Nick Walton discovers consistent levels of service complement a market-leading business class product to perfection on a recent Air Canada flight from Toronto to Hong Kong.
I had already checked in for this flight in Ottawa before flying to Toronto, so I made my way from my arrival gate to the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge, which was spacious and warm, with a cooked breakfast and great coffee on offer. The lounge, which was two-thirds full, is a warm and welcoming space but it wasn’t long until our flight was called.
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I’m a huge fan of the Air Canada International Business Class product; ergonomic, intelligent, and contemporary, it’s a pleasure to sit, work, and dine at and even better to sleep in. My window seat boasted three windows, one partially covered by the 18-inch touchscreen monitor; and at 80-inches long and 21-inches wide ensures plenty of space and comfort. There are pneumatic cushions and a massage function for lumbar support and comfort; easily-accessible USB and AC ports secreted in a flush, deep-set drawer at the center of a large armrest; and a single-pin audio jack for those who like to bring their own headphones. Water and an amenity kit featuring Canadian Escents Aromatherapy products were already supplied when I took my seat.
Crew offered glasses of water and sparkling wine, took post-take-off drink orders, and handed out menus as we prepared to depart, on time, on the 16-hour flight to Hong Kong.
The cuisine is where Air Canada is really trying to distinguish itself from other North American carriers and based on the eight flights I’ve done with the carrier in the past few months, they’ve been successful. After a glass of chilled Champagne Drappier and a bowl of warm nuts, lunch was served, with smoked trout Nicoise followed by a choice of stir-fried sliced pork with black bean sauce; grilled chicken breast with chickpea panisee, asparagus and chimichurri; roasted smoky Applewood salmon with maple balsamic butter, white wine risotto, and broccolini; and grilled AAA beef tenderloin with Cabernet peppercorn sauce, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, and asparagus.
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The Nicoise salad was deliciously light and fragrant, while the beef was cooked to perfection and beautifully-proportioned (meaning there was no room for the cheese selection).
Savvy to the needs of business travelers, the airline also offers an Express Light Meal Option and a Flexible All-Inclusive Option on its long-haul flights, while there’s also a self-service snack basket and At Your Leisure snacks, including hot noodle soup with pork and prawn wontons.
Approximately 75 minutes out from Hong Kong we were served brunch, with fresh orange juice, seasonal fruit, yogurt, fluffy warm croissants, and blueberry muffins. There was also a choice of parsley omelet with chicken sausage, roasted red skin potatoes, red pepper relish, and cottage cheese; Chinese-style congee with chicken julienne, green onion, and ginger; or chicken fried rice. I opted for the congee which was perfectly seasoned and soul-warmingly good.
Another aspect in which Air Canada is excelling, service on my flight was attentive without being fussy, and intuitive without being standoffish. My orders were taken by charming guest services manager Holly, and the lunch meal was served efficiently but unhurried.
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What We Loved
What impressed me the most was the state-of-the-art business class seat, with its user-friendly design, and the quality of the service.
What We Didn’t
Although the Executive Pod is a great piece of engineering I did find it a little cramped around knee level when in bed mode.
Note: The author traveled on a full-fare business class ticket without the airline’s knowledge.
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