Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Stella Shon
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Airline: Air Canada
Aircraft: Boeing 737 MAX 8
Flight #: AC707
Route: LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
Date: July 27, 2023
Duration: 1hr 40min
Cabin and Layout: Air Canada economy, 153 seats in a 3-3 configuration
Cost: $227.84 (round-trip, including seat selection, fees, and taxes)
If you’re like me, you usually come to Upgraded Points to read about long flights with destinations with glamorous or exotic IATA codes like CDG, BKK, or JNB. But the fact is that many of us probably spend way more total hours a year on flights of 2 hours or less rather than on the long-hauls.
And when members of your family bleed Canadian maple leaf red, many of those short-hauls you take have IATA codes beginning with “Y.”
My family was invited to a long weekend this summer in the Muskoka’s so-called “cottage country,” which I describe to Americans as Ontario’s version of the Hamptons, minus the long lines and $100,000 Jeeps that have never driven off-road.
On Air Canada, we flew to Ontario from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York City to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). I used leftover AAdvantage miles to rent a car for the roughly 2-hour drive to Muskoka. The flight was a short hop, but it’s the short flights that affect your life the most in many ways.
Is it worth paying extra for business class for a flight less than the length of a Marvel movie? We didn’t think so — especially since we don’t bat an eye spending nearly as long on the New York City subway’s rock-hard plastic seats getting to and from parts of Manhattan. We just paid for 3 basic economy tickets instead, booked via the Air Canada site, at $191.84 per person after the usual fees and taxes (our 5-year-old was charged the same as an adult). We also paid an additional $36 per person round-trip to ensure we could sit together as a group.
Air Canada is a member of Star Alliance (and its literature frequently likes to remind you that it was a founding member), but we paid for the round-trip flight in cash.
Air Canada’s Aeroplan has a notoriously quirky mileage redemption program that’s vaguely based on how distant the departure airport and destination are from each other. From LGA to YYZ, it’s a distance of 356 miles, well under Aeroplan’s cutoff for its lowest-priced tier, which would have cost us anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 Aeroplan points — if we’d had them.Hot Tip:
Getting to Canada on Air Canada can be tricky if you’re trying to do it on Aeroplan points. Check out our guide to flying to Canada on points and miles — especially if you’re a fan of Signature Suites.
Because of the circumstances of our stay and when we booked, my wife booked the trip on her Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, earning 1x SkyMiles or 227 SkyMiles per ticket. If I had booked the flight, I would have used The Platinum Card® from American Express, which earns 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per year, then 1x) — this trip would have then earned 1,139 points per ticket.
The Amex Membership Rewards points the Amex Platinum card earns are worth 2.2 cents per point vs. 2 cents per Chase Ultimate Rewards point earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, my other go-to credit card for travel. I’ve already hit my up to $300 annual travel credit this year with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, so it wouldn’t have been a factor if I’d used it for this trip.
Like learning to live with the fact that your uncle will say offensive things at family gatherings, part of being a New Yorker is learning not to expect too much from New York-area airports. (When I managed another publication’s annual rankings, the biggest surprises tended to be the rare occasions when the worst 3 major airports weren’t LGA, John F. Kennedy (JFK), and Newark-Liberty (EWR).)
I was pleasantly surprised by LGA’s new Terminal B, which opened in June 2020. We arrived to find no line at the ticketing kiosks for Air Canada.
AC707 had a departure time of 10:30 a.m., but we arrived at the airport 2 hours earlier and found no line at the check-in kiosks or bag drop for Air Canada at Terminal B. Both processes were a breeze, and we made it through security in a few minutes. The agents at every step were cordial and helpful, and we had no problems getting to our gate.
Taking a cue from the most insidious aspects of Disney World, we were funneled straight into a gift shop right after security, but the pre-gates area was appropriately themed.
If the mosaic of the duck staring longingly at a flying pizza slice were instead a pigeon, it would be perfect.
There was a great airport-themed play area for children with soft climbing surfaces and a design-your-own-plane interactive screen.
And the dancing fountain — which tossed down polka dots, sine waves, and tubes of color-lit water — was whimsical and enchanting.
LaGuardia ranks as the second most kid-friendly U.S. airport — see why in our detailed study!
LGA Terminal B Eastern Concourse has an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge on the mezzanine between security and departure gates 40 to 59 — you can’t miss it if you’re taking the escalator.
This lounge is open to Air Canada premium-cabin passengers, Star Alliance Gold members, Aeroplan Elite 25K or 35K with a lounge pass, Aeroplan Elite 50K members and above, and people with Aeroplan-affiliated American Express cards, the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Credit Card, or the CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Card. We were none of these, so we were turned away and made our best sad-sack Charlie Brown impressions as we joined the hoi polloi at the gates.Hot Tip:
Check out our guide to LGA’s airport lounges; you won’t be turned away at the door!
Our flight was delayed by about 30 minutes, so we hunkered down in the seats by gate 51 (also the gate number at YYZ for the return flight). Terminal B had plenty of shops and restaurants nearby, so we were set for snacks, coffee, and things to do to pass the time — including that airport-themed play area I mentioned.
Before the flight boarded, a flight attendant called me to the gate counter, where she told me that the entertainment system at the seat I was booked in, 24E, wasn’t working.
Cannily, I’d loaded up a tablet with episodes of “Octonauts,” and once on board, traded my preschooler’s window seat (24F) with a working entertainment system for the “Octonauts” tablet — and the middle seat with the nonfunctioning entertainment. It worked like a charm this time, but I can’t guarantee this strategy will work for you if your target isn’t a preschooler you happen to be the parent of.
The cabin was arranged in a 3×3 configuration, and we were slightly toward the rear of the center, just behind the wing.
We hustled quickly through the business cabin since people were eager to settle after the plane was delayed.
In the economy cabin, the overhead storage was spacious for a short hop, and the aisles weren’t especially narrow or wide.
My new 24F seat had a decent footwell and reclined a few degrees — though I rarely bother reclining on short flights.
When I sat down, the knee scar from my old skiing injury didn’t painfully scrape against the seatback in front of me, as it does on some more cramped airplane seats. I couldn’t stretch my feet out fully straight ahead, though.
The armrests between the seats had seat controls and could be lifted — they didn’t include a remote for the entertainment system, which we had to interact with entirely via the touchscreen.
The lights and air conditioning were overhead, as usual.
As I mentioned before, there was plenty of space in the overhead bins.
The seatback literature pocket included the usual flight menu and safety literature. Notably, Air Canada seems to have unilaterally rebranded the 737 MAX 8 as the 737-8 (M), which I assume was in response to the flurry of bad publicity the Boeing plane received after the Lion Air crash in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Air crash in March 2019.
There was also a barf bag, which was a slight surprise — I have been seeing these less and less on flights over the past couple of decades.
The tray table was directly above the pocket and had a latch to keep it closed.
The trays could pull forward to close the gap to your belly. And they had the usual beverage well on the top right.
We started rolling pretty quickly once everyone sat down and we went through the safety lecture.
The inflight menu promised the possibility of the usual snacks, sandwiches, and alcoholic beverages — at a price. But the standard food-and-beverage offering in the economy cabin was Biscoff cookies and a soft drink. Thanks to a friendly flight attendant, I scored a second packet of cookies.
If you order a soda, some flights will give you the whole can, but this wasn’t the case here.
There was a menu for snacks, drinks, and headphones we could order during the flight.
There wasn’t anything unusual or remarkable, just the usual pitches for the airline-affiliated credit cards (the TD Aeroplan Privilege card, in this case).
And there were the run-of-the-mill light breakfasts, cheese, and crackers.
More substantial meals included hamburgers, which are notoriously hard to get right for midflight service. Airlines tend to sell cheeseburgers instead of plain hamburgers because the cheese helps cover up dried-out, overcooked meat.
And I assume FAs breathe a sigh of relief whenever a flight ends and no one has ordered Pringles or the kinds of crackers that leave crumbs everywhere.
There was booze on the flight, but I didn’t see anyone partaking.
And, yes, you have to buy your headphones in economy on Air Canada.
Air Canada offers Wi-Fi on some of its North American flights — this wasn’t one of them. The flight crew of the return flight evidently thought it was too short even to bother rebooting the entertainment system, and it kept displaying the information for a flight to Toronto from Houston instead.
I had planned on getting some work done on this flight, so this was a disappointment and meant I effectively lost an entire workday instead of being able to salvage half.
The flight map worked as expected, and there was a single USB port under the screen and a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack for entertainment.
The entertainment system for the seat I’d connived from a preschooler had a tilting touchscreen, a selection of recent movies, the usual assortment of TV programs and documentaries (including the expected Canadiana, like Canada-themed documentaries, from Canada’s national airline), and music.
The USB port was below the screen, along with the headphone jack. I found it so much easier than when the jack is in the armrest.
We could have used additional lavatories in the coach cabin — there was only 1 for the entire cabin at the back of the plane.
Although this was a short flight, a line quickly formed for it as soon as the seatbelt signs pinged off.
I didn’t have to use the toilet, but I’m fairly sure, based on the sounds of the people ahead of me, it sucked. (Which is a good thing on a plane!)
The sink was designed to fit into the cramped space and worked perfectly fine, but I wouldn’t have been able to bathe a baby in it. (Please don’t start bathing babies in airplane sinks if you can help it.)
By the time I got my turn, it was already looking the worse for wear, with small puddles on the floor and damp tissues hanging forlornly halfway out of the trash bin.
On my way to the rear lavatory, a flight attendant loaded a cart with cookies for the snack service. When I saw what he was filling the baskets with, I said, “Ooh, Biscoff!” As one does. So he snuck me a packet, winking and promising another at my seat. I’m not saying I did it, but having the opportunity for Bathroom Biscoff is always nice.
Other than that, the service on this flight was professional and courteous, if not exactly friendly, outside of Bathroom Biscoff Guy.
At the gate, when I probed gently about whether I could get a voucher as recompense for 24E’s nonfunctioning entertainment system, the FA (who also served on the flight) responded with a curt and firm, “No.” Which was fair. What kind of world do we live in if we can’t go 100 minutes without screen time? … is what I told myself as I returned to my family with a tablet filled with about 10,000 minutes of “Octonauts.”
The landing of AC707 at Toronto Pearson went smoothly, and the plane disembarked quickly and efficiently without too many whatever-the-disembarkation-version-of-gate-lice-is.
Even though we only had 1 Canadian passport among us, we were through passport control in a jiffy and down the escalator to our luggage carousel before you could say, “The former Mrs. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.”
We collected our single checked bag and were on our way to pick up our rental car from the nearby agency.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card and several other credit cards will reimburse you for expenses you incur due to delayed or lost baggage.
Does anyone brag about taking a flight to Toronto Pearson? Not really. But when you spend a lot of time on the go, it’s the little flights like these that add up the most when the year is done — and whether you’ve spent most of your annual flight time well or unpleasantly may affect how much air travel you plan on doing the next year.
Air Canada 707 was a workmanlike flight that got me where I wanted to go without being overly late, a crick in my neck, or a bad taste in my mouth. If I were active on social media, would this be the flight I posed on my Insta or TikTok? There’s about as much chance of that as me sharing my daily ride on an MTA bus. But the best thing about the MTA bus is that I can, generally speaking, count on it when I need it most, and the same goes for Air Canada’s New York-to-Toronto flights, even if Destination Canada isn’t going to make a poster of AC707 anytime soon.
Just don’t expect to get any work done on it.
The information regarding the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Credit Card and CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
It depends. The lounge is open to Air Canada premium-cabin passengers, Star Alliance Gold members, Aeroplan Elite 25K or 35K with a lounge pass, Aeroplan Elite 50K members and above, and people with Aeroplan-affiliated American Express cards, the TD Aeroplan Privilege card, or the CIBC Aeroplan Infinite Privilege card.
The plane is equipped with Wi-Fi, but a connection wasn’t available on my flight. I wouldn’t count on it.
Even though it’s technically an international flight, this entirely North American trip on Air Canada doesn’t include a full meal unless you count 2 cookies and a Coke as a full meal. Additional food items and beverages are available for purchase.
Air Canada flies out of Terminal B at LGA.
Air Canada uses Terminal 1 at YYZ.
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Michael Y. Park is a journalist living in New York City. He’s traveled through Afghanistan disguised as a Hazara Shi’ite, slept with polar bears on the Canadian tundra, picnicked with the king and queen of Malaysia, tramped around organic farms in Cuba, ridden the world’s longest train through the Sahara, and choked down gasoline clams in North Korea.
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