Category Archives: Air Canada

SEA 2014: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Vancouver Airport (YVR)

After an ordinary United domestic business class flight from SFO, I landed in YVR and headed to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. This was the first Air Canada lounge I’ve been to.

Since I generally assume that Canada is identical to the US except that it’s colder, has┬ámore maple syrup, and politer people, I was expecting the lounge to be pretty lackluster without many amenities. While this lounge wasn’t fancy, I was pleasantly surprised and would happily take this lounge over any business class lounge by a US carrier.

Maple leaf lounge

Maple leaf lounge

More seating

More seating

The lounge wasn’t too crowded, so it wasn’t hard to find a place to sit. It’s a decent-sized space with a couple of different seating options.

Self-serve drinks

Self-serve drinks

The part that I was most surprised by was the food. 1) There was a lot of it, and 2) it was super healthy. I think this was the first time I had seen kale in an airport lounge.

Personally, I love kale, which means I was in heaven. I also appreciated that the food items were labeled with allergens for people with dietary restrictions (e.g. gluten free or vegetarian). I honestly would have stuffed myself with kale had I not been about to fly first class.

Food buffet

Food buffet

Hot food items

Hot food items

Soups

Soups

Snacks

Snacks

Healthiest lounge food ever?

Healthiest lounge food ever?

Also, the bananas were actually ripe, which I appreciate. Not a fan of the underripe green bananas.

As for criticisms, there weren’t enough power outlets, which is a common critique of most airport lounges. Possibly because most of these lounges were built before everyone was carrying so many personal electronic devices. And trying to get internet access was way too complicated for me, so I just relied on my cellphone data to check stuff.

Overall, I really liked this lounge. I think all airport lounges should try to have some healthier food options (particularly given how hard it is to eat healthily on the road), and the Maple Leaf lounge definitely delivered in that respect.

Some Thoughts on Air Canada Coach Class

I am currently in Istanbul, having gotten here on Air Canada via Toronto in coach (I know, the horrors of coach).

I’d never flown Air Canada before, and I was excited to try them out as they’re supposedly the highest-rated North American airline, at least according to the oh-so-reliable Skytrax. But at the very least, they provide in-seat power and on-demand entertainment, even in coach, so those were both promising.

The flight from SFO to Toronto was quite pleasant. The seats were comfortable, the in-flight entertainment had a decent selection and was started on the ground (which I always appreciate), and the in-seat power meant that I could get some work down without worrying about my laptop battery. All good points in my book.

The flight from Toronto to Istanbul was one of the most disappointing flights that I’ve taken, largely because the service and food were both terrible. I never thought that I’d say that I missed United for its food, but eating Air Canada’s meals made me feel that way. Granted, I did order a vegetarian meal (AVML, which was not Asian at all but just a VGML), but the non-vegetarian food did not look appetizing either.

Dinner of very bland quinoa, cold vegetable salad, and a gluten-free vegan cookie (always a dangerous combination)

Dinner of very bland quinoa, cold vegetable salad, and a gluten-free vegan cookie (always a dangerous combination)

Breakfast of rubbery tofu scramble, potatoes, dry bagel, and fruit cup made in China

Breakfast of rubbery tofu scramble, potatoes, dry bagel, and fruit cup made in China

The real problem throughout the flight was the service. This was the first flight I’ve taken where I felt that the flight attendants actively disliked passengers. There was never any courtesy extended, never any outreaches of helpfulness, and there were several times where I was surprised by their behavior. For example, rather than moving the service cart a couple of rows back to let people into their seats, the flight attendants would just leave passengers stranded in the back of the plane until that part of service ended, which was often up to 15 minutes later. Or when people were waiting for the bathrooms near the galley, I saw flight attendants physically push people out of the way without saying “excuse me” or asking if they could move first. And to add insult to injury, the service was extremely slow, even with these behaviors. I can understand being brusque in the interest of finishing service quickly on a red-eye, but it took about 4 hours for the lights to be completely dimmed in the main cabin.

(As an aside, I would avoid the middle seats in row 19 on the 767-300. Although it’s a bulkhead, it’s a bulkhead where it’s a solid wall in front, but the pitch is only very marginally bigger on these seats, so there’s not enough space to stretch out your legs in front of you. This means that there are only 8 seats in the exit rows with additional leg room, those being the pairs of seats on the sides of the two exit rows.)

Overall, while the hard product itself was decent for coach, I would probably have a slight preference to avoid flying Air Canada in the future. Their premium cabin product isn’t particularly aspirational, and the bad service and food I experienced are enough to outweigh the good hard product.