Review: Air Canada Jazz DHC-8, Seattle – Vancouver

We had a few bumps on a long layover after getting off a wonderful international first class flight. This involved a few long queues and attempts to get our ticket changed to get home a little earlier without success. Despite this, we were comfortable put up in the Seattle United Club (Red Carpet Club) lounges at the time.

This post is one chapter in our Around the World in Star Alliance First Class via China, Thailand and Spain. This trip was booked using Air Canada Aeroplan miles. 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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Read more from this trip:

Review: Air Canada Jazz, De Havilland Canada – Dash 8, Seattle – Vancouver

When we booked this ticket, AC was being a little stingy with frequent flyer reward availability on their flights. I understand that an airline has to manage revenue, but at the same time, I find that the restrictions and limitations are a little ridiculous. With a ticket that was booked exactly 300 days out, with 5 flights a day from Seattle to Vancouver, I was only able to find 2 reward seats available on the second last flight of the day, some 6 hours away from our arriving LH flight. Arriving at 11:30 AM, then became my intent to standby for an earlier flight since we had a first class reward ticket, and Air Canada had scheduled departures at 12:30 PM, 2:30 PM, 3:45 PM, and our scheduled flight at 5:30PM. It made no sense for us to wait around in SEA for 5 hours for the second last flight of the day, especially after arriving from a Trans Atlantic flight.

Leaving CBP secondary, having had all these wonderful travel experiences across the globe with people waiting all over you hand and foot, we walked up to an empty, unmanned connections desk in the South Satellite and found no one at the United / Asiana desk. With no one around, we headed into the public side and over to the Air Canada check in desk. 

We rolled our bags out on to the people mover train, took the train from the south sattelite. We walked through the maze of narrow and dark Sea-Tac departures from one end to the other to find the AC desk at the very other end. 

I was saddened to see how far down the Star Alliance chain we had come when we arrived to find one Air Canada Check in Agent (operated by United Ground Staff), with a line of five travelers in wait, with no business or Star Alliance Priority line. Tearfully, Without any first world options, we entered the line. 

Air Canada Check In at Sea-Tac Airport

We waited a long 25 minutes in line – indeed the longest wait for a ticket agent that I have experienced in 7 years. Having had Star Gold status for several years now, when you get accustomed to such instant service with expedited treatment, it was a startling shock to be behind those first time flyers that we all started out as being. Listening to why this line was taking so long, I observed the gate agent ask a senior citizen ahead of me, who seemed to be headed on a cruise, to remove 4 lbs worth of clothing from his 54 lb bag. I was not expecting great treatment after that. I reached for my AC Elite card, at the ready. 

While waiting in line missed the 1230 PM departure- as did some others who arrived late and were waiting to check in. When we got to the front, I asked to check in to the 5:35 PM flight, but that we’d like to stand by for the next available earlier flight. 

“I don’t know if you’re allowed to do that. I’ll have to call AC.” UA Ground Staff Agent says. 

A few clicks of the keyboard. I stand there. Unmoved. 

“Did you want me to call?” UA Ground Staff asks? 

“Yep !! “ I reply. 

I could have driven home faster in a rental car in two hours, if I didn’t have to worry about a rental drop fee. We still had 4.5 hours left on our connection.

Our rep picked up the phone and with several long fingernails clicking away on a push button phone, called Air Canada. Surprisingly, she got the same experience that many other Air Canada Customers, waiting on hold for about 10 minutes with no answer. In the meantime, I took off our FRA tagged bags and kept the HON tags as a souvenir. While she waited on hold, she picked up her radio to attempt to arrange us seats on the 2:30 PM departure. She mentioned to her colleague that there were seven seats open for this departure, as her colleagues attempted to accommodate some earlier flyers that were denied boarding. 

I stood there, in a jet lagged fog while watching the world of Sea Tac move past us, from our end of the terminal. Suddenly, a though crashes through my mind. 

“Here – try calling these numbers” I said, handing her my Elite Card and pointing to the priority contact numbers on the back. 

The UA Ground Staff agent hung up without thinking twice and dialed the Elite Priority contact numbers on the back of the Aeroplan card. An Aeroplan agent at the other end of the phone line had answered within about 60 seconds. After conferring with her Aeroplan colleages, AC told her that they would not allow a ticket change unless a $75 fee was paid by each of us. Since we’d already taken the day off work, and by this time we’d missed the 1230 departure, I didn’t think that $150 for the two of us was worth getting home 3 hrs early. I found this was very cheap on the part of Air Canada, not to allow same day standby for free, on a business reward ticket. I was pretty sure that this was a feature of the business reward ticket, but of course when it came to reading the reward ticket fine print, it read simply that standby was permitted “based on availability”. 

We decided not to “pay” the fee and our bags were re-tagged back to Vancouver. New baggage tags were re-printed with the same flights as from Frankfurt. While this was taking place, an over zealous baggage handler assistant who had a striking resemblance to Bubbles from the television show “Trailer Park Boys” decided to tear off all my luggage tag barcodes from 3 years of travel. Groggy from the flight, and not feeling too confrontational, I said “You really don’t have to do that” [tear off the tags] to which he replied “Ghost tags! Can’t have the bag coming back around!” as he piled up about 11 old sticker tags onto his forearm arm. I doubted that anyone would think that my bag was destined to Sharm el Sheikh on Egypt Air direct from the confines of the Seattle basement, or to Nassau, Bahamas but apparently he knew better. So disappointing! 

The United Club, Sea-Tac “B” Gates:

Instead, we proceeded to exact revenge on Air Canada by lounge hopping across the Seattle Airport and consuming stacks of free alcohol. Well that’s not exactly true, we were pretty wiped, but in my opinion, it didn’t make sense for AC to accommodate us in lounges for 5 hours when we could have flown home in otherwise empty seats. Over the next 4.5 hours, Ms World Traveller73, our FCT ducks and I visited the B Gate United Club (windows, no washrooms) where we enjoyed the last of our Gin and Tonics. 

United Club Sea Tac “B” Gates
United Club Gin and Tonics – paired with lime and LH First Class Duck


The United Club, North Satellite, Sea-Tac:

We later migrated slowly to the United Club in North Satellite (no windows, with washrooms), where we were pretty much sacked out for several hours. This place is pretty soulless and unfortunately, it’s the least bright star in the United Club system. Rumor amongst staff here is that UA will soon be relocating to the Sea Tac A Gates sometime next year, which will likely mean one new / refurbished United Club, and no more train rides to the North Satellite. You’ll note MsWT73 crying (not really) seeing how far down the lounge chain that we’ve come. 

The old windowless United Club under the N Gates – North Satellite Sea Tac

After 5 hours of stagnant sitting, sipping G+T’s and eating Tillimook Pepperjack cheese like it was candy, I did introduce the LH duckies to the UA competitor lounge but I didn’t get any replies back on what they thought. It was apparent that the travel craziness was starting to get to me.

Air Canada Express (Jazz)
SEA-YVR (Seattle SeaTac Airport – North Satellite – Vancouver International Airport – Main)
AC8120 – Economy Class (Y)
5:30 PM – 6:08 PM 
May 28, 2012
Booked: De Havilland Dash 8
Flown: De Havilland Dash 8

Heading up to gate N13, we underwent a last document check, gaining a red DOCS OK stamp across our boarding pass. Before we knew it, after an eternity, we finally stepped out in to the cool Seattle air to walk towards our ride home. 

North Satellite – Gate N13, Sea – Tac Airport
Air Canada Dash 8 – the backbone of the AC Jazz Fleet

Airborne, it was a quick flight at 12,000 feet back to Canadian airspace. With a tiny cabin, they offered soley a water service on this flight. I think this was because they had run out of orange juice (having been served a choice of water, orange or apple juice on this segment previously). 

Air Canada Jazz – Dash 8 cabin
A common view when flying Air Canada Jazz in Canada

As we touched down in Vancouver on the north runaway 32R, I could see the familiar mountains that mark this city as my home. As we taxied to International arrivals, I remarked on our experience. We had just flown 24,400 miles in the past three weeks, and aside from today, it was as smooth as silk. Heaven in the skies. We were instantly hooked on First Class Travel, seeking to soon repeat the experience and the adventures. 

Overall and advice and personal reflection booth for those planning trips:

This started out as a trip that neither of us were super keen on completing. We viewed it as an opportunity to burn miles at a cheaper rate. In the end, we ended up being addicted to First Class treatment, and the comfort and enjoyment that it preferred. I doubt, like others, there will be any going back to Business Class. We were pampered and ruined for the rest of our travelling days.

We booked an Aeroplan Asia “1” traditional 2 stop, plus one point of turnaround trip. We also planned side trips within each of our stopovers, with a 22 day travel duration. 

It was a bit rushed to take it all in, but flying in First Class is like being seated in your own living room. You really don’t feel it at all, except for the time zone changes. It really is a pleasant way to fly. Next time, I’d likely stick to limiting the side trips. 

For those attempting to do this with younger kids, I’d avoid the side trips and focus on some cities that are of interest for longer periods than 3-5 days. 

We avoided connecting to our final destination in Europe, which was a wonderful time saver. I don’t think I would have enjoyed traveling BKK-FRA-MAD, BKK-IST-MAD or similar. 

The Thai Ground Service was clearly the best of the trip for us. I enjoyed the Lufthansa flight the most, due to the food and the refined service. I enjoyed the Asiana flight for the service aspect and for the wow factor- I couldn’t believe the wine list. 

Since someone asked earlier, MsWT73 reports that the best duty free in Canada or the US always seems to be the cheapest for Lancombe, Estee Lauder, Clinique. Europe had no deals. All hard liquor was cheaper in the Americas than it was internationally. No real deals either on clothes / accessories. 

Happy Contrails and best of luck for those trying to find award space. 

Now, I just need to figure out how to top this for my honeymoon…

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