The movie fan in me smiled big when I found out that the direct Air Canada Toronto to Tokyo flight is AC 001. It does have a bit of a James Bond ring to it doesn’t it? Now given that in most James Bond movies, he is either jumping or falling from a plane, I figure that the association to this long haul flight should end right there.
Air Canada operates the Toronto to Tokyo flight daily departing at 14:10 (at noon between October-January) on a Boeing 777-300 aircraft. I was looking forward to the 13 hour, almost 11,000km flight from Pearson International Airport to Narita International Airport. A neat detail about this flight is that you fly completely in daylight as you cross over eight time zones. You fly west, back in time so to speak, only to cross the International Dateline just west of Honolulu and then spring forward in time.
Check-In and Lounge
Checking in at the airport is a civilized affair when flying Executive First. Priority lines for Executive First and top tier members of Air Canada’s loyalty program, Aeroplan, as well as the online check-in options, made getting through security bearable. Access to the Air Canada Lounge with an Executive First (or Executive Class) ticket is complimentary. The lounge can be accessed by elevator right after you pass security. With all the creature comforts – complimentary food and drink, comfortable chairs, WiFi , a business centre and even a cell-free zone, it is just the relaxation needed. The lounge definitely has an adult vibe to it, but I have taken my toddler in before without feeling awkward.
With priority boarding, getting to my seat was a breeze. The Boeing 777 fleet operated by Air Canada is a 1-2-1 seat configuration for Executive First. I was escorted to my 8D Suite. They call the seats in these class “Suites”, likely in reference to the flat bed conversion. Click here for a virtual tour of the Executive First Suite.
As soon as I got comfortable, I introduced myself to this little guy. I knew he would be my best friend for the flight.
With over 20 movies and 60 hours of TV, I could have avoided the splurge on the one-read stack of magazines I buy for these long flights. Besides, the first hour was spent playing with remote and every permutation of the seat angle possible.
Next up was surveying the contents of the amenity kit. Nothing off the wall to report. Your basic pouch with earplugs, socks, sleep mask, face wipe, body lotion, lip balm, mint, toothbrush and toothpaste.
Executive First Meal
Lunch was served about an hour and fifteen minutes after departure. For non-vegetarians and Japanese cuisine fans, Air Canada offers a Japanese meal on these flights. This is beside the usual offering of chicken, fish or beef as the main course.
The Japanese meal, from what I hear from folks who have had it, is quite good. It is offered with Sake.
I pre-ordered the vegetarian meal for this flight. I crossed my fingers that I might get something with a Japanese twist to it. And this is what I got.
Hmm. Right. Asian flavor indeed. Maybe it was thanks to the Air India flight that was at the gate next to us. The Air Canada flight attendants must have hollered over that they’ve got a vegetarian South Asian on board and to toss over the vegetarian food staple of airlines around the world – chana (chick peas and masala) and rice. In case you have to still ask after looking at the image, this poor Indian concoction was on its last microwaved breath. Dry, parched and a shadow of its former spicy self.
I thought for a second that this might be the sign of things to come in Japan for a vegetarian but I am glad to report that I was wrong about that. There are wonderful veggie options in the country. More on that in a future post.
Dessert was a fruit tart or sliced seasonal fruit. Again, nothing to call home about. What is a nice touch though is the the a la carte menu of snacks at the self-serve bar or by requesting it from the flight attendant.
I had the cheese trio a few hours after the meal to sustain my energy for more TV.
Rest Of Flight
The six change of lights in the Executive First cabin, if you weren’t clued in, could feel a little disco like. This is actually mood lighting to get your body adjusted to the time difference. The ambiance changes for sunrise, meal service, sunset and sleep settings. Not that I paid any attention. See, the smart fliers took cues and slept and woke up accordingly while I stayed up for the duration of the flight. The whole flying in daylight thing had me wired. And boy did I pay for this after landing in Japan.
I also thoroughly enjoyed one of my favorite past times on these long hauls – constant monitoring of the maps. There must be more map-stalkers like me out there. Are you one of them?
The crew on this flight were very pleasant and friendly. These international legs get some of the more senior flight crew, unless, I believe, a newer flight attendant speaks a required language for the flight. The steward I spoke to frequently on this trip has been with Air Canada for 38 years!
The other big plus for the crew on the Boeing 777 is the rest area, a level up, accessed by a flight of stairs. There are eight bunk beds for the crew to use for rest, sleep and likely talk about the passengers.
Narita International Airport
Landing was shortly after the breakfast service. Japanese style congee is also an option if what’s below is not of interest.
Upon landing, getting to the gate at Narita takes a while. I assume that is due to the sheer size and business of this airport. Clearing customs and immigration was seamless and of course, true to Japanese culture, very efficient. The only repeat question I got from the customs official about my checked baggage was why I had one whole luggage packed with Indian food. I explained that my mother sent food for my brother who lives in Tokyo. He said, “Good Indian food in Tokyo.”
It IS worth it, to spend the points, or use your upgrade credits for this flight, especially with the flat bed option. The comforts offered on this trip prevent the body from being a pretzel when you de-plane. The cost of this flight is over $5000. Suggestion? Order a non-vegetarian meal if that is an option for you.