Friday, March 30, 2007

Trip report - Air Canada Flight 34 SYDHNL March 2007

This was my return trip on Air Canada back to Honolulu. I watched the inbound flight arrived, and noticed it was the new Air Canada livery.

I waited for my flight in the Air New Zealand Club which is on the upper level providing some very nice views of the runways. This club is MUCH better than the Red Carpet Room which is located on the lower level and is basically windowless. Since I didn’t have my 2007 United Premier Exec (Gold level) membership card on me, the Air Canada check in agent advised me to "talk them into letting you in". Luckily there wasn’t much of an issue, plus I was traveling with a co-worker who was traveling First Class on Air New Zealand, so they just wrote my name on a list and let me in.

After a bit in the Club, I headed down to Gate 53. Unfortunately, Air Canada shares the gate area with the United Airlines flight headed to Melbourne.

United has a policy of a no liquids taken on board (even those bought after Primary Screening). All passengers get a "pat down" and have their carry-ons physically searched by security after entering the gate. Not sure if this is Air Canada's policy, but since it’s the same gate area all AC passengers went through the same process. Oddly they did let me retain my small toothpaste tube.

Upon boarding the AC34, I noticed that this was a newly refurbed 767 Boeing aircraft, including the new Executive seating in a herringbone pattern. It did seem like they had more business class seats compared to the old seating layout, but I am not sure if that was the result. The seats looked good and the new cabin interior seemed much brighter and inviting.



Air Canada 767 - New Coach Seats

The Coach cabin also had new seats with a winged-headrest and On Demand enRoute Video screens -- PLUS an 110 volt Empower and USB port. Oddly the Empower ports are only on seats A, D, E, H -- it seems odd that the center E seat has them and the aisle (F) doesn’t. Of course I sat in an F aisle seat without the Empower plug. As it turns out the EmPower plugs were not working on this flight, not sure they have been completely installed yet.

After takeoff, the cabin crew said they were starting the On Demand system. Everyone around me quickly touched the screen and started to select a movie. However, my unit was stuck on the "Touch anywhere to begin, or press enter" screen. Urgh.

The middle seat next to me was open, so I used that screen -- it was fine, but annoying to look left for 2+ hour movies. The flight attendant did re-start my unit, but after re-booting it was still stuck on the Begin screen.

The service was fine, the flight attendants seem a bit more cheerful on this segment -- maybe since it left at a normal hour (8:15am) versus the inbound departure out of Honolulu at 11:10pm.

On this aircraft there are Mid-cabin lavs -- which is nice, instead of having to walk all the way back to the aft to use the bathroom. However, people do hang out near the mid-cabin lavs a bit which is also located at the emergency exit row. This would be a bit annoying if you are seated in the Emergency Exit Row.

Again not very many children on this flight compared to the United flights I have been on recently.

All in all, this was a better experience than flight AC33 HNLSYD and much better than service on a packed United 747.

Notes

- No liquids allowed out of Sydney on Air Canada or United (secondary gate screening)

- As of 31 March 2007, All International flights leaving Sydney will have the "Ziploc" liquid/gel restriction in place at the Primary Screening area.

- Air New Zealand Club in Sydney is very nice and large (Free WiFi using the "Business" or "First" wifi networks -- although it was fairly slow)

- OnDemand EnRoute System now on some 767-300s, with EmPower and USB ports

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