Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Stella Shon
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Airline: Air Canada
Aircraft: Airbus 220-300
Flight #: AC720
Route: Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) to LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
Date: July 27, 2023
Duration: 1hr 31min
Cabin and Layout: Air Canada economy, 125 seats in a 3-2 configuration
Cost: $227.84 (round-trip, including seat selection, fees, and taxes)
After a long weekend in Ontario’s cottage country in the Muskoka region, my family and I were forced to return to New York City — apparently just missing our chance to hobnob with David and Victoria Beckham. So we bade a sad farewell to the boathouse, private dock, paddleboard, and 3 dogs of increasing sizes and drove the 2 hours down to Toronto Pearson International Airport for the Air Canada flight home to LaGuardia Airport in New York City.
We paid $191.84 per person after the usual fees and taxes, and our kindergartener was charged the same as an adult. We paid an additional $18 per person on top of that (per segment) for seat selection so we could sit together.
My wife booked the Air Canada ticket via the airline website using her Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, earning 1x SkyMiles per dollar spent. If I’d been there when she did it, I would have advised her to use 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) — these 3 round-trip tickets would’ve earned us 3,417 points total.
The Amex Platinum card would have been an ideal choice, even over my Chase Sapphire Reserve®. I’ve already hit my annual up to $300 travel credit on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and American Express Membership Rewards points are worth 2.2 cents per point vs. 2 cents per point with Chase Ultimate Rewards according to our estimations.
Air Canada’s Aeroplan point redemptions are vaguely based on how distant the departure airport and destination are from each other. From YYZ to LGA, it’s 356 miles, squarely in Aeroplan’s lowest-priced tier, which would have cost us 6,000 to 10,000 points. We paid cash instead.Hot Tip:
Compared to the traffic nightmare that New York City-area airports often are at departures, Toronto Pearson’s Terminal 1 was dignified — not a honked horn, near collision triple-parked car, or a screaming police officer in sight. In other words, we began our trip with a stress level of 2 out of 10. From New York’s airports, starting with a stress level of 7 or higher is normal.
And our flight, AC720 to LGA, was on time, too!
There were moderate crowds at check-in for Air Canada, and it took us a few minutes to get our boarding passes.
The bag drop took a little longer because of the slightly confusing signage. A separate section for U.S. flights was signified mostly by inconspicuous U.S. flag symbols. Still, you could use the kiosks in the main Air Canada check-in section regardless of where you were flying to, so it was easy to think of the U.S. section as superfluous or for much more crowded days — except when it came to the bag drop.
Bag drop had to be done at Air Canada’s U.S. bag drop, which an Air Canada employee had to point out to people on U.S.-bound flights who instead queued up for the regular Air Canada bag drop lines. The drop lines weren’t really lines but scattered clots of confused flyers.
As everyone in our group had U.S. citizenship, we went through passport control at YYZ, which was fast and easy.
There was an Air Canada Maple Lounge in Terminal 1, but we didn’t have access. Lounge access was for 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 the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Credit Card, or the CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Card.
I did, however, have access to the Plaza Premium Lounge with my Amex Platinum card — but it was at capacity, and the large group of tired-looking people outside dissuaded me from adding our names to the waitlist.
I didn’t get to try out YYZ’s Plaza Premium Lounge in T1, but check out our comprehensive guide to Plaza Premium Lounge to see where else you can find one.
We were at gate 51 at LGA arriving in Toronto and, coincidentally, at gate 51 again on the flight back. But compared to LGA’s newish Terminal B, Toronto’s Terminal 1 was spare and outdated, with insufficient seating and little in the way of amenities.
For example, a full-blown, full-service restaurant and bar was right next to our gate at LGA. At YYZ? A Subway vending machine was the only food-and-beverage option within a long walk’s distance.
Most disturbing to me, however, was the placement of the electrical outlets. It looked like someone long ago had opened up employee-only floor outlets for passenger use instead of putting outlets at seats or tables. So it was impossible to walk to or from the seats without navigating around charger cords everywhere, right in the middle of the aisles.
There were outlets at occasional concrete pillars throughout the terminal, but not enough. Hopefully, YYZ will install outlets under seats or tables without being prompted by an inevitable lawsuit.
Our Airbus 220-300 plane arrived on time, and we began boarding.
The economy cabin was in a 3-2 configuration, and though the aisle was narrow, it’s not like my pants snagged on anyone’s armrest. It was clean, and there was enough space in the overhead bins for the 2 bags we’d carried on. We also had 2 packs carried on as personal items to stow under the seats in front of us.
The seats weren’t fall-asleep comfortable, but they did offer adjustable headrests. I was in the middle seat, so my expectations were low.
I theoretically had adequate room for my legs, but my backpack was stowed under the seat in front of me, which took up most of the space, leaving my feet to squeeze at the sides.
This flight offered not 1 but 3 — yes, 3! — barf bags. I later wondered if Air Canada had somehow anticipated our bumpy landing into LGA.
You know I had to check the seatback trays.
This one, like most, had that shallow drink well that always makes you go, “Really? Is this very slight depression in this smooth plastic going to stop my hot coffee from sliding into my lap when the plane suddenly lurches forward in the middle of a storm cloud at 30,000 feet?”
Just in case, I ordered a ginger ale. (A cup, not the whole can.) And I was supplied a bag of little pretzels that somehow looked even more generic than your usual bag of airplane pretzels.
It was as if Air Canada did all its snack shopping at the nearest Mississauga No Frills. (Actually, the nearest No Frills appears to be the Jim & Maria’s No Frills in Etobicoke.)
The menu was the exact same one as the LGA-YYZ flight.
On offer was everything from snacks to breakfast to those airplane meals that aren’t quite lunch or dinner but ultimately leave you thumbing through old delivery menus once you get home.
And as it was an early afternoon flight, I held myself back from throwing a row-wide rager.
We were greeted at our seats with pleasant images of Toronto, including this Bermuda-rigged sloop whose jib and mainsail were clearly luffing. Tighten up those sheets, Air Canada! Also, who’s steering this thing?! Definitely a potential case for la Garde côtière canadienne.
Movies included relatively recent movies (we flew in July 2023) like “Avatar: The Way of Water” but not new new movies, so there were no opportunities for a side-by-side Barbenheimer screening. (And, yes, that’s a convenient Know Your Meme link so you can look up the reference after 2023.)Hot Tip:
Headphones were available for purchase if needed. Plan on bringing your own if you want to avoid the charge.
Judging by the flight map counting down to our landing in Toronto from Houston, it appeared that the flight attendants never bothered rebooting the entertainment systems from the previous flight. The map itself worked fine, though, and the cartoon plane’s location seemed to be accurate throughout the flight — it was just the “Time to Destination” display that was off, insisting we had landed in Toronto.
Fortunately, the USB ports and jacks were on the bottom of the screen. Armrest headphone jacks seem innocuous but always end up being the worst thing ever happening to you when you’re trying to maneuver your utensils for an airplane meal or when someone in your row has to use the lavatory immediately.
There was no Wi-Fi on this flight. Air Canada says it offers Wi-Fi on select North American routes. This wasn’t one of them.
Although the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is wider than the Airbus 220-300 and has a clunkier interior design, the 2 lavatories at the rear of the A220-300, next to the galley, seemed ever-so-slightly larger than the one on the 737 MAX 8 flight into YYZ — I could turn around without bumping my elbows on anything.
The seat and entire area were clean and relatively comfortable-looking for a coach lav. There was room for a full-size pull-down changing table over the toilet, though no one would lend me their infant to test it out.
The sink was chunky compared to the sleek, curvy sink of the MAX 8.
However, part of the cabinet was broken.
I tried to pop it back in, but it wasn’t having it. (I found it this way, I swear!) The tap was responsive, and the soap was soapy.
I promise that I washed my hands before I left the lavatory.
The service was brisk, efficient, and friendly, and it probably helped that all the passengers behaved. We had no complaints, though, as I noted before, the FAs evidently forgot to reboot the entertainment system from the previous Houston-Toronto flight. (Everything worked fine anyway — it just made the flight map countdown look a little wonky.)
Being a flight attendant is probably like being a doctor or nurse, in that it’s a good day when you can say nothing exciting happened.
Our landing was rough, but I can’t blame the bumpiness on the pilots — LaGuardia has infamously short runways, and I expect jarring touchdowns and immediate furious reverse thrusting every time I have to come back through LGA. I’ve never seen an actual injury or accident at LGA, though.
Our flight was assigned baggage carousel 5, and we picked up our duffel bag and were off to the taxi stand within minutes. (Remember that we already did passport control, etc., in Toronto.)
Writing a review about a short-haul pedestrian flight like YYZ-LGA is like writing a review about a ride on a city bus to Costco. But, you know what? Even when I spent more of my year abroad than at home, I spent way more hours a week on “rinky-dink” public buses than on glamorous long-haul flights. And, just as with an MTA bus ride, if I can walk away from the trip at the right location, in one piece, in a relatively good mood, and unpunched, I count it a success.
And I’m sorry I’m late with this review, but there was no Wi-Fi on my flight.
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.
Air Canada operates out of Terminal 1 at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).
Air Canada’s arrival gates are in Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport in New York City.
You’ll literally trip over the electrical outlets at YYZ’s Terminal 1. Near the gates, the outlets are in the floor all over the place. You may also find outlets in some concrete columns throughout the terminal.
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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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