from the gate, just ten minutes after the scheduled time. Our arrival was about 10 minutes earlier than the scheduled time, so in fact, we caught up some time.

THE SEAT REVIEW
My seat: 29H (aisle, right hand side)
Economy seat configuration is 3-3-3 (but 2-3-2 near bathrooms)

Keeping in mind I am reviewing the comfort factor as an average sized female, with a height of 166cm (won’t be giving away my weight however), the comfort was good. The head rest had adjustable sides so you could rest your head easily and get extra support. The evening flight included a pillow and large blanket which covered me from top-to-toe (I’m 166cm tall).

Economy class, seat back
When you board, there’s an eye mask & pen already on your seat (but no inflight socks). Also, the earphones are much better than before.

The cabin design, fresh trimmings, cleanliness and colour scheme also had to the sense of comfort and space.

Total seat capacity for the flight: 361
There’s 288 seats available in economy with a pretty standard arrangement for seat pitch, recline and width:

• seat pitch is 81cm (32”)
• 15cm ( 6” )recline
• seat width of 47cm (18.5”).

Business class is up front (turn left when you board), then premium economy and then economy (turn right)

Visit SeatMap on Virgin Australia website.

BAGGAGE

Checked Luggage:
For economy, it will depend on your fare class and Velocity member status, so check your ticket. It’s either one or two pieces, up to 23 kilograms (50lb) with total linear dimensions per bag not exceeding (length + width + height) of 140cm, per piece.

Carry-On:
For economy, international long-haul flights with Virgin Australia, for all guests it’s up to 7kg of carry-on baggage on board and not exceeding a total linear dimension of 115cm.

TIP: IF you have other flights on your trip, check their luggage limits, as this can vary airline to airline. In particular, internal domestic flights may have limits of 20 kilograms, or even less for small aircraft.

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Impressed.

Known as ‘Red’, it’s the seat back in-flight entertainment system with 22.9cm (10”) screen. What impressed me was the range of movies and the number of recent releases. There was a choice of about 25 new release movies and so many other movies. Plus, there were TV series, games, music and the flight map. All operated by an easy to work out, touch-screen and handset control.

There was also their inflight magazine, Voyeur.

I didn’t use it, but there’s an in-seat USB port, as part of the in-flight entertainment system; a really handy feature if you’ve forgotten to charge a device (that has a USB charge connection).

THE SERVICE
It was a delightful service from the flight attendants (thanks to Emma, my flight attendant that I saw the most of). Emma had a beautiful smile throughout, and she has to have had the best red (‘Virgin trademark’) lip gloss I’ve ever seen.

ABOUT THE MEALS
International long haul flights with Virgin Australia offer complimentary food and beverages, including alcoholic beverages.

It was an 11:40am, so lunch was the first meal served and breakfast was prior to arrival.

Lunch was better than I’d ever expect on an economy flight. I’d rate it as the best inflight lunch I can recall for an economy class fare. And, good on you Virgin Australia for offering three choices; a chicken cacciatore, braised beef and a vegetable lasagne. I took the vegetable lasagne option. Not sure how they did it, but the vegetables were perfectly cooked, when too often on flights meals just quite aren’t the same as on the ground. I like a vegetable lasagne when there’s just a tiny bit of crispness still left in the veggies and that’s just how it was. It was topped with a light cheese and cream sauce with breadcrumbs and layered with a fresh tomato sauce. It was accompanied with a small side, of a Greek salad and a white mouse dessert, crackers and a piece of cheese.

Veggies cooked just the way I like them!

Veggies cooked just the way I like them!

Breakfast, a choice of two; a vegetarian option and then a regular breakfast offer. The regular option included chicken sausages and scrambled eggs. I don’t think eggs can ever be done well with inflight meals and the chicken sausages have never been something that appealed….so, needless to say, I took the vegetarian option. It sounded unusual as I’d never thought of an Asian flair for hash browns. It was Thai inspired hash browns, baked beans and asparagus and it was pretty tasty.

Following the meal services, tea and coffee were offered.

If you get hungry on flights, there’s no need for alarm. There’s a mid flight snack; on my flight it was a ‘toastie’ with a cheese and tomato filling plus they keep snacks out; small packets of crisps and pretzels plus some soft drinks.

And, any airline wins me over when they put a bottle of water in your seat pocket before boarding so you don’t have the long wait between boarding and the drinks service once you’ve taken off. During the flight, jugs of water were available to either top up your bottle or fill a glass, plus the flight attendants came by a few times offering water.

ABOUT THE ARRIVAL, LOS ANGELES

Los Angeles International ‘Tom Bradley’ Airport (LAX) is the gateway to a mega network of flights across the states and onward international connections. On your flight, you are handed a US Customs and Border Protection form to be completed by each person, or one form for a family who live at the same address.

At Customs Control
When a flight has you arriving that equates to a body clock time of the wee hours of the morning, the customs and baggage procedure is daunting and I always prepare myself for a long wait. I was pleasantly surprised of how orderly it was to pass customs at LAX. The queue for foreign passports was probably only about 20 minutes and I was greeted with a friendly welcome from the custom’s officer (not my memory of the last time I passed through border control at LAX).

Collecting my luggage was as equally as painless, and before I knew it I was curb side, working out how to get my free hotel shuttle to my hotel nearby to the airport.

TRANSFERS
In the airport, signage is clear to direct you to the exits for taxis, rental cars and shuttle. Just look out for the sign ‘hotel shuttles’. Once I stepped out of the arrivals hall, then, I didn’t find which direction to walk for the courtesy hotel shuttles and had to ask. Had I have kept walking, I would have come across it. It was further on than where the taxis pulled in, so if in doubt, ask.

THE VERDICT
Excellent.  My review says it all. Would I fly them again? Yes, without a moment of hesitation.

A SIDE NOTE
My connection Los Angeles to Guatemala City was with Delta Airlines (partner airline with Virgin Australia) but the connection is not great; arriving at 6:30am to Los Angeles, then flying out just before midnight the same day. But, if you have the time, I think it works pretty well. Definitely get a hotel in Los Angeles for the transit time as the time difference meant I was feeling very flaky, shortly after arriving to the hotel. In my case, I winged it and booked the one hotel night only. I booked the hotel stay for the day I arrived. This meant that arriving at 6:30am, the hotel didn’t have to check me in until 3pm. I struck it lucky and was checked in by 9:30am. In hindsight I think next time I’d like to know my room was ready and I’d book the night prior. Remember also, to add a mention of your arrival time in your hotel booking. If you are arriving early it may help get an early check in or likewise if you book the night prior of an early morning arrival, then you don’t want the hotel thinking you are a ‘no show’.

MY LA STOP OVER HOTEL
I stayed at the Sheraton Gateway, Los Angeles. A generously sized room with a super comfy bed…..I was in heaven for the few hours of sleep I did get. The hotel has a Starbucks and A restaurant, and if you are up for it, the hotel is nearby to the public bus that can take you to Santa Monica for a bit of shopping time.

A Solo Traveller, interested in Mexico & Guatemala?
Check out my tour that I joined with Encounter Travel (which happens to my travel company).

A similar tour is on again in 2016.
Mayan Magic, Mexico & Guatemala, 2016 for Solo Travellers

Note: My review is subjective, based on my own experience and it does not give any guarantee that you will have the same experience or opinion as me.

Flight Review: Fiji Airways, Sydney to Nadi Return

Yesterday I returned with Fiji Airways from Nadi to Sydney. It was a work trip; I was meeting up the Encounter Travel Fiji Resort Escape group for a week of frivolities. I took the chance to flight test Fiji Airways as it’s the first time I’ve flown with them. On previous visits to Fiji I’ve flown with JetStar and Virgin Australia. I was curious to experience the third option for Australians for direct flights to Fiji.

It was just over one year ago that the airline rebranded from Air Pacific to Fiji Airways.

THE ROUTE
Sydney to Nadi, direct

THE PLANE
Boeing 737-800

THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Fiji Airways is a partner to the Frequent Flyer programs of Qantas, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines and Qantas Airways. When you fly with Fiji Airways, add your frequent flyer number to accrue points on eligible fares.

MY TRAVEL CLASS
Economy

FLIGHT MANAGEMENT & CHECK-IN
You can manage your booking using their website ‘Manage your Booking’ option.

Unlike the growing trend for airlines to charge a fee to request preferred seating such as the exit row, Fiji Airways does not offer this service. The exit row and bassinet seats can only be confirmed at check-in and are subject to availability.

The check-in at Sydney was delightful. There was no queue and the Fiji Airways representative could not have been more friendly or nicer. She also offered me the exit seat which I was happy to take. The other nice touch, I found out when chatting to my neighbours on the flight, was the champagne they were offered when they announced at check-in they were on their second honeymoon after marrying in Fiji 10 years ago.

TIME IN THE AIR
From Sydney to Nadi was a scheduled 3 hours and 50 minutes and on the return leg, it was a scheduled 4 hours and 55 minutes. However, on the return flight we arrived 30 minutes ahead of schedule so the flight was only 4 hours and 25 minutes. Departure for both flights was spot on time!

THE SEAT REVIEW
Total capacity: 164

There’s 156 seats available in economy with a seat pitch of 32” and a 6” recline. I was in the exit row, in seat 23C on my flight from Sydney and for the return flight a standard seat in, 17C and both seats were aisle seats.  There’s just one section for the economy seating with business class up front, separated by a curtain from economy.  Business class is configured as 2-2 seating and they are not flatbeds.   

BAGGAGE
One checked-in bag up to 23 kilograms (50lb) with total linear dimensions per bag of 115cm (45 inc).  Business class has a limit of 30 kilograms.

Passengers are allowed one carryon bag at a maximum weight of up to 7kg (15lbs) and one small personal item such as a laptop or purse.

Connecting flights & Stop-over flights – Piece policy applies to baggage allowance where origin or final destination is Los Angeles, Honolulu or Vancouver.

The Fiji Airways website advises that:
A piece weighing more than 30kg (66 lbs) will not be accepted as checked baggage, and will either need to be re-packed as separate piece or sent as Freight. Any piece exceeding the total dimensions will be charged the oversized/bulky item fee. Any item exceeding the weight of 23kg but less than 30kg will be charged excess baggage rates.

COMFORT FACTOR
The comfort was good. The head rest had adjustable sides so you could rest your head easily and get extra support. The evening flight included a pillow and large blanket which covered me from top-to-toe (I’m 166cm tall). The seat pitch was comfortable.  

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
In economy, they had small overhead screens at intervals of every three rows. There was no seat back screens for inflight entertainment.

I enjoyed Fiji Time, their inflight magazine. It covered some of the other destinations in Fiji plus some of their international destinations.

THE SERVICE
It was pleasant enough service but I have mixed feelings about the standard.  On the flight over the meal service was slow to commence, after the captain had switched off the ‘fasten seat belts’  but on the return flight it was fast.

Throughout the duration of the flight, the flight attendants mostly went unseen except for attending to passenger call buttons. Compared to some other airlines that offer water regularly, this was a bit disappointing. I like to have water available, so my review of this does get down to a personal preference. For others, this would not be an issue.

If Duty Free is something you like to do on board you need to request it. On one flight it was not announced and on the other it was only mentioned it would be available after the meal service but that was the only reference to the service.  

ABOUT THE MEALS
There was one main meal served with an option of two choices; a meat dish and a vegetarian meal. On my flight to Fiji it was lunch and I opted for the vegetarian curry which was very tasty but the portion size was small, if I compare it to other airlines. On my return flight it was a dinner service with the option of a chicken bolognese pasta which did not look appetising. The vegetarian meal was a pasta along with something else but I could say what it was and the flight attendants did not say what it was either. It was fine but unfortunately nothing memorable.

For each meal there was a side serve of a small salad and a small cake and a drinks trolley also at the same as the meal service.  Following the meal service tea and coffee were offered.

It would have enhanced their service if they offered an inflight snack (nuts or pretzels) and perhaps another trolley drinks service on the longer return flight, Nadi to Sydney.

If I am honest, I did expect a more impressive meal service.  As a full service airline they were somewhat under par in comparison to the other full service airlines.

ABOUT THE ARRIVAL, FIJI
Step off the plane and instantly you know you are in Fiji. It’s warm and you are greeted by Fijian musicians playing Fijian music with friendly smiles. It’s a stand out from most airports and a great tradition that I hope they continue.

Nadi International Airport is the gateway to other domestic destinations in Fiji, such as their islands and of course for all international arrivals. It’s a simple airport that doesn’t appear to have been renovated for a long time however it serves its purpose and it’s an easy process of clearing customs and collecting your luggage.

At customs you will be handed a small paper slip to keep with your passport that is handed back on departure.

Another stand out is that they have Fijian baggage handlers at the security check, so that once you’ve collected your luggage they do all the lifting of your luggage to go through the security scan. It’s nice not to have to lift your own heavy luggage onto the conveyer belt and I think just another example of Fiji’s warm hospitality.

When arriving to Fiji it’s best to have your transfer service organised in advance. There’s a few different transfer services. I’ve always used TTF www.ttf.com.fj and it’s always been an easy process to book the transfer.  Once you clear customs you enter the basic arrivals hall with a small offer for food purchases, bathroom facilities and shop fronts for some tourism services including the transfer services.   Continue walking and look for a transfer representative as they are usually standing in the arrivals hall or otherwise find the shop front for the service (TTF have a shop front).  One point to note; once you are in Fiji you are on Fiji time; service slows down. My recommendation; relax and move into Fiji time. If you are on a shared transfer rather than private they may wait for other flights before leaving the airport so it’s not always a quick departure.

The hotels at Denarau Island are about 20 minutes by car from the airport and other destinations such as Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa are over an hour (but worth the travel time)

Where the speed limit is 80km, you will find the drive is a relaxing pace.

THE FREQUENCY
Fiji Airways operates a twice daily, direct flight from Sydney, Australia to Nadi, Fiji. On Saturday there are three flights.  They also have direct flights from Melbourne and Brisbane to Fiji but not the same frequency as the departures ex Sydney.  For departures ex other capital cities they code-share with Qantas.

THE VERDICT
The comfort of the seats is good but only a few stands outs to make it memorable; the easy and friendly check-in service and one flight attendant on the return flight who had a wonderful disposition and lovely smile always. Would I fly them again? Well, probably, yes but only if the fare was no more than other options.

 

Flight Review: Air Canada, Sydney to Vancouver

Today I flew Sydney to Vancouver with Air Canada. In short, an easy and relaxed flight. My stay in Canada is all too brief; just a day and a night, as I am here to meet up with my Encounter Travel , Canadian Rockies & Alaskan cruise group. They’ve just come back from a 12 day tour of Canada. Now, we all head off on the Alaskan cruise tomorrow, departing Canada, one way to Seward, Alaska. Stay tuned, there will be more on that in the coming days. I took the chance to flight test Air Canada as it’s the first time I’ve had the pleasure. 

My aircraft @ Vancouver International Airport

My aircraft @ Vancouver International Airport

THE ROUTE
Sydney to Vancouver, direct

THE PLANE
Boeing 777-200LR

THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Aeroplan/Star Alliance group.

MY TRAVEL CLASS
Economy. For AUD124 you can purchase exit row seating, subject to availability of course. I tried a few months before my flight but it was already taken.

TIME IN THE AIR
Fourteen hours and fifteen minutes. Departure was spot on and so was arrival, so can’t complain about that!

THE SEAT REVIEW
I was in 38C . There are just two sections for the economy seating separated by the toilet block in the middle. My seat was in the 2nd section in about the middle. Economy seating is a total of 228 seats and is a 3-3-3 layout. Business class is configured as 1-2-1 seating with 42 seats.

BAGGAGE
One checked-in bag up to 23 kilograms (50lb) with total linear dimensions per bag of 158cm (62in). For bags overweight between. Overweight bag: $100 CAD/USD (per direction) for bags between 23-32kg (50-70lb) a fee of $100 CAD/USD per direction applies. My bag was 400grams over but they let that slip and I wasn’t charged extra or asked to redistribute items to hand luggage. For carry-on bags you are allowed 1 standard and 1 personal article up to 10kilograms each. As an example of what classifies as standard or personal article they are: carry-on bag, roller bag, backpack, briefcase,laptop computer, airport shopping and duty-free purchases, sport racquet (e.g. tennis, squash, badminton), camera bag, garment bag (size and weight restrictions apply), musical instrument. The overhead storage was very spacious; deep and high.

COMFORT FACTOR
Before my flight I thought that the exit seat’s additional legroom would have been nice but I have to say I was perfectly comfortable in my standard economy class seat. I am 166cm so I don’t suffer leg room issues. The young man beside had very long legs and still had good space between his knees and the seat in front of him. Overall the economy class cabin had a sense of spaciousness and I felt that seat width and pitch for economy class was generous. The head rests that bend back and forward also helped make it easier to get some sleep with the head support.

INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Air Canada’s ‘EnRoute’ in-flight entertainment is on demand. It is a personal touch screen TV on the back of the seat in front of you that’s easy to use. Earphones are handed out but the crew encourage you to use/bring your own on the basis of being environmentally conscious. I watched a few episodes of a Canadian business program (pretty entertaining, about innovations) and also was glued to the screen and managed three movies; A Winter’s Tale, The Face of Love and Bad Words. ‘EnRoute’ also has flight maps and music options.

THE SERVICE
It was a friendly and efficient service. There was no delay in getting the drinks service out after the captain turned off the ‘fasten seat belts’ sign after take-off. Throughout the duration of the flight, the flight attendants were regularly up and down the aisles offering bottled water poured into cups. They also put out a basket of pretzels near the flight attendants’ service area as a ‘help-yourself’ offer.

ABOUT THE MEALS
We left at 10:20am. It was a full service flight with three meals during the flight plus a little pretzel snack with the drink for the first drinks service, before our first meal. First up was a hot meal with two choices. I had the beef bourguignon with rice and very tasty carrots. The beef was tender and enjoyable. The other choice was chicken and mustard dish, with a serve of pasta. The also had a fresh side salad with a strawberry of all things included and a tasty serve of dessert which was a carrot cake. Then there was a second meal/snack, followed by breakfast.

My only criticism of what was a very comfortable flight was the poor snack/second meal offered. It was a bread roll that was not fresh, nor tasty with a slab of processed turkey and cheese. However I enjoyed the Tim Tam that came along with it. The final meal service, breakfast was somewhat average; the three slices of fruit as a side was good; fresh and testy. However the boiled sausage that I think was chicken, with an egg omelette, that was unusually yellow, was not enjoyable. The topping of tomatoes and potatoes on the egg omelette was a welcomed addition.

ABOUT THE ARRIVAL
The airport was decidedly quiet. It almost seemed that maybe we were the only arriving flight. Clearing Canadian customs at Vancouver International airport was almost immediate, bags were already on the carousel and clearing customs could almost be missed it was so easy; just a case of handing over the customs declaration card, without a queue and then through to the arrivals hall. Taking a taxi to downtown Vancouver was a ‘piece of cake’. Just 20 minutes in the taxi with a friendly driver, happy to share some local tips for tourists and local information and all this for just thirty-one Canadian dollars and a few dollars tip.

THE VERDICT
Probably one of the easiest flights I’ve taken for a long time ; the comfort of the seats, friendly service and I think the fact that it’s a morning departure all combined to make for an easy flight.

THE FREQUENCY
Air Canada operates a daily, direct flight from Sydney to Vancouver, Canada.

Interested in joining the annual Canadian Rockies & Alaskan cruise group for solo travellers?  Visit Encounter Travel for details of the 2015 trip.