With the ongoing protests and trade war happening, flying long-haul has gotten far more affordable even at the front end of the plane. The avgeeks have long discussed about Cathay's pricing policy of offering connecting passengers cheaper deals than flying direct out of Hong Kong, and historically Taiwan had plenty of these deals. As the airline got smarter, the Taiwan deals seemed to have become harder to find while adventurers headed further afield to find them.
Ex-China has gotten especially cheaper as locals and tourists stay away from each other's territory, but I didn't want to risk air traffic delays or any other potential mishaps that would ruin my connection. Taipei was not particularly cheap, but Kaohsiung was, even a few weeks before departure. Premium Economy was only priced at about TWD 43000 from Kaohsiung to Toronto, about HKD 5000 cheaper than HK to Toronto direct.
12 Oct - HKG-KHH
The return flight from Toronto to Hong Kong would require a change in Vancouver, with the first domestic leg in Economy while the transpacific leg will be in Premium Economy. In retrospect, I should have considered the direct flight on Cathay, which was only about HKD 2000 more but all on Premium Economy.
1 Nov - AC 105 YYZ-YVR
Any flight with Air Canada typically would usually end up with stress. The aisles were already busy at 7:30am, 90 minutes before my flight's departure. Upon exiting the elevators from the bus stop on the arrivals level, I saw an empty check-in kiosk and printed my boarding passes and luggage tag right away. The process was fairly smooth and from then on, you head behind it to the row to drop off your bag at the automated machine.
The machine only requires you to put the luggage on the belt with the tag affixed. Many scanners will then read it and send it away. You don't need to input your reservation code or insert your passport to do all this. However, my bag came in at 24.4kg and could not be accepted. Even though I had 2 checked luggage allowance of 23kg each, which I am well under, the system enforced the 23kg rule per bag and rejected it.
Repacked the first time and as I lined up for the machine again, a staff scanned my bag and told me to go to row 2, as the row where I was at would not accept domestic bags. Another bureaucratic snafu to hinder the customer experience. Is the baggage system separate between domestic, US, and international flights?
The next weigh-in at row 2 came in at 23.3kg, marginally more. I had asked a staff whether that could be overridden as I am not using my full checked bag allowace anyway, but an expected unhelpful response later, I was back repacking a second time. The final weigh-in came at 22.7kg. This airline needs to start building in a reasonable buffer for its machines. 0.3kg is nothing in the grand scheme of things and do not pose a health and safety hazard to ground staff. 23.3kg out of a 46kg allowance is not over the limit. Back when the process was manned, staff discretion removed this layer of stupidity for automation has created.
Security didn't take too long initially but a stray jacket that came off the tray at the exit end of the scanner held things up for a few minutes while staff scrambled for a wand to retrieve it. After some scrambling, it seemed all those staff couldn't do anything out it until someone walked over and grabbed it with his hands. In today's technological era with so much automation, some people, airline and airport staff included, seemed to have lost their common sense and need to wake up to do their jobs properly.
The domestic departure pier was busy but I got a decent amount of window spotting done. This place is pretty much all Air Canada and its derivative airlines as Westjet uses the nearby Terminal 3. My flight would be operated by a narrowbody today, an A321.
By now, the sun is rising and reflecting off Mississauga's skyline.
A 737 special livery jet caught my attention in the background. That's Terminal 3 in the distance.
I'm not a fan of narrowbodies so I was not interested in boarding first. However, I scanned around the gate area and saw a crowd gathering, followed by an announcement that the flight is full and they would take hand-carries to check into the hold. As I walked over to accept that offer, I noticed my boarding pass had a surprise - zone 2, or priority. At the time, zone 3 was being called so I walked to another agent to ask if I could get on, and was taken with a personalized greeting. I guess the entire ticket was for Premium Economy so this leg's downgrade would be in a higher Economy booking class?
By the time I reached my seat out back, there was plenty of space for my hand-carry.
The flight eventually filled up and some passengers had difficulty finding space above the seats. With checked baggage costing an arm and a leg, this seems to be an increasingly problematic situation that could result in departure delays. Luckily, we pushed back a few minutes early and made a quick run for take-off towards the west.
I looked back to say goodbye to Toronto's skyline on the left.
It was a windy day in Toronto and there were initially expectations of flurries in the area. The strong wind was very noticeable during the initial ascent although things calmed down very quickly once we went above the low cloud cover. It would be cloudy until we neared the Rockies.
I wondered why they had green tape on the winglets and engines?
The crew came by with the Bistro cart first, where meals cost money. For cheapskates like me, I was served a free drink about an hour into the flight. The crew came by with a few water runs during the 4 hour journey and another full beverage service before landing.
With an hour to go, we crossed the Rockies, a spectacular sight with some snow cover already. Every time I fly across North America, I always try to secure a window seat to enjoy the view. The weather continued to be lovely as we descended into Vancouver but the best views of the city were from the right windows. I could only see the suburban sprawl.
On my previous flights into and out of Vancouver, I had captured gorgeous aerials of the city centre, so I was still satisfied with the suburban view this morning.
There are many affordable airport hotel options in Richmond, a short ride from the airport. A few years ago, I took advantage of Air Canada's stopover program for a cheap 1 night at the Travelodge on the bottom left.
We arrived earlier than schedule at 10:43am and I had more time for my 3-hour stopover.
My checked bag would be sent through to Cathay so I headed out to Richmond for some last-minute Canadian memorabilia shopping. The Skytrain takes only minutes to reach that part of town, which is perfect for my short stay.
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