And just the Canadian sectors:
Thanks for taking a look at yet another one of my reports. This time I will be heading off across the Atlantic for the second time in 2014, but unlike on my previous journey I’ll be heading to Canada, a country I’ve not visited for a good fifteen years. Putting my newly acquired British Airways Gold Status to good use, I ideally wanted to use them for the Trans Atlantic sectors. Prices weren't too bad over the busy Christmas and New Year break. The best part however was that on the return, World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) was just thirty pounds more than World Traveller (Economy).
Also, the later BA departure from YYZ had recently been swapped from the 747-400 to the 777-300ER, meaning that by the time I took the flight I would have been on every type in the BA fleet (minus the A318, which isn't technically operated by BA anyway - at least not in 2014).
Strangely, after booking I was asked to pay to reserve a seat.
It turned out to be just a bug in the system though, as once I exited and returned to MMB, everything was in order.
As I wanted to visit Montreal, a couple of Canadian domestics were in order. These were booked on Air Canada and Porter Airlines respectively for around £60 each.
During OLCI, the following offers were available.
I was very tempted, however I figured the reason why they were so desperate to try and sell the upgrades (the prices had been reduced by £50 in the week leading up to the flight) was because the flights were pretty full. I eventually decided to call their bluff and not bother buying them. I figured my status meant I’d be towards the top of the operational upgrade list anyway, and if not I was happy enough with the cabin I’d booked into anyway - especially as I’d not travelled in BA’s World Traveller cabin since early 1997 - so was keen to see what t was like these days.
On the day of departure, it would be the 08:50 coach to Heathrow.
Upon arrival I made my way over to the First check in area where there was a bit of a queue, but I was still seen within a few moments.
I then headed through the new T5 fast track - it was a little quicker but no too much, before heading up to the galleries first lounge for some breakfast.
Once I’d finished eating, I made my way outside to the terrace area which was much quieter and provided a good view of what was going on outside.
A couple more views of the T5 Galleries First lounge:
After around an hour or so, gate B36 was displayed, so I headed over to T5B.
Upon entering the lounge at T5B, I was told that "Unfortunately I had been upgraded to World Traveller Plus". Well if you insist... The downside of this however was that I'd now been dumped right in the middle of the cabin. I did ask if there were any window seats available but I was told the flight was completely full. That would explain the upgrade then. And I’d saved £168 in the process. I stayed in the lounge for around half an hour or so.
Before heading down to the gate. As I arrived, boarding was being called. As I made my way down, I was singled out for a thorough search - and for the first time ever I was asked to power up all my electronic devices. The lounge agent who gave me the upgrade mentioned that my seat was a front bulkhead row seat. As I knew row 12 was at the rear of the cabin on the 787, and there was a 747 parked up on stand B36 I figured there had been a last minute change of plane.
However at the very last moment, it was downstairs to a waiting bus, and a long journey over to the far side of T5C, where G-ZBJB was waiting patiently. This now meant I'd been on G-ZBJA, B and C.
Boeing 787-8/ G-ZBJB
Seat: 12E / World Traveller Plus
Off Stand: 12:30
On Stand: 15:16
I took my seat, and as expected the cabin was full.
There didn't appear to be any other solo travellers either so no opportunity to pester somebody for a seat swap. Menus and welcome drinks were handed out.
The captain announced a flying time of seven hours and fifteen minutes. We pushed back exactly on schedule and made the journey over to 27R, which I was abe to follow on the sky map but not much else.
We lifted off into some cloudy skies and appeared to be making our way up north.
After departure, hot towels were given out.
As I couldn't really pay much attention to what was going on outside, I put Curb Your Enthusiasm on the IFE a few moments later.
Around thirty minutes after departure, the first drinks run began. I ordered a G&T, and doubles were dished up without prompting.
A few moments later however, there was some pretty strong turbulence - so strong in fact that the crew were told to halt service and take their seats. Lunch was served just over an hour after takeoff. I chose the beef.
It wasn't the worst meal I'd had onboard but I'd had better.
Still relying on the IFE as my only source of entertainment:
The plus side of being in the middle of the cabin was that I was able to get a pretty good panorama of more or less the entire cabin
After this, I headed to the back to use the washroom and grab a much needed look at the outside world.
Followed up by a couple of films, 22 Jump Street and A Million Ways To Die In The West.
One of the few juice runs:
Towards the end of the second film the afternoon snacks were handed out.
After which the First Officer announced that there was just forty minutes until landing.
Still unable to see much, I took a look at the High Life magazine.
We made our descent and touched down into a surprisingly sunny and snow free Toronto. And then made a pretty long taxi over to the stand at Terminal 3.
Everybody made their way off a few moments later and took the long walk over to Passport control. There was also an initial passport check as soon as you exited the jet bridge.
Once there it took quite a while to get through as I was singled out for further screening - they thought it was a bit odd why I travel so much. They were very thorough too - even asking to see hotel confirmations. No big deal though as I wasn't in a rush. Once I was finally stamped into the country it was out to wait for a bus to my hotel for the evening, the Hilton Garden Inn.
For the second time today I was given an upgrade - to a suite.
I checked in for the following days flight, watched a bit of TV and grabbed some room service - pretty much the only food option around, before turning in for the evening.
The next morning, I woke up pretty early and headed back to the airport.
Reasonable views from the room
Once at the airport, I saw an opportunity to get a couple of pics before heading inside.
I grabbed a souvenir boarding pass…
…before heading through security for some breakfast.
Far better than anything I'd get in a lounge that's for sure, and for just $5 a bargain too. As I had around an hour until boarding I took a walk to see what was around.
Before heading down to the gate.
Just as boarding was scheduled to begin, the ground crew announced it was to be a full flight and that the plane hadn't yet arrived. I was thinking the E-Jet parked at the adjacent gate would be operating the flight. A few moments later, C-FHOS pulled on to stand.
Boarding began, and for the first time in a long time I took the regular queue as opposed to the priority one.
Embraer E190 / C-FHOS
Seat: 25A / Economy
Off Stand: 11:10
On Stand: 12:13
I made my way onboard, and reached my seat - my seat mate already firmly in place. Much like on my flight with Oman Air in 2013, this little E-Jet came complete with personal IFE.
Free Wi-Fi - Nice!
Pushback came and we made our way out to the active. No word of the flight time came from the flight deck though.
There was just a company 777 to depart ahead of us, then it was our turn.
So much for the free Wi-Fi
And watching the IFE. Oh well.
A few moments later, the crew sprang into action. There was a full drink selection, complete with a small snack. Around the time the trolley reached my row, the engines spooled back and descent began. The flight was pretty similar to a UK domestic really.
During this time, my seatmate was curious as to why I was taking pictures of things. He figured I was some sort of travel writer - and he wasn't too far off the mark. We chatted quite a bit until on finals. He mentioned he was also quite a regular flyer, mostly for pleasure than business.
As we did start our final approach, we passed by downtown Montreal. For once I was on the right side of the plane.
We made a very light touchdown and a quick taxi over to stand.
It was then the quick walk over to the arrivals area and on to the 747 bus to the city.
Around thirty minutes later, I was in the city. As I was a little early to check into my hotel, I went for a quick walk around before heading back.
I still arrived back a little early, but was able to check in anyway.
Not a bad view I guess.
Heated outdoor rooftop pool at the hotel.
I spent a few hours relaxing and chatting complete nonsense with PalmJet and FlyingFinn76 on Facebook before heading out to grab something to eat. The next few days were spent exploring a chilly Montreal. I mostly used the pretty good subway system to get around. Very cheap and covered nearly all the major areas of the city.
First stop in the city was taking a walk to look around the Viex Port:
Before heading off to Parc Jean Drapeau, and walking around the GP track. The was about the only snow I saw during my time in Canada.
Looking around the Old Town once more. I didn't last too long however - it was just too cold to be outside in the morning.
Once it had warmed up to a balmy -15, I once more used the subway out to head out to the Olympic park.
My final evening in the city was spent up Mont Royal. Unpredictably, it was almost unbearably cold. Luckily there was a decent sized chalet to warm up in between photos.
Of course, I couldn't leave Quebec without sampling some poutine:
When it came to checking in for my flight back to Toronto, the seat selection process was much like how I've experienced on a LCC - either pay for a specific seat or get shoved wherever. I was put in 10A, which may seem good enough.
However according to seatguru this row was missing a window. So not so good. The only other option was to pay to upgrade to a premium seat at the front of the cabin, so I stumped up the CAD$20 for 2A instead.
I checked out of my hotel and took the short walk to the bus stop.
As I arrived at a pretty quiet airport earlier than expected I took a bit of a walk around, before stumbling across the Porter check in area.
Toronto is a very popular destination from YUL it seems.
As there was nobody waiting, I grabbed a souvenir boarding pass. I was pleased to see it wasn't the standard plain white affair!
After this, I headed through security - where once again I was the only person there, so it took just a couple of minutes. I took a walk around the concourse to see what was around. Luckily there was a decent set of windows.
After which I grabbed a drink and headed down to gate 9.
I tracked my incoming plane, which had just left Toronto. Although it would later prove to be a different plane completely, as my flight was actually a YHZ-YUL-YTZ service.
Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 / C-GLQK
Seat: 2A / Economy
Off Stand: 11:27
On Stand: 12:38
General boarding began, and as far as I knew, I was the first on board - until I actually made it on board and found half a plane full of people. I was greeted by a cheerful crew member and directed to my seat. The legroom was pretty good, so at least the CAD$20 was somewhat worth it.
The plane filled up until it was completely full as far as I could see. The flight deck came over the PA and welcomed everybody and said that we would hopefully be airborne within ten minutes. No flight time was given however.
We pushed back a couple of minutes ahead of schedule whilst the crew performed the safety briefing. A very quick taxi followed to the nearest runway and we powered into the air.
Some ten minutes or so after departure, service began. From what I could see, the crew left the trolleys in the middle of the cabin and delivered all the drinks on a tray. There was a choice of crisps, nuts or cookies to eat, along with a selection of drinks. I chose the cookies and some orange juice, which was delivered to my seat on a silver tray and in a branded glass along with a smile.
After this, the crew passed through the cabin a few more times, checking everybody was ok.
My seat mate then said she noticed I was taking quite a few pics and asked if I was into flying or photography. How refreshing that on both my Canadian domestics, rather than just assume I was up to no good, my seat mates seemed genuinely interested as to what I was up to and strike up a conversation about it! After around thirty minutes of flight, the flight deck announced that descent was ten minutes away.
We made our way down, passing through some rough clouds along the way.
Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side for any decent views - all I could see was the water of Lake Ontario. Out the other side, I could see the buildings of downtown Toronto passing by very close. We touched down and came to a very sudden stop on the runway at Toronto City airport.
After this, it was a brief taxi over to the terminal.
I saw the marshaller franticly making the X sign with his batons as we approached our gate and we screeched to a halt just before turning on to stand. A few moments later, we proceeded and pulled up to an interesting looking gate - at ground level, but with the standard jet bridge type connection to the plane.
It was then through some confusing corridors - the signs either directed you to other gates or the connections desk. Myself and a few others were neither and we had to flag down a passing worker to point us in the right direction. Basically to the end of the corridor and through baggage claim.
It was then on to the ferry for the minute or so journey over to the mainland.
Followed by a bus ride to the centre - all courtesy of Porter.
As I could see my hotel in the distance, and I was a little early to check in I took the walk up the road rather than catch the subway.
My room on the 20th floor of the Toronto Doubletree.
With a good view too:
I spent the next couple of days seeing what was going on in Toronto - quite a bit as it turned out, as it was new year. I couldn't believe how much the area had changed since my last visit back in 1999.
Dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe on NYE:
Checking out the CN Tower. As it was New Years day, it was very quiet. In fact I was the only person in the lift heading to the top.
Of course, I spent a lot of time looking in this general area.
This was actually the one that brought me from YUL.
I also took a walk around the Old Town - I must admit I never knew Toronto had an old town until I saw it in a tourist guide at the hotel.
And finally, checking out the Eaton Centre.
When it was time to return to the airport, I was surprised to see that there weren't any express services from the city. So instead, it was via public transport. It took around an hour, but for just CAD$3 a real bargain.
Upon reaching terminal 3 at YYZ, I queued up in the First Class line, as I'm entitled to do.
The check in agent spotted me and abruptly said “business class?”. Erm, no but I have a gold card… He summoned me over and began typing. He asked what seat I was in, and when I replied he said that British Airways had now put me into a sleeper seat and that I should head upstairs to the lounge where the airline would be more than happy to provide me with dinner. He then handed back my passport, a boarding pass and wished me a very happy new year - talk about change of tune. But more importantly, I’d called BA’s bluff brilliantly with regards to the upgrade situation.
I then headed through security, and as there didn't appear to be much airside, straight up to the lounge.
The agent welcomed me in and handed me a dinner voucher - saying that I could get dinner from the Club side and eat it in the First side.
I had the entire First section to myself, for around twenty minutes until a family with a pretty noisy child turned up. Luckily, a few glances in their general direction led to an apology and them calming the child down a bit.
A snack to begin with:
I went to grab some dinner whilst it was still quiet, but the buffet wasn't quite open, so made do with some champagne instead.
Eventually, I did wander over to the J lounge to grab a tasty dinner. As the buffet didn't really have anything that jumped out at me, I ordered some of the risotto.
By the time I was done, the F lounge had filled up considerably - not that it's too big anyway (only twelve "proper" seats), so I had to make do with the seats nearer the entrance.
As I wanted to enjoy some of the service on board, I grabbed a coffee. As it would turn out, the coffee worked a little better than anticipated as I ended up enjoying all of the service on board, rather than just some of it.
With around an hour until boarding, I made my way down to the gate as I fancied a change of scenery.
The lounge area was certainly different to anything I’d seen before - with a lot less seats and free to use iPads everywhere.
Boarding began, and somewhat predictably, as soon as the ground crew stepped up to the mic a mass bundle took place, including some guy barging his way past the entire fast track line, announcing loudly that he has young children so needs to be first. Moron.
Boeing 777-300ER / G-STBB
Seat: 13A / Club World
Off Stand: 22:07
On Stand: 10:00
Almost as soon as I reached my seat, I was offered a newspaper and a drink of either water, oj or champagne. As I'm not a fan of BA champagne, I opted for the water.
This aircraft had the slightly older generation Club seat, and I found it a little more comfortable than what I experienced on the 787. Although I could be just imagining that.
Nice scheme - No idea who it belonged to though.
My seat mate turned up and immediately raised the divider between the two seats - which suited me. Despite the 8 abreast seating, it still felt very private.
I do like these lamps in the Club cabin. Very classy.
The menus were handed out and dinner orders taken. I opted for the chicken.
We then pushed back (which seemed to take the crew by surprise somewhat) and I got to hear the great noise of the GE90's starting up.
After this, we made our way over to be de-iced.
This took a good few moments, then we made the long trek over to the opposite side of the airport for departure.
We eventually lifted off forty five minutes after leaving the gate.
As we climbed, the amenity kits were handed out, which included the usual bits and pieces.
Within thirty minutes of departure, the bar service began, joined by an episode of American Dad.
Followed just a few seconds later by dinner.
After this the cabin settled down for the short evening. I wasn't feeling that tired however, so I watched a few things on tv, mostly the BA documentary series that was shown on the BBC last year.
I’d pre ordered an A380 model, which I had to chase up on. The crew didn't really know the procedure as they said they'd never had anybody pre order duty free before. Guess I was the first person ever then… maybe.
I also paid a visit to the club kitchen.
After a few more episodes of top gear, the cabin was starting to come back to life.
Breakfast was served.
There were also bacon and egg muffins offered but I didn't take one.
By this time, the sun was starting to appear outside too.
The captain announced our descent and that as it was a little busy at Heathrow, we would probably have to hold for fifteen minutes or so. On our way down there was a pretty good view of LHR.
After more than a few laps of the Ockham hold, we turned on to finals, which led to some good views of London.
We made a very smooth touchdown and rolled out for quite a while - enabling us to turn off the runway and pretty much straight on to stand at T5C.
It was a reasonably short wait to leave, before heading off to the main building.
The procedures were carried out pretty quickly and I made my way up to the arrivals lounge to freshen up and have some breakfast.
The breakfast options were pretty much the same as in the F lounge, but I didn't notice any menus around.
Heathrow becomes airport number 2 on my airport shower list.
Unfortunately this particular one had seen better days.
I stayed for just over an hour before heading downstairs for the coach home.
And that brings an end to my final trip of 2014.
How did BA do this time? Well not too bad - which is the standard I’ve found recently. The upgrades were gratefully received and it was good to try out their Club World product for the first time.
Air Canada were decent enough too on the hours sector - its just a shame the IFE or the Wi-Fi didn't work as advertised. But on a short flight it wasn’t a big issue. If it was a YYZ-YVR sector though it would have been more of an annoyance.
Porter I thought were a great little airline. Friendly crew on the ground and in the air, very tasty choice of snacks on board (as opposed to the single offering on AC) and great presentation of the service too. The only niggle is the seat selection system which basically forces you to pay for a seat or get what you're given - this seemed very LCC.