Our journey began at YOW (Ottawa International Airport). Our flight was at 5:15pm (delayed to 5:50pm) and we arrive at the airport around 3:30pm. We’ve done the same flight before but in Economy Class 1 month ago so this felt familiar and less daunting but this will only be flight 1 out of 3 to get to our final destination, so we were anxious. Many people have asked why we are doing so many flights. Believe me. We did not choose this. There simply isn’t a direct route from Ottawa to Kota Kinabalu. Everything we found involved at least 2 layovers.
Even with our priority benefits from our American Express Reserve card, the wait to check in our bags was very long (~1 hour). Gone are the days of travelling carry-on only so we had not choice but to wait. We could’ve checked them in ourselves but we had a car seat (special oversized baggage) and also had questions about whether our bags will need to be picked up at our transit airport or to our final destination. After that though, security wasn’t too bad with through the priority line (with a baby). Our Amex card as well as our business class tickets gives us access to the Maple Leaf Lounge. This lounge is pretty packed around this time of day (around 4pm) but we weren’t there for long. After a quick drink and snack, we were off to the gate.
We took our stroller this time so we had to leave extra time to pack it up before gate checking it (we had hoped to bring it on the flight but were denied). The agent checking our boarding passes wasn’t very helpful and made us to go another agent to get a gate check tag for our stroller. I thought dedicated Zone 1 agent meant to more personalized and quicker service, not the opposite, especially when they see us struggling with all the carry-ons and an active toddler. But I digress. We brought our Uppababy Minu compact stroller and for this flight, we just used the original bag it came in. We were able to take off the wheels to hopefully prevent damage and were able to stick a few extra things in the bag (a bag of wipes and some diapers).
This was my first time flying business class. Given the flight today was in a 787 Dreamliner, the configuration of the seats are pretty private with each passenger having their individual pods. For this flight, Aaron and I both took window seats in front of one another at the back of the cabin. Overall, I felt this arrangement was not ideal for families travelling with a baby. Because it was private, it made it difficult to communicate with each other when needed. It also encouraged baby to climb on top of the side table and causing havoc. The food was not bad for airplane food. I enjoyed the salmon tartare but the salad and bread were a bit lack-lustre. The salad was falsely advertised to have orange and red peppers when in fact it was just a spring green mix. The bread also wasn’t very warm (as advertised) and was similar to what you would find on any airplane meal. For my drink of choice, I had a merlot from Niagara which was delicious and paired very well with my main course – the beef tenderloin. It was surprisingly tender for airplane beef. The sauce was also tasty. I was impartial, however, with the non-polenta potato and the mixed vegetables (AKA green beans). Unfortunately, Aaron’s also falsely advertised non-cream sauce, non-gnocchi, red sauce ravioli was also very delicious. I never got to my dessert due to mommy duties but there was the options of cheese and crackers, cheesecake or fruit. Aaron ordered the cheesecake and felt was not the best. Note: our baby was not given any food during this flight. It didn’t affect us since we already packed food for her with her having severe food allergies.
In terms of the seat itself, I appreciated the space. Of course, one of the best functions is the complete lie-flat function, but it was highly customizable from the full upright to “relax” to lie-flat options. Furthermore, you can adjust the firmness of the seat as well as turn on the massage function at the headrest and lumbar support regions. The seat belt has an airbag so was bulkier than usual. I found it a bit awkward to wear that when laying down flat or even in the reclined position. I was truly impressed by the pillow and comforter, which was 100% more comfortable than what is given in economy and premium economy classes.
For entertainment, I think the selection of movies/tv shows is the same. The difference is the huge monitor as well as a remote control for ease of controlling the screen. Note that wifi is not included as a part of the Business Class tickets but at the end, it was all fine because it’s not like I had the chance to work or use the wifi as I had an active toddler to entertain. One nice touch is the noise cancelling headsets but between the masks, earrings, glasses and over the ear headset, my ears were not having a good day so I did switch to my Bose in-ear noise cancelling earphones eventually.
Overall, I would give my domestic Air Canada Business Class experience a 7/10 – nice idea but could be better.
It so happens that ~5 hours into the flight, the baby finally decides to fall asleep 3 minutes before landing. Having to maneuver a sleeping baby and packing away all the stuff that we took out during the flight to entertain her and us, we were one of the last people to get off the flight. Luckily, we didn’t have to collect bags, so we went straight to the hotel shuttles zone and got on the shuttle to Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel. The free shuttle comes every 30 minutes and the ride itself was only around 10-15 minutes as the hotel was located in Richmond. The room we booked was quite interesting as it had 2 bedrooms with one queen and one king bed connected by a washroom Jack and Jill style. We appreciated the 2 bedroom layout for ease of putting the baby to sleep but also having our own space to get ready for bed/hang out. We had requested a crib/pack and play as well as microwave ahead of time and both were in the room when we checked in. We were also pleasantly surprised that it was an actual crib which was provided instead of a pack and play which they had mentioned when I called to confirm. I just had to place my own pack and play sheet over the mattress for hygiene and also to give the baby a sense of familiarity.
After tucking baby into bed, I was hungry so I ordered good old HK comfort food – beef stir fry with flat rice noodle from La Amigo Restaurant as recommended by Bearwoman. It did not disappoint. Our UberEats settings were set to no utensils, so I had to improvise chopsticks with coffee stir-sticks. It was somewhat clunky and uncomfortable but it didn’t change the nice feeling of content in my stomach from the good food. I wanted to get the Q-code covid screening for Korea done ahead of time (didn’t realized this is a thing until we checked in at the airport) but I was way too tired by this point, so decided to just head to bed instead.