Toronto to Sydney.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Air Canada Altitude (affiliated to Star Alliance).
UP THE BACK OR POINTY END?
Economy, aisle seat 19C.
TIME IN THE AIR
Five hours from Toronto to Vancouver, then 15 hours 30 minutes to Sydney.
THE SEAT STUFF
32 inches (81cm) pitch, 18.5 inches (47cm) width, in a 3-3-3 layout.
One checked bag up to 23kg in weight, one carry-on bag up to 10kg in weight and one personal item (eg handbag) up to 10kg in weight.
I've specifically booked 19C because it's unusual - even though it's not in an exit row there's no seat in front, so it has generous leg room. However, the seat width is very squeezy for two large people like my wife and I, so we find ourselves physically contorted as we take off for the first leg, a domestic run to Vancouver. One of the flight attendants kindly takes pity and moves me to a seat in row 23 with no neighbour, while my other half inherits the 19C leg space. On the cross-Pacific leg I'm back in 19C, one of the hardest and most uncomfortable seats I've ever suffered in economy class. These 777s are celebrated for their relatively light weight, but I suspect they cut back on seat padding to achieve it.
Unfortunately, there's much to dislike about the onboard entertainment system. The touch interface is slow and unresponsive, sometimes needing repeated jabs. There's a long and annoying sequence of ads before each movie, and films are screened in strangely variable aspect ratios. On top of this, only earbuds are available, which fall out of my ears; and my seat has a fault which means the sound is only in mono and almost indecipherable. The entertainment menu offers eight movie channels from Avant Garde to New Releases, including an offering of Canadian films. There's a reasonable selection of games, audio channels and TV shows, including some comedy highlights from Montreal's Just for Laughs comedy festival. If only I could hear them.
The flight attendants are friendly and efficient.
On the leg to Vancouver, Sydney-bound passengers can choose items for free from the domestic flight snack menu - I select an unexciting but filling roast beef sandwich. On the Pacific leg, dinner is served immediately after take-off. My chicken and potato dish is reasonably tasty, though the potatoes are slightly undercooked. In the middle of the night a chicken sandwich is served. Finally, nearing Sydney, I choose the omelette for breakfast. It's sitting in a white sauce that seems a little rich for the time of day.
ONE MORE THING
The transit lounge in Vancouver has access to shops, a good opportunity for that last-minute maple syrup purchase.
It's hard to get excited about Air Canada's economy class, considering the uncomfortable seating and the clunky entertainment system. But at least the flight attendants are pleasant.
Daily to Sydney.
Tested by Tim Richards, who flew courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission.