AC 115 Flight Report
(Toronto - Vancouver)

Timelines for domestic departure are more lenient, with the bag drop cut-off being 45 minutes before departure. With a Latitude fare today, not only do I earn more than 100% Aeroplan miles despite sitting in Economy, but also priority counter check-in. I already reserved a window seat in row 1 beforehand and did the formalities on the web the day before, so I leisurely headed to the GO bus stop 2 hours before departure to catch the hourly service to Pearson.

UP Express is the new express train that serves primarily downtown and West End residents. For the rest of the city, which is huge, there used to be minimal public transport options to get to the airport unless you make the long subway trip to Kipling for the airport bus. This won't make sense typically and people drive or grab a cab in the end.

GO Transit now runs express buses to Pearson from both North York and Richmond Hill Centre, among others. The schedule is quite bad, with only hourly departures from Richmond Hill Centre. You are encouraged to buy your ticket in advance at the automated machine at the stop, or pay a discounted fare with your Presto card, the smart card solution that has been typical elsewhere around the world for decades but seems to elude Toronto due to many excuses.

A new double-decker pulled into the stop a few minutes before departure. There are no luggage racks inside, so we just laid our bags down at the front of the bus where the wheelchair spot is located. But once we got going, it was a short 23 minute ride on the 407 toll highway to Terminal 1.

Why an airport bus doesn't stop on the departures level also bewilders me. We stopped at the arrivals level, where it was yet another long walk and elevator ride to the departures level. Terminal 1 is a nice newer facility, but I struggled a bit to find the right aisle as domestic, US, and international departures for the same airline have different areas.

There was a long line at the manual check-in counter, which they call the "assistance" area, and a much more manageable line for the bag drop, so I headed to the kiosk to print out my boarding pass and bag tag. An error came up. Disappointed, I headed for the priority check-in area, which was marked to show the gigantic area of 2 counters. It was a fairly lengthy wait considering Business Class and elite passengers would use this method, although the lads at the assistance counter line next door were having a much rougher day.

By the time my luggage was sent on its way, I still have over an hour before departure. I expected security to take some time as I am not a "trusted" passenger - what an awful term to use since everyone else would be untrustable criminals. Once air-side, there was a good selection of restaurants, although fairly crowded since the floor is shared with arrivals.

I scanned around for Rouge airplanes. Rouge seems to be a blighted evil part of the Air Canada repetoire, not that the main line is really remarkable by international standards anyway. Otherwise, spotting at the domestic section is pitiful.

A big glob of people emerged and I realized it was my gate, thanks to zonal boarding. It seems this system still doesn't work even for a narrowbody load of passengers. After wandering around amidst the groups of people, I finally found the short zone 2 boarding line for my front row seat in Economy.

My experience from flying front row in Asia is more leg room, hence more comfort. Unfortunately, the A321 is configured differently and not only is legroom the same as other seats, there are only 2 personal televisions for the 3 seats as the row ahead is a set of double Business Class seats only. With an ear plug in my seat, I would claim one of the TVs today.

As we pushed back for departure, I spotted a 787 in the new livery - actually, they decided to re-use the old colours.

Soon, we were off for the transcontinental flight. Today's flight would take about 4.5 hours and there would be some bumps leaving Toronto as we ascended through the clouds.

After the initial bout of turbulence cleared as we entered Lake Huron, the crew sprang into action to serve us complimentary drinks and take orders from the cafe menu. Yes, food is not free on a long transcontinental flight in North America, but the prices were fairly reasonable compared to the airport or the low-cost carriers I have flown in Asia. A simple chicken noodle soup was only $3 while a mango chicken meal with snack was around $13.

The skies started clearing out over the Prairies and there were some good views along the way. I was surprised how long the flight took as the eastbound journey was only 3.5 hours (1 full hour shorter), but that was probably due to riding the jet stream as we flew well over 1000 km/h. I was anticipating the final section across the Rockies, and was not disappointed.

Being at the front row this time, I was served a complimentary drink fairly quickly.

It was sunny over the Rockies today!

The winds were blowing from the east so we had to do a 180-degree turn for landing. With a right window, I noticed Vancouver's suburbs and hoped to catch some skyline aerials upon landing, rather than pay a fortune to go up Grouse Mountain. Unfortunately, we flew almost right over downtown, so it was hard to capture the skyline too well, but it was a gloriously sunny day.

We made a textbook landing pretty much on time, and exited into the shared floor with departures. I made my way at a leisurely pace along the terminal towards the baggage exit and by the time I got to the carousel, I saw my bag on the belt already. Interestingly, the baggage carousels are not really separated / secured from the public. There are low walls and openings with no doors or gates to prevent outsiders from entering, but only mere signs reminding them not to do so. Within half hour of landing, I was already at the hotel shuttle stop ready for my free hotel thanks to Air Canada's Stopover Program.

Before leaving, I noticed front row seats have a special marking on the head-rest even though it's still the same seat with no extra legroom.

The bad part of doing this program is your checked bags need to come out with you for the night and cannot be checked through.

Picking the right seat on the plane is a difficult task given winds can suddenly change and it is up to luck most of the time. Thankfully, the weather was in my favour today and the views above Western Canada were gorgeous. While the final approach was not as spectacular as I had hoped for, the next day's transpacific sector proved far more rewarding to make up for today's slight disappointment.

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