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Flight Test: Air Canada Brisbane – Vancouver – Portland

Air Canada’s non-stop Brisbane–Vancouver flights offer direct access to Canada and onward connections to the US with the most weekly seats between Australia and Canada. Karryon settled into an economy seat to check out the seamless service.

Air Canada’s non-stop Brisbane–Vancouver flights offer direct access to Canada and onward connections to the US with the most weekly seats between Australia and Canada. Karryon settled into an economy seat to check out the seamless service.

In an era of highly publicised flight delays, or worse, cancellations, a flight that takes off five minutes early and lands 30 minutes ahead of schedule is basically a unicorn, right?

Air Canada goes beyond expectations with seamless service and easy onward connectivity to the US where you can clear customs in Vancouver and gain pre-entry into the States to start your trip the right way, straightaway.

Check-in and boarding

Ready for Vancouver! Image: Brisbane Airport

Online check-in is available 24 hours before departure and it’s an easy way to get the preliminaries done before you arrive at the airport.

At Brisbane International Terminal, the self-service kiosk allows you to scan your passport and print boarding passes and bag tags before heading to bag drop. At the check-in counter, be prepared to show your passport and eTA visa to staff before heading through security.

Don’t forget: You’ll need pre-arranged eTA and ESTA visas for entry into Canada and the United States respectively if you fly with Air Canada via Vancouver to any US destination.

My flight departs from Gate 79, which is close to the open, light-filled space in the International Terminal with plenty of seats and power points if you need to plug in before you fly.

Air Canada boards in zones, which works according to seating arrangements i.e. window seats board before aisle seats etc. Once you know this (I didn’t until this particular flight), it makes so much more sense for logical plane embarking.

US transit experience

US Border & Customs pre-clearance at VYR. Image: Wikicommons

One of the main selling points for choosing to fly Air Canada into the US via Vancouver is the frictionless transit experience.

There’s no need to collect your luggage at YVR to board your next flight as baggage is loaded straight to your final destination on your onward Air Canada flight.

Seamless connections within the same terminal mean there’s no mad dash between terminals (ahem, LAX) and Air Canada’s network and flight schedules are designed to connect travellers to their final destination faster.

The major plus of flying Air Canada is you can clear US Customs & Immigration at YVR and then skip the line when you arrive at your US destination, entering as a domestic passenger. And then you can reunite with your checked luggage for the first time since check-in at your Aussie airport.

If there’s a downside to arriving early, it was that our flight preceded the US Customs staff roster at Vancouver Airport so travellers with US connections had to queue for 20 minutes while the team clocked on for their shift.

Even then the process is a well-oiled machine. Onward travellers to the US are screened with a quick passport check in a dedicated customs pre-clearance area.

Passengers then wait in an in-transit facility for your name and flight to be displayed on a screen, indicating your checked baggage has been loaded onto the next flight.

You are then free to proceed into the terminal and to your boarding gate for your onward flight to your US destination.

Onboard comfort

Air Canada’s International Economy Class cabin. Image: Air Canada

Air Canada’s Dreamliner International Economy Class cabin has a 3x3x3 configuration. I flew solo and was thrilled to be in an aisle seat on the right of the middle section.

It’s a full plane – no spare seats – but the 31-inch seat pitch and 17-inch seat width suit 163cm-size me just fine. Each economy seat has an adjustable headrest and armrest with a blanket and pillow provided. The crew also handed out complimentary earphones to those who need them.

Air Canada’s latest safety video taps into the current air carrier trend of showcasing stunning scenic destinations with everyday people and crew doing their jobs while demonstrating the safety features and flying rules. It highlights many of Canada’s awe-inspiring natural attractions and provinces and I always adore the dual language delivery aboard Air Canada.

On the connecting AC flight from Vancouver (YVR) to Portland, Oregon (PDX), the Bombardier De Havilland Dash 8-400 aircraft has a 2×2 configuration so you have a choice of window or aisle and access to just one toilet. Passengers board and disembark from the tarmac.

The fun stuff

Personal seatback touchscreen entertainment in International Economy. Image: Air Canada

Aboard the Dreamliner, the entertainment on offer is extensive. The 9-inch personal seatback touchscreen has heaps of movies, TV series, music and audio options, including podcasts, wellbeing (meditation) and audiobooks. There’s also games and dedicated kids’ sections.

Air Canada has an impressive selection of new releases plus independent flicks, documentaries and foreign-language films, particularly for Francophones, which makes for a much more varied collection of contemporary and classic cinema. Wi-Fi (‘wee-fee’ in French) is also available on this transpacific flight.

For the connecting flight, it’s a snappy 1hr 15min trip so there’s no entertainment – just a simple beverage service with tea, coffee, juice, water and soft drink with a small vegan snack (pretzels or a Lotus Biscoff biscuit, depending on the time of day).

Inflight food

Air Canada provides an extensive array of dietary options on board its international flights – available to pre-book online or through an advisor up to 24 hours before flying.

I’ve pre-ordered vegan meals and the BNE–YVR flight offers two main meals – a hot lunch with beverage service after take-off and a hot breakfast around two hours before landing.

My lunchtime vegan meal is a penne pasta with tomato sauce, salad, bread roll and fruit, while the hot breakfast consists of baked beans, potatoes and spinach with the above accompaniments. Basic but does the trick without being too heavy or overbearing.

You definitely won’t go hungry on this long-haul service with a tea/coffee/cookie offering plus a snack service of a sandwich or wrap mid-flight.

Flight attendants also offer multiple water top-ups throughout the flight service and hungry passengers can grab snacks (pretzels, wraps and cookies) from the galley as well.

Travel tip

Get your holiday off to a flying start with online check-in. Image: Air Canada

Online check-in is your friend. Seriously, with current advice to turn up for international flights at least 180 minutes before boarding time, online check-in is the only way to go to eliminate the stress of queueing and waiting at the airport.

The details

  • Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner / Bombardier De Havilland Dash 8-400
  • Seat: 41G (middle row aisle) / 6A (window)
  • Flight time:  13hrs / 1hr15
  • Luggage allowance: 1x 23kg checked luggage, 1x carry-on baggage (55cm x 40cm x 23cm) and 1x personal item (33cm x 43cm x 16cm)
  • Arrival in Portland: 09:34 (scheduled) / 08:33 (actual)

Air Canada resumed its non-stop Brisbane–Vancouver Dreamliner flights in July 2022, initially operating four services per week and increasing to five weekly flights in December to offer year-round connectivity to British Columbia and beyond.

Cassie was a guest of Air Canada.