Edited by: Chris Dong
& Keri Stooksbury
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Airline: Air Canada
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Flight #: AC779
Route: Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Date: August 17, 2023
Duration: 5hr 59min
Cabin and Layout: Air Canada economy with 244 seats in a 2-4-2 layout
Seat: 27K (window)
Cost: 40,100 Aeroplan points + $155 in taxes and fees (including another flight starting in Frankfurt)
After visiting a friend in Germany, I needed a flight home to California and struggled to find good redemption options. Flying nonstop was costly, but Air Canada offered a good option when connecting through Montréal.
I’d never flown long-haul with Air Canada before, and my 2 flights were on different aircraft types with distinct seat layouts. This seemed like an ideal time to check out Air Canada and see what the airline is like when flying more than just a short hop inside Canada.
This was the second flight in my itinerary, transiting in Montréal and boarding from the U.S. cross-border section. That meant I precleared U.S. Customs in Canada and also meant I was in a separate section of the airport that lacked lounge and restaurant options.
The flight had some positives and negatives (including upset passengers seated in the row behind me), so let’s get to it. Here’s what my flight was like in mid-August 2023.
I booked this flight as part of a Frankfurt-Montréal-Los Angeles itinerary using Aeroplan points. I paid 40,100 Aeroplan points + about $155 in taxes and fees for the full itinerary. That entire ticket would’ve cost $1,595 in cash, giving a solid value of 3.6 cents per point.
That’s well above the average value of Aeroplan points — especially for economy awards.
If you would book just the Montréal–Los Angeles flight, expect to pay around $250 cash or 11,400 Aeroplan points + CA$110 (~$81). Consider using one of our recommended best cards for airline purchases to maximize your earnings.
When checking in online before the flight, I also had options to upgrade, though I wasn’t interested.
Read about my experience on board Air Canada’s Boeing 787-900 in economy class from FRA to YUL.
I arrived from Frankfurt and followed the signs for transit passengers, connecting airside between flights. Thus, I didn’t go to the check-in counters as I already had a boarding pass in hand.
Cross-border flights to the U.S. have a separate security area from those transiting to international destinations (yes, I realize the irony of U.S. flights not being “international,” but this will matter in a later section). I was able to use the Global Entry lanes to speed through security and gain access to the departures area for U.S.-bound flights.Hot Tip:
I did my interview for Global Entry at the office in Montréal (after arriving from Frankfurt) during my transit. This is a great option if you’re struggling to find an interview slot and you’re conditionally approved. Between waiting for my turn and then the interview, the process took 40 minutes. Read our guide for more tips on how to get a Global Entry appointment.
Flying in economy class and not holding elite status with any airline, my ticket didn’t provide any lounge access privileges. However, I hold The Platinum Card® from American Express and could’ve used this to visit any lounges participating in Priority Pass (enrollment required) or the American Express Global Lounge Collection.
Sadly, no lounges were accessible in the U.S. cross-border departures area. Despite departing from gate 56, I was unable to access the Air France-KLM Lounge operated by Plaza Premium Group at gate 57. A giant wall of glass separated the U.S.-bound and “international” flights section of the terminal. The lounge was so close, yet so far away.
We boarded in groups, and it was very organized. Gate agents made several announcements and passed through the line to ensure people were in the right line for their boarding group.
Plus, people devoutly respected the boarding groups, which is rare. With no one trying to jump from group 5 to 2, things moved efficiently.
I boarded in group 5, the last group. Despite this, the line kept moving throughout the entire boarding process. That was aided by flight attendants at the plane’s door doing their best to keep things moving so a line didn’t build inside the jet bridge.
Flight attendants at the aircraft’s door were friendly and welcoming. They greeted passengers in French and English and helped people use the correct aisle to access their seats. Boarding finished ahead of schedule.
We boarded through the middle door, entering the galley between business and economy classes. Behind the galley was a premium economy section, then a divider wall before the start of the economy section. The premium economy section had a full 7 inches of extra pitch (space between rows of seats)
At the front of the main cabin, preferred seats were available to those with Air Canada status or who paid to select these seats. If paying for these seats at the bulkhead (first row) with extra legroom, expect a cost of $CA90 (~$67).
I had seat 27K, a window seat on the plane’s right side. The seat next to me was empty, giving me a block of 2 seats for the entire flight.
My seat had a standard window with a plastic shade to pull down if desired.
The seats had a nice striped pattern that I liked for its uniqueness to set it apart from other airlines. The armrests also had a button to control seat recline.
At 5 feet 10 inches, I found the pitch between seats comfortable. My minimum expectation is to not have my knees hitting the seat in front of me, which was accomplished here.
The seat back pocket had the Bistro menu (more on that in the food and beverage section) and emergency information card.
There was also a tray table on the back of the seat in front of me, released with a simple latch. While not very deep, it was wide and could support my 13-inch laptop.
Under the seat, I had a universal outlet to plug in my phone, and there were reading lamps overhead.
Overhead bins were available and spacious. Though our flight was about 75% full, bin space wasn’t an issue.
Economy passengers on this nearly 6-hour flight did not receive complimentary meals. Those were available for premium economy and business class passengers only. I had figured this out from the “what’s on my flight” part of the Air Canada app and website in advance (while checking to see if there would be Wi-Fi on the plane).
Therefore, I brought snacks.
For those wishing to buy food on board, the Air Canada Bistro menu in the seat back pocket provided options and prices. The bistro menu was also available in the app.
Breakfast options included everything from a cup of oatmeal or a breakfast sandwich to a full breakfast plate.
Meal options included pizza, a charcuterie board, wraps, or a full business class-style meal (depending on if there were any meals left).
There were also combos available to save by pairing a snack or meal with a drink.
The bar offered beer, wine by the glass or mini bottle, and liquor. Bottled water and limited soft drinks were complimentary.
Kids’ meal options were mac and cheese or cheese pizza.
Plus, there were numerous snack options.
I really liked that the Air Canada app provided so much information in advance. I played with it before boarding and found out that meals weren’t provided, and I also checked the Wi-Fi offerings. I definitely recommend downloading the app if you’re flying with Air Canada.
Each seat had an entertainment screen. While these weren’t large, they got the job done and didn’t require squinting.
Numerous language options were available.
You could read the news, check the Bistro menu, view a flight map, listen to music, or watch tons of digital entertainment.
On top of Apple TV+ offerings and sorting movies by genre, you could find new offerings or even filter for content short enough to finish before landing.
Each screen had headphone jacks plus both USB-A and USB-C charging points.
Interestingly, free headphones were not provided. If you didn’t bring your own, you could purchase basic earphones for CA$3.95 (~$3) or premium earphones with a case for CA$7.95 (~$6).
Lavatories were standard, located along both aisles.
The flight crew kept these clean and stocked during the trip.
Wi-Fi was available, with options to purchase a 1-hour pass for CA$10.25 (~$8) or 1,050 points or a full-flight pass for CA$18 (~$13) or 1,800 points.
Free messaging was available on mobile phones as well. The Wi-Fi connection was reliable and provided average speeds of 21 Mbps during the flight.
Overall, the service was really good. In particular, I think the flight attendants did a great job handling upset passengers in the row behind me.
A couple had been on my flight from Frankfurt earlier in the day, and they were not aware that our 6-hour flight crossing an international border didn’t include a meal. Given that one of them was diabetic, they were upset about the lack of complimentary food, prices, and options in the Bistro menu.
As they continued to get more upset, the purser arrived to apologize, diffuse the situation, and offer to bring ingredient/health information sheets for the passenger to read. In this way, he could check for appropriate food.
It wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault the passenger didn’t understand what was included with his ticket, but the crew did a great job preventing the situation from escalating when he seemed ready to raise his voice.
I was already dreading this situation escalating in the seat behind me and was reaching for my noise-canceling headphones, but the purser diffused the situation well.
This was on top of friendly attitudes and smiles from the crew during other parts of the trip, such as boarding and disembarkation. The crew was also helpful when people needed a hand putting their bags into the overhead bins, keeping the boarding process moving smoothly.
Overall, the crew did a good job helping passengers have a positive flight experience.
After landing, the crew made announcements about our arrival gate, the weather outside, and the baggage claim location. As we’d precleared border control at Montréal, there were no announcements about immigration formalities.
After a short taxi to our gate, we deplaned through the middle door via the galley between economy and business cabins. Flight attendants were available at the door to provide help, along with smiles and goodbyes.
Customer service is easy when everyone is happy. It’s more difficult when people aren’t happy, and I thought the crew handled the upset passenger behind me in the best manner possible. Yes, this was an international flight of 6 hours, and it’s odd that there was no complimentary meal in economy. Understanding that before you get on the plane is important, so ensure you know what is (and isn’t) included with your ticket if you fly with Air Canada within North America.
Overall, this was a good flight that went where I needed to go, had decent Wi-Fi, and the seats weren’t cramped. Could it be better with a meal and complimentary headphones? Yes, but I’m not expecting those changes to happen. I was alright without them, but consider other options if those matter to you.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
There are 2 different cabin layouts on Air Canada’s A330 plans. Both use a 2-4-2 layout in economy, offering either 244 seats or 255 seats. The layout with more seats is because that plane doesn’t have a business-class cabin. Both options have a premium economy cabin.
It depends. On long-haul flights outside North America, you will have a complimentary meal in economy. On flights within North America, meals likely aren’t included on your flight. Check the specifics for your flight, but assume that meals will be available for purchase — not for free.
The Air Canada Bistro has meals, snacks, and drinks available for purchase on flights. Prices and options are available in a menu in the seat back pocket, or you can browse the menu using the Air Canada mobile app or using your inflight entertainment system.
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Ryan has been on a quest to visit every country in the world and plans to hit his final country in 2023. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publications including AwardWallet, The Points Guy, USA Today Blueprint, CNBC Select, Tripadvisor, and Forbes Advisor.
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