Flight AC34 Sydney to Vancouver
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Aeroplan, with points also accruing to other Star Alliance airlines' programs.
Premium economy seat, 14K
14 hours, 30 minutes
2.42 tonnes. Air Canada provides a carbon offset facility for passengers in partnership with Canadian company Less Emissions (see www.less.ca)
Air Canada flies daily from Sydney to Vancouver.
Passengers are required to wear a mask. We're issued with a kit containing sanitiser and a spare mask, along with amenities. Note that some arriving passengers may be selected to undertake a random COVID-19 test after arrival, and will be notified by email as to the procedure.
At the entry to the check-in desks there's an initial check of passengers' COVID-era paperwork - so have printouts/screenshots ready of your International Vaccine Certificate, Canada-issued ETA, and the ArriveCAN app. Beyond this point there's a dedicated counter for premium economy passengers. Staff are efficient and cheerful, impressively so as I've arrived at the ungodly hour of 5.30am, four hours before the flight's departure time.
Premium economy seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 formation on this Boeing 777. There are just three rows in this class, with bulkheads in front and behind. My seat has a width of 51cm (20 inches) and a pitch of 94cm (37 inches). Since the armrests are fixed, the seat feels a little snug, though there's plenty of shoulder room. It's also very firm. As a point of comparison, economy seats on this aircraft are arrayed 10-across with a seat width of 43cm (17 inches) and a pitch of 79cm (31 inches), so premium economy offers distinctly more personal space; though my area still feels restricted when the passenger in front fully reclines their seat.
Checked baggage is up to two bags weighing 23kg each. For cabin luggage, you can take one carry-on bag and one personal item.
The selection of onboard entertainment is good, with recent release films such as Licorice Pizza and Belfast, and TV shows ranging from the science fiction series Station Eleven to the costume drama The Gilded Age (I watch the recent Matrix movie sequel and regret it, but it passes the time). Audio entertainment covers diverse musical genres, along with audiobooks and podcasts. In-flight Wi-Fi is available for a price, across a range of speeds and durations, starting from $C8.75 for an hour's light browsing, to $C30.75 for an all-flight pass at a speed that supports streaming. There are also options which last all day, and extend to other Air Canada flights.
Service is akin to that in business class, efficient and attentive. The crew is quick to introduce themselves at the start of the flight and offer a welcome drink. Throughout the flight they deliver meals and answer queries with promptness and positivity.
The first meal of the flight is an early lunch, with a choice of stir-fried chicken on hokkien noodles or a hickory pork stew with mashed potato. The chicken is impressive, hot and flavoursome. Dessert is a caramel mud slice. The food is served on crockery with metal cutlery, which is always appreciated, and with glassware for drinks. I order a glass of bubbly and silently toast the return of long-distance travel after the lean pandemic years. In the middle of the flight we have a chicken caesar wrap and a cookie. Before our morning arrival in Vancouver we enjoy a choice of breakfast (though we're back to all-plastic crockery and utensils for some reason): a savoury option with egg and sausage, or waffles with strawberry compote.
ONE MORE THING
A key advantage of taking Air Canada to Vancouver is the one-stop-shop nature of the trip, avoiding the necessity of passing through customs in a US airport before boarding a Canada-bound flight. Onward transfers from Vancouver to other Canadian cities are straightforward.
A relatively comfortable way to cross the Pacific and a step up from economy.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
Tim Richards travelled courtesy of Destination Canada and received an upgrade from Air Canada.