I never fly business class. Although this seems to come as a great surprise to far too many people. Including some of my colleagues. Somehow people equate my business travel with flying business class. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
In December I flew back to Toronto for Christmas, and had to book my return flight for a cheery January 1st. Reason being, flying on the 2nd or 3rd translated to a $700 difference, keeping all other parameters the same. I didn’t plan the most riveting new year’s eve, so it really wasn’t the end of the world. Unfortunately now that I live in London I do not fly with Air Canada often enough to burn through my eUpgrade points. And as luck has it, by the time I reached Gold status Air Canada made it more difficult to upgrade to business class. Now you spend $500 on top of your eUpgrade points, and that makes it just ever so less appealing to me. Instead, you can still use them to upgrade to premium economy class. Slightly more dignified than regular economy, so I did exactly that.
After a quick trip to the Maple Leaf lounge at YYZ, I walked down to the gate in a bit of a daze. No matter how on time I am (5 min after the scheduled boarding time), I am always terrified that magically they board the entire 200+ passenger plane within 5 minutes and depart without me. As I am running up to the gate and after showing my boarding pass the first time, I am called back by the person who still needs to see my passport. He greets me, stuffs my boarding pass back into my passport, and tells me: “Here you are Dr. Buske, your upgrade is in there as well.”
I assumed he meant my already confirmed economy plus upgrade. Then as I start walking down the bridge, started to think his comment was a bit odd, because my regular boarding pass already had my economy plus seat on it. When looking at my boarding pass I see my seat is 1F. My inner self does a crazy happy dance. By some strange magic, I got upgraded to business class!
On my way to Canada I had already tried out the new 787 Dreamliner, and according to Air Canada staff its top-selling feature is the improved humidification of the cabin. This supposedly helps with jet lag. I am not entirely convinced, I think hydrating well helps more with recovering from jet lag than humidifying the cabin.
The 787 Dreamliner has a new configuration for business class. The service is just as you would expect on any Air Canada flight. You take flight with a welcome drink, champagne or orange juice. Once you are in the air, you may decide to just lie down flat. Not only does your seat transform into a bed in the sky, it also has a massage function.
Unfortunately, in my seat the massage function would work for some time, and then stop. I took the red-eye and was too tired to properly investigate why it would not continue and just turned it back one when I wanted it. If you have ever had a pedicure and then sat in a massaging chair, chances are that chair has a far more powerful massage function than the business class seat in the 787. Maybe that is a good thing, while I thought it was a little bit weak it might be just what you need to get comfortable on an overnight flight.
Noise cancelling headphones and complimentary toiletries are part of the business class perks. The downside is you really do not see the flight attendant coming, the noise cancelling aspect is really good.
A three-course meal is offered where passengers can choose their main course from a selection of three options. I chose the steak, and paired it with a lovely glass of red wine. The food was great, on the mid-range of what you might eat in a restaurant. For airplane food, it was spectacular.
The entertainment system is fantastic: big screen, large selection of movies and other media. Going purely on memory and having flown the week before, I think the selection of movies is the same as in economy class. What cannot be beat is the screen size.
The position of the screen is also such that you can easily do work on your computer, and still see the screen as well. I like to work on emails while having a movie on, so this is perfect.
In retrospect, I should have asked for the express meal option, where you are presented with the entire meal in one go. Instead I went for the authentic business class experience and waited patiently between courses. Starting with a cheese plate and finishing off with fruit, it took a considerable amount of time. By the time I did get to lie down, we were probably half way through the flight. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to sleep anyways. Instead I wanted to enjoy every minute of the experience.
Flying business class back to London, right on January 1st, was the best way of starting off the new year!