01. Delta Air Lines 717-200 economy class San Diego to Los Angeles
02. Air Canada 787-9 economy class Los Angeles to Toronto
03. Air Transat A330-300 economy class Toronto to Montreal
04. Air Canada A330-300 economy class Montreal to Vancouver
05. Alaska Airlines 737-800 first class Vancouver to Seattle
06. Alaska Airlines A319 first class Seattle to San Diego
Those of you who know my struggles with trying to enter Canada with any amount of dignity and grace will really be able to appreciate how difficult of a decision it was for me to book this flight. On one hand, I really (like, really) wanted to give Air Canada 787-9 economy a try because I’ve heard so many good things about it.
On the other hand, the thought of having to try and explain the definition of “AvGeek” to a stone-faced Canadian customs agent was not something I was looking forward to. It’s especially more difficult now that I’m self employed because (based on what I’ve seen and heard) Canada isn’t so keen on “unemployed” people entering their country.
Despite my anxiety, I decided to throw caution into the wind and go for it. I mean, hey – they couldn’t stop me from boarding the plane at LAX, and even if they did end up giving me a full body cavity search upon arrival in Toronto, at least I’d end up with some really juicy blog content. It was a total win-win!
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – Toronto, CA (YYZ)
Thursday, November 29, 2018
Duration: 4 hours 10 minutes
Seat: 37A (economy class)
The video for this flight was a really fun one to put together. It’s best viewed full screen with the volume turned way up! Special shoutout goes to Epidemic Sound for providing the music for the soundtrack by the way:
I’m not exactly sure what the exact data is on the number of people who fly between Los Angeles and Toronto on a daily basis, but based on the results I see for flight searches between these two city pairs, it’s a lot.
Air Canada has three daily nonstop flights (one A320, one 737-8 MAX, and this 787-9), while United, Delta, and American offer an endless list of connecting options.
The neat thing about Air Canada is that they typically have at least one daily widebody between these two city pairs, and over the last 10-15 years or so I’ve seen the 767-300, 777-200, and the 787 (both the -8 and -9).
My AvGeek brain fails to comprehend why anyone would choose anything but an Air Canada nonstop widebody on this route. “But I’m trying to reach Executive Platinum on American!” is not a good excuse. At all.
However, despite being the very best way to travel between Los Angeles and Toronto, flying on an Air Canada 787-9 isn’t totally as amazing as I’m making it out to be. Yeah, it’s good – and I’d do it again without thinking twice. But just like anything in life, there is always some bad that comes with the good.
Here are the pros and cons of flying on an Air Canada 787-9 between LAX and YYZ:
Oh, and just so you know, I’ve got to start with a con first because that’s how this adventure to Toronto began. There’s good stuff coming, so don’t bail on me yet thinking that I’m all doom and gloom!
Con: Terminal 6 at LAX is a zoo and incredibly frustrating during peak hours
For those that don’t know, there was recently a massive airline and terminal swap that happened at LAX. Long story short, Delta was feeling spendy and wanted to build themselves a world class terminal at what has become one of their premier non-hub stations in the US.
Apparently they waved enough bribe money in the faces of Air Canada (amongst a few other airlines) to get them to move out of terminal 3 so that they could take over and rebuild it into the terminal of their dreams. Air Canada took the cash (without thinking it seems) and moved to terminal 6.
Now that I’ve experienced Air Canada’s move to T6 first hand, I can only imagine how smug Delta must be feeling for what they got away with. They’re sitting pretty in a spacious brand new terminal all of their own, while Air Canada got wedged into the ass-end of a very tight and cramped terminal that has no room for expansion at all.
Making matters worse is that this Air Canada 787-9 flight to YYZ is timed perfectly to match the departure time of their 737-8 MAX to YUL (or is it the other way around?). And they depart from adjacent gates large enough to accommodate nothing bigger than a CRJ-200.
If you’re flying AC792 to YYZ any time in the near future, be prepared for utter chaos and confusion in the gate area as they try to get both flights loaded and out on time. Everyone is bumping into each other, there’s nowhere to sit, and you can’t even hear the announcements over the speaker. It’s nuts.
Pro: the 787-9 is Air Canada’s flagship aircraft
I’m not exactly sure why the Air Canada management team decided to put their flagship aircraft on such a relatively short route, but they did and I thank them profusely for it. The 787-9 is a beautiful machine and better than a grungy ‘ol A320 in too many ways to count.
Because the 787-9 was purchased to fly some of their longest and most prestigious routes, Air Canada configured the economy class cabin to be quite spacious and comfortable (at least when compared to grungy ‘ol A320’s).
There’s plenty of leg room, the mood lighting is on point, and it’s a ton of fun to play with the button that controls the tint of the very large window at your seat. This is a really neat aircraft, and much more modern than anything in the fleet. Dare to check out my Air Canada A321 business class review if you don’t believe me.
Con: onboard service is essentially equivalent to Air Canada Rouge
Ok, this isn’t necessarily a 787-9 thing, but I was hoping that I’d at least get a free snack on this 4 hour flight to Toronto. Was I hoping for too much? Apparently. Because of this, I ask again: what is the purpose of Air Canada Rouge when there’s no difference in onboard service compared to the main brand?
Not only that, even WestJet serves complimentary snacks on all flights in economy (as I discussed in my Air Canada vs WestJet comparison). Why the heck is Air Canada so stingy?
I really want to take this flight again in business class, just to see what the service is like in the pointy end of the plane. The Air Canada 787-9 business class seats look really nice of course, but I can only hope and pray they offer flagship business class service to go along with those fancy seats.
Pro: The 787 is the world’s quietest large airliner (that’s just my opinion anyway)
I’ll admit it – my initial thought was to catoragize this as a “con” (because loud airplanes make me happy), but I was really impressed with how quiet the 787-9 was by the time we were on the approach into YYZ. It’s quiet. Like, library quiet. It’s so quiet in fact, that I felt more productive on this flight than I have on any other in recent memory.
Anyway, now that the SANspotter blog is in full swing, I tend to write whenever I can find the time – and over the past year I’ve found that airplanes are by far the best places for me to get some quality writing done. Most of you know that I have the attention span of a gnat, so being confined to an airplane seat without internet access is just what I need to bang out tons of content in a short amount of time. Engine noise can be annoying (unless it’s a GE90 of course), and since I write better in complete silence, this was one of my most productive flights ever.
If your schedule allows it, the Air Canada 787-9 is far and away the best option between Los Angeles and Toronto right now – even in economy class. Despite the cons I listed above, this ended up being a very nice flight and it didn’t take long for me to forget all about the frustration in the gate area before the flight.
Oh – and if you’re curious, I’m happy to report that I successfully avoided a full body cavity search by Canadian customs agents upon arrival. As entertaining as that might have been for you guys, full body cavity searches tend to put me in a cranky mood and I don’t like starting trips that way. I was a little bit bummed that I didn’t even get to show off the Canadian flag underwear I wore specifically for the occasion though…
Wonderful review Scott! In the past few years, Air Canada has backed down on snacks on-board their flights. Every time I have flown a wide-body across the country (777-200LR/787-8) I have not received a snack. “Rapidair” flights (Toronto-Ottawa/Montreal and Toronto City-Montreal) have full drink and snack service. Some of their Air Canada Express flights do have a snack and drink service. When flying Victoria-Calgary on the Q400 i only received a drink, but Calgary-Kamloops which is a shorter flight and on a smaller aircraft I had both drink and snack. Not sure if they will reinstate the snacks on mainline flights, but one can only hope!
Thanks Brandon! It’s kind of funny how it usually plays out in this industry – when airlines are new, they are generous with all kinds of perks (such as snacks). As they age and become more established, the perks are stripped away until there’s really nothing left other than basic transportation. Air Canada needs a serious competitor IMHO, and I can only hope that WestJet will eventually grow into that.
Great report. I would have happily met you for a coffee. I’m only 20 minutes away from Pearson.
It will be interesting to see how the Westjet 787 offering will differ. The cabin pics look good. A lot of controversy about the cancellation of the YYT-DUB route, though.
Thanks Randy – yeah, too bad I didn’t stay in Toronto very long. It’s been many years since I’ve had a proper look around, so maybe next time. But yeah I can’t wait to give that WestJet 787 a try!
I would choose the B737-8 MAX because I need a break from 787s
I need to take a 777
I haven’t had the chance to try a 737-8 MAX yet so it’s likely I’d choose that over the 787 if I had to do this again anytime soon. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard many good things about the MAX…
Better than a 787 if you ask me.
never mind, I’ll take a A320 over the death cruiser. And one time when I was flying to TPE from YVR on ACA 787-9, on the way, a volcano erupted 5 minutes after we passed it. So if we had flown 5 kts slower it would be, ditching in the ocean.
You’re like the only person I know who hates the 787. Haha! It’s not that bad of an airplane actually!
Excellent and fun review as always. I am looking for a flight from LAX to Toronto currently and there is still one 787-9 service per day. You mentioned that the 787-9 Y cabin was “quite spacious and comfortable”. But published spec (i.e. seatguru) shows the Y seats to be only 17-inch wide (i guess that’s average width for 787) with a dismal 30-inch pitch (which seems below average for both domestic and international standards). Just wondering if the seats felt more spacious than these numbers suggest?
Thanks Dennis! Yeah, I’m fortunate enough not to be super tall (just 5’-10”) so I don’t normally have issues in tight airline seats. Except when it comes to Air Canada Rouge and any United A320 I’ve experienced lately…
Honestly I didn’t have any issues with these seats, and I was perfectly comfortable for the entire flight. It was much better than Rouge in my opinion. As long and you’re not really tall you should be fine!
United A320 are really comfortable.
You spelled “uncomfortable” wrong. 🙂
oh ya, what is your favorite type of aircraft, by favorite is the Boeing 777-200ER.
I’m a pretty big fan of the A350-900 right now. Sexy airplane! #omg
Hi Scott – So i took the 787 flight from LAX to YYZ, and it was better than expected. At 6’1, the legroom was actually ok (perhaps due to slim-line seat and my low expectations) for the full 4.5 hour flight. For a long-haul flight, I think the seat width could be more problematic if you have a seat-mate (of any size).
By the way, the return trip was on a 30 year old 767-300ER
Glad you had a good experience Dennis! I completely agree about how iffy this might be on a long haul, but I am hoping to try it soon (just to see if it’s survivable). Haha! Hopefully the 787 was better than the 767 though.
I’m glad that I’m not alone in thinking that the 787 is great, even in 3-3-3 Economy! As you say, it’s quiet and spacious (or at least it feels that way thanks to the Sky Interior and large windows).
Speaking of the windows, I actually like the dimming system! It’s really nice how you can block light for your seatmates, yet still be able to get a decent view. The 777X dimmers look even better: they dim faster and actually go fully dark. I just don’t like the fact that the crew can lock them.
And is it weird that I like both loud AND quiet engines? I love sitting at the back of an MD-80, next to the JT8D’s or hearing the growl of the GE90, yet I find amazing how quiet and relaxing the current generation of engines are. I especially appreciate it on an overnight flight.
I actually hadn’t heard that the 777X windows will go full dark. That’s pretty cool (although, like you, I don’t like that the cabin crew can control it). Eventually all aircraft will have electronically-controlled dimmers, but I’m just glad that I’ll be dead and gone before that happens. Haha!