An Air Canada 777-300ER being prepared for a transcontinental flight from Vancouver to Toronto
Earlier this summer, we had the opportunity to try out Air Canadaâ€™s new Signature Class cabin and lounge experiences.
Launched in June, the service is aimed squarely at the business/first class traveler, and competes quite readily with existing offerings by its North American mainline-carrier rivals.
Domestic Signature service is offered on flights between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver to Toronto; daily flights between Montreal and New York-Newark to Vancouver; between Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto; and between Toronto and Honolulu. Internationally, it’s offered on all Air Canada flights serviced using Boeing 767, 777, and 787, as well as Airbus A330 aircraft.
The routing for my flights were SEA-YVR-YYZ-SEA. The hop from Seattle to Vancouver was in standard coach class on a venerable Bombardier Q400.
Cathay Pacific’s first A350 from HKG to YVR is ready for a tug to pull it to the gate
Almost 35 years ago, Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) began its international expansion to North America, flying a Boeing 747-200 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Vancouver, BC (YVR). It was the first airline to fly nonstop between the two key Pacific Rim cities, and on Tuesday morning, Cathay Pacific introduced a new aircraft type on the route.
The airlineâ€™s Airbus A350-900XWB, B-LRI, touched down in the pouring rain just after sunrise, almost an hour ahead of its 8:00 AM scheduled arrival time. I was with the media group, set up on the south ramp for the A350â€™s expected arrival on YVRâ€™s runwayÂ 08R. But just a few minutes before landing, the planeâ€™s approach was changed to the north runway, 08L.
Air New Zealand’s “Pleased to Seat You” truck on display in Terry Fox Square in Vancouver
Air New Zealand is in the midst of refurbishing its Boeing 777-200ER fleet, and is showcasing the planesâ€™ new Premium Economy and Economy Skycouch seats during a North American â€œPleased to Seat Youâ€ tour.
The seats are on display in a 26 foot, 5 ton, glass-walled truck that will cover more than 7,000 miles, giving the public a chance to see and sit in the -200â€™s new seats. The airline introduced the innovative Skycouch in its Boeing 777-300s â€“ the footrest in a row of three seats can be positioned at the same height as the seat cushions, giving a flexible space for passengers.
With the update of the -200s, all of the long-haul aircraft in Air New Zealandâ€™s fleet will include the Skycouch, along with the new Premium Economy seats also found in its Boeing 787-9s.
YVR’s new 2014 baggage carts, now rolling in an airport near you…if you live in Vancouver! Image: YVR
Our friend in Vancouver, Chris, is usually running around YVR airport’s terminals, ramp, and grounds. Â With his smartphone in hand, he tweets, blogs, posts, and helps to keep YVR’s social media presence timely and responsive. He’s often the “voice” behind the airport’s Twitter account, @yvrairport.
A couple of weeks ago, Chris did stay still for a while, long enough to put together a nifty video announcing the arrival of YVR’s 3,000 new baggage carts. Â At most airports, I don’t think that new carts would warrant even a press release, much less a video. But at YVR, it’s a big deal in a very tongue-in-cheek kind of way. And remember, when you travel through Vancouver’s multi-award-winning airport, you can use the carts for free.
A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER preparing for a Test flight at Boeing’s Everett Factory. Image: Mal Muir.
If you need to travel between New York and the Canadian west coast, there are just a few choices. Â Your main options are Air Canada or WestJet, which both operate direct flights between New York and Vancouver. Â Another option is flying a US-based airline (like United or American) via one of their hub cities. Â But what if you have a nice chunk of points to burn and want to get the best bang for your buck? Sure, you could redeem for Air Canada business, but that would just be like flying any other US airline in the front cabin. Â What if you could get a truly unique experience for the same amount of points as any other redemption? Well you can, with an unexpected airline.
Cathay Pacific AirlinesÂ (CX), based in Hong Kong, operates four daily flights between New Yorkâ€™s JFK Airport and Hong Kongâ€™s Chek Lap Kok Airport. Â However, one of those flights has a layover in Vancouver. Â The last flight of the day (CX889) makes a stop along the way and Cathay Pacific has “Fifth Freedom” rights between New York and Vancouver.
What is a Fifth Freedom flight? Â It’s where an airline is allowed to sell tickets on a flight between two foreign countries as part of a service connecting their own country. Â Confusing, right? Â In layman’s terms it means that if, for instance, the airline needs to make a fuel stop mid-route or something similar, then it can sell a ticket from that stopping point to the end destination.
Cathay Pacificâ€™s flight from New York to Vancouver is unique in that those in premium cabins get all the standard international service items, despite the fact that it’s only a five-hour flight. Â So even though I was flying a transcontinental flight JFK-YVR, I still got the multiple-course meal, amenity kit, and even pajamas. Â All the standard items you would get as though you were flying Cathay Pacific for a 14-hour flight.