On my recent trip to Toronto from Manchester (see my review of the Hilton Toronto!), I decided to fly using the direct service form Manchester to Toronto. This direct route operates daily departing Manchester at 11.35am and arriving mid-afternoon. It departs Toronto for the return flight at 10pm arriving back in Manchester mid-morning.
During the summer (and peak tourist) months, the airline adjusts its two class system from Business and Economy and Premium Economy and Economy. With basic economy flights starting at around £350 and taxes, we opted for the premium economy flights at a price of £500 and taxes (approx £612 per person flying).
I booked using the Air Canada website. As I like to know what I am getting myself into I had done quite a lot of research before hand about Air Canada including the types of planes used and the different classes of service. Having looked around I found the best prices offered on the AC flights were available by booking directly on their website.
As with most airlines nowadays, you can check prices and availability and then confirm your seats, adding log in information etc. as you proceed through the various stages online. Booking was simple, fast, and efficient and allowed you the opportunity of choosing your seats at no extra fee when booking premium economy (you can also book seats FOC when travelling economy but if you wish to save money AC will allocate seating for you and reduce the price of your ticket but you CANNOT then go and change your mind and book seats again!) All in all the booking process using the website was fast and efficient and can be paid for by most major credit cards. On the website you can also have a look at upcoming movies, types of food, etc. As with most travel to the USA nowadays you have to submit API (Advanced Passenger Information) when travelling to Canada, this can also be done via the AC website.
At Manchester Airport/Toronto:
Check in at Manchester was quite fast and efficient although the Premium Economy check-in line does not quite work as they seemed to have buried it in the general economy check-in and the whole thing turns into a bit of free for all. Having said that, check-in was completed in less than 15 minutes. PE Premium Economy) passengers luggage is labelled priority for supposed faster unloading at your destination (this has never seemed to work with any airline for me apart from Virgin Atlantic and Air Canada's labels didn't seem to work either, nice try though!)
There is no lounge access included with a PE ticket but you can buy access to the Terminal 1 lounge for about £20 per person which we thought was worth it to begin our trip in a bit of relaxed style!
PE tickets are supposed to enjoy priority boarding, however, this didn't happen so after a 30 minute wait at the gate we were eventually permitted to board, although we then only had to wait five minutes until we were airborne.
On the return leg there was no PE check-in at all so we had to check-in using the very long international economy queue, certainly not the service that AC advertise on their website! On earlier reservations this year, complimentary Maple Leaf lounge access was provided at Toronto, but this has also been withdrawn… However, Toronto airport is large and modern with plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes to while away a couple of hours!
Rather than around 33 inch seat pitch the premium economy cabin on the 767-200 (Boeing) offers a more generous pitch of 38 inches with a seating configuration of 2-2-2- rather than 2-3-2 in economy. The dedicated PE cabin is located at the fort of the plane with dedicated cabin crew and toilets (washrooms). The seats were large and spacious and the leg room a welcome benefit for those of us who are tall. The seats offer a leg rest and good recline. Once onboard welcome water was provided and good choice of newspapers as well as the usual magazines, etc.
There are no individual seat-back TVs on this flight, just one main screen but the movies shown on both trip were quite good (the Sentinel and Mission Impossible III) as well as a mix of news and entertainment programmes.
The food was excellent throughout the flight as well as plentiful supply of both alcoholic and soft drinks. On the outbound flight we were served lunch followed by ice cream with the movie and a sandwich and snacks before landing. On the return flight dinner was served and then breakfasts before landing. Overall the quality of the food was excellent with a good range of meat and vegetarian options available, and the main meals were served on proper crockery accompanied by hot bred rolls.
Apart from the food and movies, there was a good choice of music channels, blankets and pillows provided and the usual selection of in-flight duty free. Immigration cards are handed out by crew.
Both flights were very much on time, arriving slightly ahead of schedule, although the return flight leaving Toronto at after 10pm local time does make it a log return journey!
Overall, the flight was very good. The Boeing 767-200 used o this route are quite old planes without as many mod cons as the newer planes such as seat-back TVs etc. It appears that man you the AC routes from Europe to Canada in the summer months have their normal business class service replaced with the premium economy seating making it a great alternative for both leisure and business travellers who are keeping a eye on the purse strings! Overall, I would recommend AC and the PE supplement was well worth it for nicer food and an upgraded seat.