Airline review: Air Canada Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner economy class, Vancouver to Montreal

THE ROUTE

Vancouver to Montreal

THE AIRCRAFT

Boeing 787-8

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Altitude, Aeroplan and Star Alliance. Air Canada plans to launch a new version of its loyalty scheme in 2020.

CLASS

Economy

DURATION

4 hours, 41 minutes

FREQUENCY

Four times daily.

CHECKING IN

I've landed in Vancouver from Sydney, so all I need to do is pass through Border Services and Immigration. I expect the transition to be swift, but several flights have arrived at once and the immigration hall is packed with people. However the queues move steadily and Canada Border Services officers are on hand to assist and one of the numerous self-service kiosks soon becomes available. Fortunately, I don't need to collect and re-check my bag – it has been checked through from Sydney to my final destination, Quebec City.

THE SEAT

Economy, 23G

BAGGAGE

Passengers flying to Montreal from Australia can check in two bags of 23kg each, and can take on-board one carry-on bag (dimensions apply) along with one smaller personal item. However, fees apply for checked baggage if this flight is booked as a stand-alone journey from Vancouver to Montreal.

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COMFORT

The cabin is laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration and I'm occupying an aisle seat in the middle set of three. I far prefer this layout to 3-4-3; it feels less crowded, and the odds of being disturbed by the person sitting in the middle are halved. Seats are pitched at 31 inches (78cm) and are 17.3 inches (44cm) wide; since this is a shorter, daylight flight I don't recline my seat and am perfectly comfortable. The Dreamliner's spaciousness enhances my sense of wellbeing: this flight is chock-full, yet I don't feel as though my personal space is compromised. There's no doubt I suffer less from the effects of altitude and dehydration after flying in this aircraft (its filtration system is believed to eliminate drying irritants while increased oxygenation helps to reduce jet lag and fatigue).

ENTERTAINMENT

There's a wide range of audio and video entertainment available on the touch screen, including one of the best selection of documentaries I've seen (my preferred visual entertainment).The guided meditations from Headspace are a nice touch, especially for passengers who might be experiencing anxiety about flying. Headphones can be purchased by people travelling on a stand-alone domestic ticket.

SERVICE

The flight attendants are efficient and approachable – the packed flight and presence of a large contingent of rowdy school children notwithstanding. The budget nature of this flight (see below) means they have to not only serve meals but process payment for them, which they do with good cheer.

FOOD

Economy class passengers on flights within North America and the Caribbean can order snacks, meals and drinks at an additional cost from the Air Canada Bistro menu (water, soft drinks, coffee, tea and juice are complimentary). Those travelling on Latitude and Comfort fares are eligible for certain complimentary items off the menu. Meal vouchers can be bought ahead of time at a substantial discount, and Aeroplan miles can be earned with onboard purchases. I'm not a fan of this system; it feels too transactional and savings-focused; I'd rather pay extra and not have to worry about fishing out my credit card and feeling bad because the person sitting beside me isn't eating. Special meals can't be ordered off this menu ahead of time, but it does contain options for people who are kosher, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and health-conscious. Options range from the healthy-looking avocado smash box, wild rice superfood salad and sriracha lime wrap to comfort food like macaroni and cheese and peperoni pizza.

… AND ALSO

The aforementioned rowdy kids settle down when one of the passengers scolds them. Aware of the potential for conflict, the flight attendants keep a vigilant – yet respectful – eye on them.

VERDICT

Despite the fact that this is the second of three legs on a trans-continental journey, I feel quite refreshed by the time I step off the plane. Good service and a pleasant atmosphere makes up for the lack of complimentary food and amenities such as earphones and blankets.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

4

Catherine Marshall was guest of Destination Canada. See aircanada.com

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