My fiancée and I had back to back wedding weekends with one in Toronto and the next outside Paris. Of course, this got me into flight planning overdrive. With a little help, I was able to put together a Star Alliance itinerary with nonstop flights the whole way around. In the end, it was a great trip, especially after getting an upgrade on the return on Air New Zealand. You’ll have to wait for that one though, because it’ll be in Part 2. Part 1 is all about Air Canada.
The AC flights were a mixed bag. We had the new audio/video on-demand (AVOD) system on our flight to Toronto and it’s a really nice system. I found myself missing it a lot on our flight over the ocean since that hadn’t been upgraded yet from the overhead screens. I knew what I was getting into though, so I can’t complain, and I’d certainly fly them again. Read below for more details.
October 5, 2007
Air Canada #790 Lv Los Angeles (LAX) 10a Arr Toronto (YYZ) 540p
LAX: Gate 21, Runway 24L, Dept ~OT
YYZ: Gate 155, Runway 24L, Arr ~OT
Aircraft: C-GITP, Airbus A319, New Tail/Old Body, ~80% full
Flight Time: 4h4m
We had checked in online the night before, but we had some pretty heavy packing requirements with three countries, temps ranging from the 50s to the 80s, and two weddings. That meant we had to check our bags at the counter when we arrived two hours prior to departure. The agents were very friendly and it took no time at all. There was no line at security at that time of day either, so we found ourselves sitting at the gate with plenty of time to spare.
We boarded to find very comfortable seats with leather antimacassars and a purty-lookin’ screen at each seat. You can see at left that not only was there a screen, there was also a regular power outlet and a USB port. Nice. We taxied quickly and headed up into the blue sky via the LOOP4 departure. Once we hit 10,000 ft, the seatbelt sign came off, and I started to play with the AVOD system.
Like United, they offer all pre-programmed XM audio onboard. I didn’t spend any time with that and went straight to the movies and tv. Unfortunately, there weren’t very many options on there. The games were unavailable, and there were only 2 “Hollywood” movies, 1 “Classic” movie, 2 “Family” movies, and 1 “Avant Garde” movie. I understand that on the widebodies, they have at least 20 movies loaded, so it’s really a function of the type of plane. I ended up scrolling through tv shows instead and found myself riveted by Planet Earth. Overall, the system was great, especially for a flight within North America.
While I was watching the wonders of the world, this odd lady from a few rows forward stopped in front of our empty aisle seat. She tells us she “has to sit” in that seat. So my fiancée gathers her stuff and the woman sits down, explaining that her seat was broken. Then she went straight to sleep. I just went back to watching tv.
Long after the first and only service had been done, I got hungry. With two sleeping people between me and the aisle, I decided to ring the call button but nobody came. A few minutes later, someone walked by with water but didn’t acknowledge me. Finally, I flagged down a different flight attendant to get some food. I ended up with a really tasty roast beef sandwich (at right) for $6 (US or Canadian, sadly) which I washed down with some Schweppes ginger ale. (How do they not stock CANADA Dry?) After that, the flight attendants disappeared right back behind the curtain in the back and stayed there for the rest of the flight.
About an hour outside of Toronto, the odd woman next to us wakes up, gets up, and goes back to her original seat for the rest of the flight. What the heck? Apparently her seat wasn’t very broken. Not sure what that was all about.
Soon enough, we were on our final approach into a hot and humid Toronto. I found it a bit unnerving when they reminded everyone where the emergency exits were, but it sounds like they do that on all flights over 4 hours block time. Fortunately, we didn’t need to use them and we landed, taxied, and made it through immigration quickly.
After a fun wedding weekend in Toronto, it was time to take the trip to Paris.
October 7, 2007
Air Canada #880 Lv Toronto (YYZ) 835p Arr Paris/Charles de Gaulle (CDG) 10a
YYZ: Gate 174, Runway 23, Dept :01E
CDG: Gate ??, Runway 27L, Arr :26L
Aircraft: C-GHLM, Airbus A330-300, New Tail/Old Body, ~80% full
Flight Time: 7h33m
I was excited to use the mobile check-in option that would let me flash a barcode on my cell phone to board the plane, but it wasn’t to be. I knew I wasn’t allowed to use mobile check-in for US flights, but this flight to France was eligible. I went on my phone and had no trouble navigating through the process. The last step was to put in my mobile number so they could text me the link. Unfortunately, it said my phone number wasn’t valid. Booooooo! It turns out that they don’t have any arrangements with US mobile providers yet. We headed to the airport.
It was cloudy and misty as we pulled up to the gleaming new airport terminal about 2 1/2 hours early. The check-in area was very large, spacious, and functional (at left). That helps at least partly explain those high landing fees over there.
Security lines were short, and it was nice to be able to keep my shoes on. We had a long walk on top of all the domestic gates before reaching the very nice international area at the end of the concourse (at right). It was a lively terminal with a lot of dining and shopping options. Most importantly, there was plenty of seating but a scarce supply of power outlets.
They called the flight for boarding and a couple of agents scanned everyone’s boarding passes. I was surprised to see the flight attendants take our boarding passes as we boarded the plane. I’m not sure what they did with them.
Being the big dork I am, I was excited for my first A330 ride. It’s just too bad that those planes haven’t been upgraded with the AVOD system yet. In fact, to make things worse, the airplane taunted us with hints of seatback video. It had the frame of an in-seat video screen, but there was just a pillow in the middle (at left), good for nothing more than resting my head. The flight attendant told us that it was for a previous system that had to be pulled out. Ugh. We’d have to settle for the overhead screen instead.
After taxiing for awhile, we powered off into the mist and headed east on a very southerly route that would take us over Nova Scotia and eventually south of the British Isles.
I skipped dinner to help my body get onto European time and I settled back to try to sleep. Unfortunately, despite the relatively comfortable seat, the bumps kept me awake, so I watched the two movies shown above. First up was the not-so-good Ocean’s 13. Then they took the wayback machine out and showed Beetlejuice. It may be old, but it’s a good one.
Bleary-eyed, I looked out the window to see the sun starting to rise and we were served a cold breakfast about 1:45 outside of Paris. At least, we thought we were 1:45 outside until the fog at the airport forced us to circle for about 30 minutes. That was the only time I slept during the flight.
We finally landed as the fog burned off and taxied for awhile before pulling into the funny-looking round end of de Gaulle terminal 2A. I’m not sure who designed this terminal, but after a sleepless flight, I was convinced they should be shot.
The corridor down to immigration is crossed every few feet by people boarding their planes. To solve this problem, they have revolving doors that rotate in a way that allows people to enter only certain parts of the door. They get stuck a lot and huge backups develop each time (at right). Once you make it through that mess, they dump you into a huge funnel that squeezes everyone into an immigration line. The immigration officer could hardly be bothered to even open my passport and simple waved us through. Our bags were off quickly and then we headed to the RER.
Our upgraded return on Air New Zealand will be posted in Part 2.