This is a bit of a continuation from my review on Delta One where I flew from JFK to ZRH. And I have definitely been delayed in getting it published.
Fortunately, the ending of my amazing family Europe trip was capped with another awesome international business class experience.
I am going to be building this into a mini trip report, with some experience sharing posts built in. Hope you all enjoy!
- Review: Delta One A330 JFK-ZRH
- My experiences through Europe: France
- My experiences through Europe: Switzerland
- My experiences through Europe: Renting a car and flying “domestic”
- Review: Air Canada Business Class 787 MXP-YYZ
As I alluded to in my previous review, my family was going to meet in Paris, then travel south through France and Switzerland, and my brother and I would depart from somewhere “down there.”
Ending up in Lugano, Switzerland, it made the most sense to fly out of Milan. If you’ve never been before, Lugano is beautiful, but it is also basically Italians living in Switzerland. It was only about an hour bus ride (through the alps) to Milan-Malpensa airport, so it sounded like an easy enough commute.
Because I booked using my Delta points on the way over, I figured I’d give something else a try on the way back — enter Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you read one, or two posts from my blog you’ll quickly realize how much of a Ultimate Rewards groupie I am. And finally I was able to put them to some use.
There are 9 Chase Ultimate Rewards airline partners, and I’ve recently spoke about the programs that I find most beneficial to transfer to. With all the options at my disposal I was able to see the most availability, and most diverse options with United.
United actually offers award flights as low as 60,000 points one-way in business between the US to Europe, but there was something about the Dreamliner that caught my eye. So I booked a flight from Milan (MXP) to Washington DC (IAD), through Toronto-Pearson (YYZ) aboard the Air Canada 787-900 Dreamliner in business class.
I will say that I was not super impressed with the Milan-Malpensa airport — but then again, my first experience in a European airport was in Zurich.
Nevertheless, I arrived quite early on a bus from Lugano, as my brother and I went to the airport together and his flight was almost 2 hours before mine. The international terminal was crazy around 9 am on this Saturday!
There were a decent amount of people congregating around the check-in counter for Air Canada, but unfortunately the check-in counter was not open yet. Being a business class passenger I was able to go into a priority lane, where [I think] there was one other guy waiting in line.
Going through all the passenger lanes were two Air Canada reps verifying passports. Not exactly sure the purpose in this, as it was done later, but didn’t affect the process at all.
About 10-15 minutes later, a slew of agents manned the chairs and they were open for business. The agent quickly got my boarding passes and checked my bag all the way to DC.
The agent gave me this dandy invitation to the Sala Montala lounge, and also explained how to get there. I was able to go through the express lanes of security, but Passport Control had nothing of the sort.
Getting through security was no problem. I did find one thing interesting about the layout of the airport, though. This could be my lack of experience, but I found the duty-free area with restaurants to mislead people. It seemed like some people were casually eating in this area, having no clue that they were about to wait in another (longer) line at Passport Control.
I could be missing something here, but I felt like some passengers didn’t realize there was going to be another line. I’m assuming this is how it is in most airports, but on the other hand I wonder if it ever affects people making their flights.
Personally, I like to get through all the lines, then enjoy my coffee or meal — but that’s just me.
Nevertheless, I made it through the line at Passport Control, and was able to find the Sala Montale lounge pretty quickly.
Sala Montale Lounge
I’m not going to show much about the lounge experience, but it was large and quite spacious while I was there. The food and refreshments was nothing to write home about, but I did really enjoy it.
Pre-boarding on this flight was utterly atrocious. The more that I’ve read about Milan-Malpensa airport, the more I hear similar sentiments.
While the plane was late in coming from Toronto, the ground crew did absolutely nothing to help expedite the process. I really couldn’t tell you much about what they were doing prior to boarding, but the plane was parked and we weren’t getting on.
I do understand the process it takes to get a plane ready, but still. It seemed a bit delayed. Eventually, though, the boarding process did start.
I waded my way through the unorganized crowd of people to board priority with the business class passengers. I heard a guy present his boarding pass who was in Group 4 — so that should give you some sense of the crowds forming by the entry gate.
Unfortunately, stepping onto the plane the organization did not get any better. Because of the late arrival, and need for a quick turnaround, I was barely greeted at the door and had to dodge flight attendants running things around the cabin. The business class cabin was prepared with all the amenities, but it was pretty obvious the rest of the plane was a work in progress.
I am a huge fan of the Air Canada business class seats. Every seat has direct aisle access, with a ton of privacy. I spoke in depth about the differences that I saw in this seat versus the Delta One seat I flew on the outbound, so I won’t go too in detail here, but I felt like there were two main differences.
- Air Canada uses a black and grey cloth versus the Delta One blue weather. I for one am a fan of the Delta seats, but the Air Canada seats do look incredibly sleek — the entire color scheme and overall product design is definitely my favorite that I’ve flown.
- The Air Canada seat does a much better job of maximizing space. Some people may not notice these differences, but I find the footwell, entertainment screen, and “side” table next to the seat to be much better utilized on Air Canada’s Dreamliner’s. I find the swinging IFE screen on Delta to be cool, but not really adding any value. Whereas, on Air Canada, keeping the screen stable in the front position gives way more side table room.
As mentioned previously, the crew was pretty busy when I got on-board so I wasn’t really expecting much. But everything was ready to go at my seat — bedding, amenity kit, and a pair of headphones.
I thought the bedding was really, comfortable. As this was a midday flight, I didn’t sleep a ton, but I loved the blanket and the mattress pad was a nice plus.
The amenity kit was also great. There was a Want Les Essentials leather bag, with eyeshade, ear plugs, tooth brush, toothpaste, socks, and a Vitruvi travel essentials sample kit.
And finally, the complimentary headphones. I’d say they were adequate, but the one complaint I had was that the chord had to hang across my body whenever I wore them. If I do take another business class flight on board Air Canada’s 787, and wanted to avoid this issue, I’d maybe sit in the A row of the airplane.
So at this point I was ready to get the Air Canada business class experience.
The biggest issue on the flight though was the fact that the IFE was not working until about an hour into the flight. I’m not sure exactly why, but it seemed like it took the crew forever to simply “reset” the system. Gave me plenty of time to study the drink selections, though.
On top of the Air Canada product itself, I wanted to also touch on the Dreamliner itself. For anyone that finds any kind of an awe in the magnificence of airplanes, this plane is awesome.
Not only are the windows huge, but they also dim to a few different tints!
Last year I got the pleasure of taking a tour at the Boeing plant in Everett, WA, and while that is not the factory where they make the Dreamliners, they did a wonderful job of marketing the plane. After that trip, I not only got a ton more respect for the beasts that these planes are, but also for the strides that the company has made into the new 787 family.
After allowing everyone to get settled in, one of the business class flight attendants came around to offer us a choice of champagne or sparkling water. Air Canada has Laurent-Perrier in business class, and while I don’t consider myself a champagne snob, this was some tasty bubbly.
Shortly after that the head flight attendant came around to take everyone’s lunch orders. As this was a mid-day departure flight, there was a lunch served after departure, and a “light meal” right before arrival.
I decided to go with Chicken Piccata, which I will cover shortly.
There is something about being in business class that kind of makes me forget about any delays we experience on the tarmac. In reality, I don’t think the delay was that bad, so we were shortly off! And oh boy is that 787 a dream on takeoff.
The views as we took off over the Italian alps were second to none!
Shortly after takeoff the FAs were in the aisles serving drinks as well as an option for mixed nuts. I decided to be a hassle and order the signature cocktail — the FA was not as humored!
Not sure if it’s going to be a thing yet, but I like the idea of trying what each airline creates. This specific cocktail had some local Canadian flavor, but the FA didn’t even know how to actually make it. This got us off to a rough start, as she seemed almost annoyed to serve me a drink on the menu, but the drink itself was pretty good.
We got through our little hiccup, though, and I do have to say she meant very well and rebounded well!
Not too long after my second signature cocktail, the lunch service began. To start was smoked duck breast, mango salsa, and a radish salad. I’ll just say that the bread and salad probably made a few trips across the Atlantic before that flight. But the duck and mango salsa were tasty.
After that was the chicken piccata I had previously ordered.
While I am usually one to try new things, my stomach wasn’t looking for anything exotic today. I just wanted some tasty chicken without too many flavors — and that is what I got! Definitely filling and tasty all the same.
I am a sucker for all of the sleek Air Canada branded items.
After lunch, a cheese and cracker plate was offered with some grapes. I decided to try a few but knew that desert was coming as well, so wanted to save some room for that.
The ice cream was prepared at my seat, which was a nice touch. I really do enjoy some plain old ice cream, but having some sundae condiments may have been nice.
I was very happy with the lunch service, but the delivery left some things to be desired. While the FAs meant well, it took a long time to get through the entire service. And I really didn’t see much of them in between meal service — or maybe I wasn’t paying attention.
Once we got through the little problem with the entertainment system, I was thoroughly impressed. There were a ton of options to watch TV and movies, as well as some really cool options in-flight.
The best part may have been the handheld remote. Everything on screen can be done on the stow-able remote — which was awesome once I decided to recline a little bit.
Being a mid-day flight, I never really fell asleep the entire flight. But I was plenty entertained with tons of new movie options throughout the flight.
With about an hour left in the flight the FAs brightened the cabin to offer the “light meal” option. First the flight attendants came around to offer a warm towel and new napkin.
The light meal option was a ham and salami charcuterie plate, potato salad, orange slices and some chocolate.
While I’d consider this more of an appetizer, than a light meal, it was still very good. The bread once again was pretty bad, but overall it was a nice bite before landing.
Our approach into Toronto was smooth and quick. The one thing that I found strange was that the flight attendants picked up our headphones with about 20 minutes left in the flight.
Not that this really affected me, I found it a bit ironic. The plane had such a hard time “turning over” in Milan, yet it is this planning ahead that you’d expect to make the process much more efficient.
I found the Air Canada hard product to live up to the hype. The Dreamliner is an amazing plane, and I look forward to trying it on other airlines in the future.
The soft product, on the other hand, left a bit to be desired. The crew didn’t do anything to make me dislike them, but they also didn’t do a ton to make me hurry back. And the food was also extremely average. Once again, nothing to write negatively about, but also nothing to be totally wooed over.
I will definitely be back on Air Canada in the future, but definitely look forward to other options.