I rarely fly Air Canada and my last flight with the airline must have been a decade ago. It’s not that I don’t like them – it just isn’t a major player in California. For my flight from Vancouver, it showed award availability in business class and I was happy to try it out.
The pre-clearance facility at Vancouver Airport is a crazy mess early in the morning. There are about a dozen flights to the US, all scheduled between 6AM and 8AM, and the pre-clearance facility is just about able to cope with that demand. If you have a Visa Infinite card or Global Entry, you can use the Fast Track lane which is indeed faster but it still takes a solid 45 minutes at 4.30AM to pass security and immigration.
Once done, most shops and lounges in the dedicated US Terminal open at 5AM, making it hard for anyone not to rush. We checked out the Plaza Premium Lounge in the US Terminal and found it to be an OK lounge for getting a basic breakfast and a non-alcoholic drink. It is really cramped, though.
We walked up to the gate and asked about boarding times and a friendly agent was ready to start boarding with us right away.
The Air Canada Business Class looks much more plush and cozy than its US counterparts. However, on this A320, it is a very similar product.
The cabin was only about half full and I moved into the second row to get a whole row to myself. The menu mentioned omelettes as well as a healthy option; I did not have high hopes, though.
Nevertheless, what would be served by the flight attendants just a few minutes after takeoff was easily one of my favorite plane breakfasts ever!
The fruit was delicious and fresh. The ciabatta bread served was artisan and the yogurt and oatmeal were of very high quality. Was I just really hungry? Maybe, but this ranks in my TOP 10 plane breakfasts of all time.
We sped southward towards the San Francisco Bay Area as I immersed myself in using the plane WiFi. It was rather fast – likely because everyone else was sleeping at 7AM on Sunday morning.
The time for our descent came and the whole Bay Area was shrouded in thick fog. Not a single landmark was visible, only the white fog, and apparently it was clearing the airport at 900 feet.
Not a problem, our pilot announced, and after a lot of turns we seemed right in position to dive through the fog about 20 miles south of the airport. We lost altitude and were just about to get through it (likely around 700 feet over the Bay) when the engines started up again and we went for a go-around. This was only my second go-around EVER!
We went up to 23,000 feet and followed the usual takeoff path westward, towards a position 30 miles off the beach. The pilot came on the PA and, without giving any reason, announced that we had to do a go-around.
We lined up again for landing and a good 20 minutes later we were on the ground with nothing crazy this time.
I overheard the pilot talking to the flight attendants later that it had been a safety measure by ATC but it wasn’t clear if we were in the wrong position or if a plane ahead of us was. An Air Canada flight that could have resulted in a huge loss of life was involved in a near miss just a few weeks ago.
In sum, this was a great flight with a great crew, awesome catering and lots of space. And I also got a bit of plane excitement from it!