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