I flew on Air Canada's Boeing 787 from London to Montreal and was disappointed in the food.
I typically enjoy airplane meals, but both had a weird taste and texture, reminding me of baby food.
I found the seat spacious and comfortable, but still probably wouldn't book with them again.
Flying internationally can be a hit-or-miss experience, especially this year as the industry recovers from the pandemic.
Airlines are less reliable than ever with customer experiencing ranging from lost luggage to canceled flights, and travelers are losing trust in the industry.
Knowing the risks of flying this summer, I was worried about my recent trip from London to Montreal on Air Canada, particularly since I had to fly out of Heathrow Airport, where staffing issues have caused the airport to implement a passenger cap.
Not to mention, Air Canada has been experiencing many flight disruptions this year, having canceled or delayed over 14,500 flights since May 25, according to FlightAware data shared with Insider.
I wasn't sure if the airline would provide a smooth experience, but, to my surprise, the operation was solid. We departed and arrived on time. But I would never fly the carrier internationally again for one reason — the food. Here's what it was like flying on Air Canada.
I started my journey at London's busy Heathrow Airport at 5:30 a.m. — four hours ahead of my 9:30 a.m. departure. This was at the airline's recommendation, shown on my boarding pass.
I expected the airport to be crowded, and I wasn't wrong. Walking in, there were insanely long lines for bag drop-off, including people lining up outside because there was not enough space inside the check-in lobby.
Fortunately, I packed 11 days' worth of stuff into a carry-on and personal item, so I did not need to visit the bag drop-off spot at the Air Canada check-in area.
However, I did stop by to see if the counter was busy, and it was surprisingly tame. Plenty of kiosks were open, and the bag drop-off line was short. This was probably because I arrived so early.
Having checked in online, I didn't need to stick around the check-in area, so I made my way to security.
Heathrow only allows passengers to carry one baggie of toiletries through the checkpoint, so I spent about 10 minutes transferring my liquids from my carry-on to the transparent bag.
After finally organizing my toiletries, I scanned my boarding pass and made my way through the line, which only took about 15 minutes. The airport had multiple lanes open, and the agents helped get everyone through quickly.
The entire process, from bag drop-off to clearing security, only took me 30 minutes. I do think this was because of the early hour I arrived, so for travelers looking to fly out of Heathrow: Book a morning flight and arrive super early.
I had to kill about three hours before boarding, so I grabbed some coffee and a snack before making the 15-minute walk to my gate. Terminal 2 is huge, so I'm glad I didn't wait until the last minute to head over to the B gates.
I sat for about an hour before the plane started boarding. At the gate, employees reminded passengers that Air Canada still requires masks.
Moreover, the agent said there would not be enough overhead space to accommodate all carry-on bags. I was worried because of the horror stories of lost luggage, and I specifically planned to not check one. Luckily, I got mine on with no issue.
Because I booked a basic-economy ticket, I did not get a seat assignment or boarding zone at check-in, but the agent told anyone without a zone to wait until they called zone 5 to board.
This meant I was one of the last people on the plane. However, I knew this would be the reality of booking the cheapest fare, so I didn't mind.
Once I scanned my boarding pass, a small slip of paper popped out of the machine assigning me to seat 41C, which was the plane's last row.
Air Canada's Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner was nothing special and reminded me of most other mainline carriers I've been on.
Business class was up front…
Source: Air Canada
…followed by premium economy…
…and regular economy.
Premium economy reminded me of United Airlines' premium-plus loungers, though Air Canada's appeared slightly less padded. United and Air Canada are both Star Alliance members.
I made my way to row 41 and was surprised to see there were only two seats — middle and aisle. The rest of the economy-class cabin was in a 3x3x3 configuration.
Technically, the middle seat was a window, though there was a large gap between it and the fuselage wall. Nevertheless, the open space was the perfect spot to stow my duffel bag.
I stored my carry-on bag a few rows ahead of me because the overhead bins above rows 40 and 41 were for flight-attendant use only. This wasn't a big deal because I had everything I needed for the flight in my personal item.
While we waited for takeoff, I got settled in my seat and explored the amenities the airline offered.
According to SeatGuru, economy pitch on the Boeing 787-8 varies from 30 to 34 inches. My seat had 31 inches of pitch with 17.3 inches of width, which I found to be plenty spacious. However, I am only 5'3" and on the smaller side, so larger travelers may feel cramped.
The bulkhead and the exit row had plenty of legroom, so I suggest upgrading if you want more space.
As far as the product itself, it was exactly what I expected. The seat offered good recline…
…a TV screen with plenty of movies, shows, and games…
...USB ports in the screen and outlets under the seat in front...
…a large tray table…
…an adjustable headrest...
...and dimming windows. The dark setting helped passengers block out the sun during the daytime flight.
Moreover, the seat came with a pillow and blanket, which helped me sleep…
…and the lavatory was large with plenty of space to move around.
For passengers who don't have wired headphones, like me, Air Canada hands out a pair before takeoff. I used them and thought the audio was fine, and they didn't hurt my ears.
We pushed back from the gate right on time and were en route to Montreal soon after. The flight took about six and a half hours.
After takeoff, I started browsing through the in-flight entertainment system. There was a cool moving map that tracked the entire flight…
…but I was particularly impressed when I saw the dining menu loaded into the system. Options included a chicken dish with mash and a pasta dish. I chose the pasta.
While the meals sounded good on paper, I was extremely disappointed that nothing about Air Canada's food was appetizing.
The service started about an hour into the flight and I was excited to try the meal. Unlike many other frequent flyers, I like airplane food and have toured several kitchens where airline staff make the food.
Most recently, I've flown KLM, United, and JetBlue on long-haul flights and loved each meal, so I expected the same from Air Canada, especially being a mainline carrier and part of a major international alliance.
But, to be frank, the taste and texture were gross. The pasta had an unpleasant tangy flavor, while the side salad was just cucumbers covered in too much dressing.
I did eat the roll with butter though, and the chocolate dessert wasn't too bad. That, along with the bag of pretzels I brought, was enough to hold me over until lunch.
However, the second meal was not any better. The airline offered us a chicken or veggie pastry, and I chose the veggie option. There were no sides.
Like the first dish, the pastry was also not very good. The veggies were mashed into a paste, which reminded me of baby food, and I stopped eating it after a few bites.
On the bright side, the airline does offer free alcoholic beverages to all economy passengers, so I helped myself to a Diet Coke and Bacardi.
The airline also had good coffee, very attentive flight attendants, and professional pilots.
This was my first time flying Air Canada and while I did find the seat comfortable and spacious, I doubt I'll ever book the carrier internationally again.
The food was simply inedible, in my opinion, and I expected to eat on the flight, so I was hungry for most of the journey.
If I end up having to book Air Canada again in the future due to timing or budget, I will make sure to bring more snacks. Fortunately, though, I can rely on a comfortable seat.
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