Review: Air Canada Business Class A320, Vancouver – Winnipeg “Pandemic Edition”

After a visit to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Vancouver Domestic, it came time to head over to our flight. Flying during the global health pandemic was a vastly different and mostly empty experience.

This post is one chapter on our trip to Killarney Manitoba, Canada. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Air Canada Business Class, Airbus 320, Vancouver – Winnipeg “Pandemic Edition”

“Flying during a pandemic is a different experience. Despite this, Air Canada has made it as safe as humanly possible”

Air Canada  
AC 296 – Business Class (P) – “Pandemic Edition”
YVR – YWG (Vancouver International Airport – Winnipeg John Richardson International Airport) 
Sept 26, 2020
Scheduled: 4:55 PM – 9:34 PM
Airbus 320
Airbus 320-200

We left the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Vancouver Domestic (Pandemic Edition) and headed for the gate at about T-45. It was a little busier in the concourse, with the afternoon bank of flights getting ready to depart. 

Empty Concourse Halls at YVR

On arrival to the gate, all the usual fmiliar zoned boarding signs were gone. Obviously a sign of lessened demand and perhaps the need to remove touch point surfaces.

On Board Air Canada Business Class:

Air Canada Airbus A320 Business Class Cabin
Air Canada Business Class Cabin
Air Canada Business Class – Airbus 320 seats

We were second on board the aircraft, having boarded with Zone 1. The Airbus 320 features the usual 2-2 configuration in business class, and 3-3 configuration in economy. The seats are reasonable to sit in for medium haul flights, although longer flights over four hours, I still find them less comfortable than they could be.

Our seats of 2A and 2C were in the bulkhead this afternoon. This was based on a slight strategic positioning choice of not having other passengers on two sides of us. There were convenient cut outs now under the bulkhead for under seat bags, although I may have missed this since most of my First Class flying these days has been on Alaska Airlines and their Boeing products.

Convenient bulkhead under seat storage

The cabin was reasonably cleaner than would be expected from planes that were in reasonably heavy use. All the dust bunnies that were typically behind or under seats were gone and the plane had a clean feel to it.

Air Canada and Transport Canada have mandated a policy and statute that all passengers are required to wear a facial mask while travelling, unless you are eating. The cabin staff were quite attentive in enforcing this.

Air Canada’s Clean Care + Amenity Kit:

Today, the pre-departure beverage was absent. In today’s pandemic edition of business class flying with Air Canada, it’s a Clean Care + amenity kit that is given out to all passengers regardless of class. I’m not sure what makes it a “plus”, as it had everything that I would have expected in a kit designed for surface cleaning.

The Clean Care + amenity kit, which is more like a Ziploc bag, contains gloves, a mask, two antsiseptic cleaning wipes. A small bottle of antispectic cleaner, a tiny (for water) 250ml version of water.

Air Canada Clean Care + Amenity Kit
The Contents of a Air Canada Clean Care + Amenity Kit

While the cabin filled up, there was lots of remaining bin space available. Surprisingly, the pandemic scare did not translate to concern of baggage handlers handling people’s checked bags since few were travelling with carry on only just like us

The load for today’s flight was 13/14 today. MrsWT73 ended up with the only empty seat next to her across the aisle in 2D. 

Flight Map – Today’s Route: Vancouver to Winnipeg

As we got underway, I enjoyed the window seat. Climbing to altitude, there were heaps of aircraft parked at Vancouver.

Westjet B737’s parked idle on the YVR Apron
More Westjet B737’s parked near the North Apron

Meal Service: A Cold Dinner

Air Canada has paired with Montreal based and Korean Argentinian raised Chef Antonio Park. While his meals are mostly served on Air Canada International business class flights from Canada to South America. With the reduction in these flights, his meals are now turning up on domestic routes. This is a welcomed change on the part of Air Canada and a great way to showcase some Canadian talent.

Thanks to dining pandemic style, Air Canada now presents all food in an attractive black cardboard box.

Like Christmas Time – an Air Canada Business Class Meal Cardboard Box waiting to be opened
Chef Antonio Park featured Business Class Meals
Individually wrapped containers of food inside cardboard

Todays’ meal, which was presented all at once was Smoked salmon, Asian pear, apple, fresh herbs, wasabi vinaigrette, a grilled chicken wrap, iceberg lettuce, celery, spicy mayonnaise and a creme caramel.

It was surprisingly tasty for airplane food. Despite the monotony of the usual breakfast omelette that Air Canada has been serving unchanged for years, the salad was crisp and fresh and really enjoyable; one of the better meals that I’d had on Air Canada for quite some time.

The chicken wrap was pretty much the same as others (how different can you make a chicken wrap?), but a much larger version than what I had in the lounge. This version was actually large enough to serve as a lunch meal on its own.

The crème caramel was reasonably tasty but remarkable gooey for airplane food. I took care not to spill it on the lap.

The was limited catering in terms of the bar service on this flight. On offer was Bottega sparkling wine, Paul Mas red wine (which was the best pick), Paul Mas white wine (which I thought was not very good), Molson Canadian beer, Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, ginger ale, Perrier, Water, Coffee, and Black tea.

In flight entertainment: Advanced Video on Demand

Air Canada has advanced video on demand on almost all of it’s aircraft. This is a great feature since you’ don’t have to pre-load any content onto a personal device. Air Canada was a trend setter with this about ten years ago. Unfortunately, the system has aged and it’s now arguably the slowest operating in flight entertainment system in the civil aviation industry today.

I settled into Richard Jewell, as directed by Clint Eastwood. It was an interesting tale that slowly told much like many of Clint Eastwood’s other films. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to finish it since I started it late into the flight.

Air Canada Advanced Video on Demand

I paired the movie with a bottle of red wine that was individual sized. Enjoying a glass of wine while you watch a movie is one of my favourite indulgences. Admittedly, it was hard to enjoy wine with face mask being taken on or off all the time. It was a similar paradigm as going to the movie theater. You expect to enjoy popcorn while you’re there, but if you couldn’t, it sort of lessens the experience a little bit. The realities are that flying today during a pandemic is a different experience. Adjusting to these new work flows of masking on and off is part of these change in flows.

Arriving to Winnipeg:

We approached Winnipeg John Richardson International Airport. Without any circling, we came in for a landing at the airport, parking next to a Canada Air Regional jet.

Air Canada Express – Canada Air Regional Jet

After we deplaned, we arrived to a deserted and fully shut airport. Not even the 24 hours Tim Hortons coffee shop was open at this hour. 

Deserted Winnipeg Airport
Winnipeg Domestic Baggage Hall with roof top Circular Rings

There were pandemic quarantine signs all throughout the baggage area. At the time of our visit, Western Canada was exempt from a 14 day quarantine, whereas travellers from other parts of Central Canada including most portions of Ontario and Quebec were required to quarantine for 14 days. Ouch!

Winnipeg Health Authority Pandemic Quarantine Instructions

We picked up MrsWT73’s checked bag and headed off on foot to the Courtyard Marriott Winnipeg Airport for the night.

My Thoughts on Pandemic Flying with Air Canada Business Class:

Air Canada’s has done a reasonable job at adapting to the realities of the global pandemic. The planes are clean, the food is sealed and arguably has improved in quality and taste. The Clean Care + Amenity Kit is a neat, but likely “expensive to the airline” concept. The Air Canada Airbus 320 service is a comfortable way to get to any mid haul destination. Although its more comfortable to enjoy their pods on the longer haul flights that are more than four hours in length.

Overall, I felt safe flying during the pandemic. I wore a mask the entire time as mandated by the airline and by Transport Canada. Despite being a traveler that enjoys air from air nozzles while I was flying, I actively switched these off during our travel. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly again. I actually found the lack of crowds on the plane and around the airports to be quite enjoyable. The main risk is travelling some where and being diagnosed as having to self quarantine for fourteen days and getting stuck at your destination.

3 Comments on “Review: Air Canada Business Class A320, Vancouver – Winnipeg “Pandemic Edition”

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