Airline review: Air Canada economy class, Sydney to New York via Vancouver

Air Canada Economy Class, Sydney to NYC via Vancouver

THE PLANE

Sydney to Vancouver, Boeing 777-200LR (Air Canada has six of these aircraft in its fleet).

Vancouver to NYC (Newark), Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (there are eight of these planes in the fleet).

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Vancouver (14 hours, 20 minutes) then onto Newark (five hours 10 minutes). With just a 1.5-hour layover in Vancouver, this route is 10 minutes longer than flying to NYC via Los Angeles, but with the bonus of clearing US customs in Vancouver.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Air Canada Altitude, part of Star Alliance.

CLASS

Economy class, seat 38G (international leg)

Economy class, seat 27G (Vancouver-NYC)

BAGGAGE

Allowance of two checked bags up to 23 kilograms.

SEAT

Disclosure: I'm travelling with a broken leg and wearing a moon boot so no amount of leg room will feel adequate. But this aircraft's seat pitch of 78.7 centimetres (31 inches) and 43.9 centimetres width (17 inches) feel particularly dismal, with my knees touching the seat in front and no room to stretch. Fortunately, I have a spare seat next to me that alleviates my discomfort somewhat.

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ENTERTAINMENT

The seatback entertainment system is a godsend on a long-haul flight, with touchscreen operation, gate-to-gate operation and a handy USB for charging my phone. While there is a reasonable selection of new-release movies, I'm not inspired by the ubiquitous Marvel comic book heroes; instead, I head to the TV section where I happily binge on the final series of Girls and the first 10 episodes of Westworld.

FOOD

I'm disappointed when my requested vegetarian meal doesn't materialise – apparently it dropped out of the system after a ticketing change. A woman in front of me doesn't receive her requested gluten-free meal, which the cabin crew also dismiss as a "travel agent issue". With an increasing number of people opting for plant-based diets these days, Air Canada's standard "beef or chicken" choices seem dated and discriminatory – surely there would be fewer issues if they included a vegetarian option on the menu! Rather than starve, I choose the chicken, a fairly bland "curry" served with rice. I forego the mid-flight snack of a bread roll with pastrami and instead snack on an unsatisfying orange and cookies. Breakfast is a choice of omelette and sausage of some description, or waffles with fruit. During the second flight, food must be bought on board; once I realise there are not even free snacks on offer, I buy a chicken wrap for $CAD7.50.

SERVICE

While the service throughout the flight is full of smiles, the dismissive attitude towards the above food issues sours the experience somewhat. I get that passengers' complaints must wear thin, but perhaps these should be addressed by management to make the cabin crews' job less frustrating.

ONE MORE THING

I assumed I would have to clear Canadian customs at Vancouver Airport and had bought an electronic travel authorisation (ETA) for $CAD7. Since I am transiting, however, I am ushered straight through to US customs, which is the quickest, most pleasant experience I have ever had entering the US. There are no queues, the service is friendly and efficient and I made my fairly tight connection in ample time.

THE VERDICT

While the flight seems lacking in fineries (particularly in limited food choices), the ease of clearing customs in Vancouver alone makes the Air Canada flight to NYC a worthy contender. I'd definitely choose this route again over the hell that is LAX.

Julie Miller flew courtesy of Destination Canada.

See also: The 10 best stopover cities for Australians named

See also: How a mistake got me banned from the US for life

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