Simple Flying Reviews Air Canada’s New COVID-19 Precautions

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On Thursday, July 16th, Simple Flying had the honor of traveling as a guest on a special Air Canada flight. The flight was an exclusive charter using the airline’s new Airbus A220, flying from Vancouver to Edmonton and back. Filled with VIPs, media, and trade representatives, the trip was arranged to demonstrate Air Canada’s COVID-19 precautions. Here is a recap of the day.

A220 Air Canada
The ‘demonstration flight’ used the airline’s brand new Airbus A220. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Introduction at Vancouver’s Maple Leaf Lounge

All guests were invited to the (currently closed) Maple Leaf Lounge at the domestic terminal of Vancouver International Airport for opening remarks made by several Air Canada executives as well as Vancouver International Airport’s new CEO, Tamara Vrooman, who said:

“Air Canada has been doing quite a bit of work to stay at the forefront of health and safety. We’ve been doing the same at YVR…Our industry has gone through a tough patch. Our best day in the last three months was 9,500 passengers transiting through YVR – that same day last year we had about 85,000 passengers.”  

Lounge precautions demonstrated at the Maple Leaf Lounge included:

  • Hand sanitizer stations
  • Periodic electrostatic spraying
  • Limited food options, distributed in bags
  • Chairs removed to create distance between guests
Air Canada
Workers were disinfecting and cleaning the Maple Leaf Lounge. This includes electrostatic spraying. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Air Canada maple leaf lounge
An electrostatic spray gun put out for display. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
A packaged lounge breakfast included fruit salad, chia seed pudding, a croissant, and a bottle of water. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Given a prepackaged breakfast (pictured above) to demonstrate what lounge guests can expect, our group was then guided towards the gate for boarding.

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Boarding the A220

At the gate, we had our temperatures taken before boarding, and we were all reminded that masks needed to be worn during the flight.

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In this case, we were boarded in two zones- but speaking with some of the event organizers, I was assured that a standard COVID-19 boarding procedure would have eight-zone boarding, which limits how much contact passengers have in passing one another. This sounds similar to my Flair airlines experience last month, which saw them board five rows at a time, back to front.

Shortly after all passengers were seated, a flight attendant passed through the cabin distributed ‘Care Kits,’ as seen in the photo below.

Air Canada
Distribution of these care kits is part of Air Canada’s CleanCare+ program. The kit includes what is shown above: a face mask, a pair of gloves, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, two disinfectant wipes, and a bottle of drinking water. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Air Canada A220
As we know from recent news, the airline stopped social distancing policies onboard, which meant that adjacent seats could be filled. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

The inflight experience

About halfway into the flight, we received a meal service. For a short Vancouver to Edmonton flight, this type of meal would not normally be served. However, Air Canada wanted to show off its specially crafted, signature class meals. This was particularly important to feature as they were created to adapt to COVID-19, minimizing touchpoints for crew and passengers.

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Below are photos of the meal which demonstrate what passengers can expect on air Canada flights in the future:

Air Canada
A list of what was included in the outbound meal. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
inflight meal air canada business class
The meal box for the return flight. The airline partners with highly-respected Canadian chefs to create its meals. Chef Jerome Ferrer designs meals for all international flights departing Canada in premium economy and economy. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
inflight meal air canada business class
This particular meal lacked a description, unlike the outbound meal. The salad and main course were fantastic nonetheless. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

 

Air Canada
With fully self-contained boxes, clean up was much simple for flight attendants. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Edmonton reception

After arriving in Edmonton, we headed to the ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel at Edmonton International Airport. Various VIPs made speeches, mostly about getting back in the air and the importance of air travel to the economy and to tourism.

Edmonton International Airport
The control tower and airline competition at Edmonton International Airport. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Air Canada A220
The A220 had some technical difficulties prior to departing on the return flight, delaying our return by three hours. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Other notes about the experience

During online check-in, I was asked about symptoms and required to make a self-declaration that I was fit to fly, not being any under quarantine/self-isolation restrictions.

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Carry-on baggage was allowed on this flight. Something I personally feel okay about. In fact, this is something many airlines still do. However, some airlines such as Emirates were against carry-on baggage, only allowing items that fit beneath the seat in front. Italy had made this a requirement for all of its flights several weeks ago. However, in recent days it has lifted its ban.

Event organizers were unable to immediately comment on the decision-making process behind that particular policy. However, seeing as Italy has lifted its ban, perhaps it wasn’t seen as a worthwhile initiative.

Air Canada Edmonton event
The manager of the Rennaisance Hotel in Edmonton discussing the new reality we find ourselves in. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

The final verdict

Air Canada’s COVID-19 precautions are somewhat in line with what we have seen with other legacy carriers.

We have seen a mix of procedures and protocols, and Air Canada follows many of them, but not all. For example, seat spacing and carry-on baggage ban are two policies Air Canada has chosen not to carry out.

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On the other hand, the airline distributed sanitation kits- something that some airlines do, but certainly not all.

Non-coronavirus commentary on Air Canada’s A220

I have flown on this type of aircraft once before with airBaltic. Of course, back in early 2018, it was known as the Bombardier CSeries.

Air Canada’s version offers a lot more than airBaltic. Every passenger has a seatback entertainment system. As it is nearly brand new, the system is fast and responsive, controlled via touch. The system has a USB-A port- and surprisingly also a USB-C port for device charging.

A220 Air Canada window view
The large window and somewhat distinct winglet of the A220 (the A330 has a similar winglet). Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

I was a little bit disappointed with the amount of recline on these seats. The pre-recline is quite upright, while the recline doesn’t offer much more. In fact, ‘fully reclined’ feels almost like the pre-recline of a widebody/long-haul aircraft. Of course, as these jets are more prone to making short flights, this is understandable.

Seat width and pitch feel great, though I do quite enjoy the larger windows of the A220.

Do you safe with Air Canada’s safety procedures and its CleanCare+ program? Does it change your attitude about flying during this time of uncertainty? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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