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Air Canada

Hi,
What can you tell me about this airline? Anyone flown with them and what were your experiances? We are thinking of using them for our Germany trip next year.
Thanks,
Wendy

Posted by
8293 posts

Air Canada is a solid, reliable airline with an excellent safety record. The cabin personnel can be testy and the food is not near as good as it used to be, but then, what is? Air Canada is heartily detested across Canada but we continue to fly with them. Go figure.

Posted by
2297 posts

Well, we continue to fly with them because there is no alternative on many routes ...

That said, there are worse ones out there. And the service on transatlantic flights is also better than on those on the continent. Yes, we can alwasy find something to bicker about Air Canada but at least on the transatlantic flights I've never had a truly horrible experience (which I did have with some of the charter alternatives available over the summer).

Also keep in mind, that the flights to Germany are done in cooperation with Lufthansa. We are booked through Air Canada for our next trip to Germany. But we could very well end up with a Lufthansa plane and crew for one of the flights.

Posted by
590 posts

I have flown with them a few times overseas and I have no complaints.

Posted by
190 posts

Hi,
Thanks for the replies. Couple more questions. We would be leaving from the US and conneting in Toronto. Would we need to go through customs once in Canada to catch our conneting flight?

The same coming back the flight I am looking at is leaving Munich with connetion through Toronto to US. Where is this leg would we need to go through customs? Would we have to go through customs in Canada and once we land back in the US?

Posted by
9363 posts

For a connecting flight you should only have to go through passport control, not customs. When you return, you'll go through US Customs once you reach the US, but you may or may not have to go through passport control in Canada.

Posted by
1467 posts

I would second what others have said - AC isn't a great airline and the few times I have flown them their service has been terrible both on the ground and in the air. My opinion would be to avoid them if you can (I have sworn that I will never fly them again) and fly a European or US carrier.

Posted by
31819 posts

Wendy,

I've flown Air Canada numerous times over the years, and for the most part the service has been good. I'd have to check, but I believe they have one of the best safety records of all airlines. I've experienced a few "minor service issues" in the past, but overall they've been reasonably good.

As someone else mentioned, I believe they're part of the Star Alliance so some flights are "code share" with other airlines. On my last return flight from Europe, although the flight was booked through Air Canada I was actually on a Lufthansa flight, which was interesting as I'd never flown with them before.

My experience has been that Air Canada operates well under normal circumstances, but their service levels suffer if there are any unexpected problems, such as weather-related issues. That was the case last winter when a large number of flights in western Canada were cancelled, and passengers weren't even provided with Hotel vouchers (which is what their competitor WestJet did).

I've found that Air Canada seems to be able to provide the timing that works for me with flights to Europe, so I use them quite frequently (although I usually check Air Transat as well). I wouldn't have any hesitation in using them again for my next trip.

I used AC most recently a few weeks ago on flights to Portland, and everything was great (those CRJ & DH3 aircraft sure have small overhead bins though!).

Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
668 posts

Haven't flown AC since 1993 when I vowed never to use them again. It may have improved in the last 16 years. Internally I fly WestJet; transatlantic I have flown AirTransat and Canadian Affairs. Used to like Zoom till it went under.

Posted by
11490 posts

I've used them many times,, not alot of choice here really anyways. They are a safe airline,, so that counts for me... and as for food and service,, sorry,, haven't met an airline that meets my standards for those anyways,, and haven't been lucky enough to fly a premium airline like Singapore ,, etc lol

Two years ago they put my family of five in two hotel rooms, and gave us dinner and breakfast vouchers, and get this flew us FIRST CLASS home from Montreal( on our economy tickets) ,, as our return flight from Florida couldn't continue from MOntreal one night( they never said why).. we thought that was pretty good.

Posted by
77 posts

I have used Air Canada a number of times in the past 10 years to fly overseas and have never had a problem...flights have been on time and luggage arrived when did....but smiling, friendly, helpful personnel seems to be a rare commodity with them, which is why I fly WestJet on domestic flights.

Posted by
204 posts

Flown Air Canada several times- food lousy and 2 years ago they overbooked our flight to Vienna and we had to wait for 3 hours to be put on another plane to Munich then another to Vienna- Makes things difficult where reservations are concerned. Also I have heard from others that AC have a tendency to overbook so be careful and arrive at least 3 hours before International flights.

Flew British Airways several years ago and it had to be the best food, comfort and personnel wise - would love to fly them again next year but the hassle of going thru Heathrow is not something I relish doing- Going Air France this time.

Posted by
208 posts

Shelley...
My wife and I flew British Airways to London Heathrow in September, and had absolutely no problems at all at the airport or getting in to downtown London.
We flew in "World Traveler Plus", one step up from coach, and it was delightful. The food was great, the service from the cabin attendents was super, and I never saw so many smiles in my life.
We're doing it again in March, and are looking forward to the flight. I might add that neither of us are particularly enamoured of flying. The flight we took in September to London was the first time we had flown since 1995.

Posted by
111 posts

I've flown with AC many times during these last 2 years only because they are the only carrier that flies to the places that I want to go. Their food isn't that great but it's edible. Their service and staff are great

A couple of years ago when I had to connect in Paris, the AC flight coming was late by 2 hours and I knew I wasn't going to make my 2nd connection in Montreal. Before landing, over the PA they announced new flights for those who had connections. I had to go through passport control and retrieve my bags. But none of my checked bags were on the carousel after waiting for an hour and, I missed my new connection. I filed a report and had to make arrangements for another flight. The AC lady couldn't get me an economy seat based on my ticket so she put me on the last seat available...in BUSINESS CLASS :) I got my bags delivered to my door 4 days after.

Posted by
1439 posts

I've only flown AC once - this last July. I was warned against them, but this was the flight we took from Ireland to Toronto. The AC people at the desks were not friendly, but onboard the airplane everyone was great - we even thought the food was better than our United flight. It was a good experience for us.

Posted by
11490 posts

Honestly,, I just will take the cheapest airline that is considered to be safe.. thats it.. If the cabin crew are snarly I can take that if the flight costs me less then one where the crew fawn over me.

I sleep during flights anyways,, and airline crews in airports tend to be stressed out anyways,, I never ask for favors or exceptions so really have never had an issue with anyone..

Posted by
808 posts

Gee what can I say about Air Canada?

Yes it is true...the majority of Crew are crusty, grumpy and grouchy...I should know...Met more than a few in my travels...
But there are reasons for that which I wont get into here...Regardless...Passengers are what pay the pensions as peanut like as they may have become. The way I see it...if you dont love what you do...dont do it anymore...find something you love and channel your energy into that.
I have had the pleasure of meeting many professional and safety conscious F/As within...Some still love what they do. Always remember...please and thank you go a long way...as does recognition for going above and beyond.

Air Canada must be doing something right...Check out globaltravelerusa.com

ACA is once again North Americas favorite Airline for 2009 in a recent survey.

Safe Skies

F/A

Posted by
38 posts

Hi Wendy,

I have not taken Air Canada in a couple of years simply because I have found less expensive fares with other airlines. The times I have flown Air Canada I found the service to be good.

Our good friends from Germany who come to Canada at least twice a year swear by Air Canada.

Have a great trip.

Paula

Posted by
31819 posts

Paula,

As long as your friends from Germany aren't swearing at them, I guess that's a good thing!

Posted by
2815 posts

Hi Wendy,

Perhaps I'm not very critical, but we few Air Canada to Munich and had no issues or complaints. To tell you the truth, I really didn't see or experience a big difference between our flights on AC, AF, Swiss Air, Lufthansa or SAS. I'm sitting in coach, have a so-so meal and I have gotten to my destination. All good. Only thing I didn't like about AF was stoping at CDG.

Paul

Posted by
9553 posts

I will be changing planes in Toronto and switching to an Air Canada flight from a United flight. I plan to carry on my main suitcase and a personal bag. First - do I have to go through customs or immigration (I've never changed planes outside of the US before)? Second - will I be able to take on the plane what I had with me on UA? They are both Star Alliance and the flights are on the same ticket. I thought I would ask here since you are all familiar with AC.

Posted by
368 posts

Andrea, you will have to go through customs and then transfer to the Air Canada plane. Should have the same baggage restrictions as United as they are codeshare partners.

Posted by
31819 posts

Andrea,

Well, those of us here are "sort of" familiar with Air Canada.

Are you checking any luggage? If so, your bags should be transferred to your AC plane in Toronto as it's a "codeshare" flight. That's always been my experience.

Happy travels!

Posted by
9553 posts

Ken, we do not check our luggage. At least on the way to Europe. We do check sometimes on the way home as we always wind up with extra stuff. Go figure!

We have always flown Continental before. This trip we are using FF miles. On the way to Europe we fly United for two legs of the trip, and change in Toronto to AC. Why? When looking at the choices my husband thought it would be "fun" to see some different airports and try another airline. I figured as long as we get there in one piece I didn't really care. I didn't think about different standards. I may be able to change the flights. Do I need to or will we be okay? We each carry one rolling bag and a smaller tote bag for under the seat.

Posted by
5 posts

My very 1st(and 2nd)flight - both '09 have beeen with AC from Stoon to Toronto to Munich....nothing bad to say...good food - (was initially worried bout it after hearing how terrible airplane food was), friendly crew, no lost luggage - also like the safety record.
Just because it's codeshare, i don't htink the baggage restrictions are necessarily the same..AC site said to check out Lufthansa baggage restriction. My luggage was automatically transferred to the plane in Toronto but on the way back i had to re-check them inToronto. Have a great trip!!

Posted by
970 posts

I found the customs notes a bit unclear for any of you who haven't done it before. So here is some clarification on customs between U.S. and Canada. ALL flights between these two countries have customs control in Canada - both directions.

If you arrive in Canada on a flight from the U.S., you clear Canadian customs at your first stop in Canada. If you're transferring anywhere else in Canada, you clear customs and then board your next flight. You claim your baggage for customs and then put it right back on a belt to your next flight. It will be tagged to its end destination. You just have to claim it briefly so customs knows there aren't abandoned bags floating through the system.

If you leave Canada on a flight bound to the U.S., you clear U.S. customs in Canada before boarding your plane. (Well, okay, the U.S. claims the floor you're standing on once you walk through the customs doorway is U.S. soil, but you're still inside a Canadian airport.)

If you leave Canada on a flight bound anywhere else, and that does not stop in the U.S., you do not clear customs in Canada.

For the person planning to transfer in Toronto: that is Canada's busiest airport, so you may be in line behind ten planeloads of passengers, but it also has the most customs inspectors. Back in my frequent flier days, I avoided Toronto transfers, but it's really not that bad. It's not in any way comparable to JFK.

I agree with other Canadian posters - we don't have a lot of airline choice, but AC is a solid, reliable airline with knowledgeable staff. Be polite to them and they will always help you.

HTH

Oh and P.S. I was able to get four FF award tickets to Europe for this summer at the lowest mileage level - only 60K each. Try that on Delta!!

Posted by
9553 posts

Okay, I want to make sure I understand how this is going to work -

We fly from Sacramento - Washington DC on United

Change planes then Washington DC - Toronto on United

Go through customs in Toronto

Toronto - Rome on Air Canada

Clear customs in Rome

Is that right?

Posted by
970 posts

Yes, that is correct. See here: http://www.gtaa.com/en/travellers/connecting/connection_tips/

I tried to paste in the relevant bits from this page, but it's not pretty - lost the formatting. Note I DID edit the pasted bits to remove some non-relevant items, so you should check the link for the real page to see more details.

"Connection Tips

Transiting through Canada Border Services Agency between Connecting Flights

When connecting flights at Toronto Pearson, you may be required to transit through Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Refer to the table below for specific details about your flight.

Connection Customs Required

U.S. flight to International flight Canada Border Services Agency

International flight to U.S. flight Canada Border Services Agency*** &
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

International flight to International flight Canada Border Services Agency

  • Domestic flights are flights within Canada.

** Canada Border Services Agency combines the processes of Canada Customs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and Canada Food Inspection Services.

*** Some International to U.S. connecting flights at Terminal 1 do not require passengers to clear CBSA before clearing U.S. CBP inspection."

But it's not really that bad. You don't have to wrestle your checked bags very far (assuming you aren't a RS carry-on adherent). It is an extra step, but as many Americans forget (my own parents included, both of whom have Ph.D.s), Canada is truly a separate country, so it's logical to have border control here.

HTH

Posted by
31819 posts

Nelly,

"If you leave Canada on a flight bound to the U.S., you clear U.S. customs in Canada before boarding your plane."

That's true some of the time but not always. I've never had to clear U.S. Customs prior to boarding flights from smaller airports (ie: YLW) that go directly to the U.S. That only seems to happen in Vancouver or Calgary (and other large cities). I've always done this at the first stop (ie: SEA).

Posted by
970 posts

Well, that makes sense. It made me stop and think, though. Yes, in 20 years in Canada I have never crossed the border from a small airport - Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, that's it. I just assumed it was universal. I see pre-clearing U.S. Customs in Canada as a great service, since the crowds are generally smaller than in U.S. airports and then I arrive at a domestic terminal in the U.S. and I'm on my way.

Thanks for the clarification.

Posted by
9553 posts

Geez...thanks for the information. Maybe I should look into changing our flight to one where we don't change in Canada. It just seems like a hassle and we don't have a terribly long layover. Is 1 hr 38 min. (if we arrive on time!) enough time?

And yes, we do carry our bags on. At least on the way. We have been known to check our expanded bags on the way home.

Posted by
970 posts

Well, I don't really know how to advise you. You said this originally:

"When looking at the choices my husband thought it would be "fun" to see some different airports and try another airline. I figured as long as we get there in one piece I didn't really care."

It is indeed a different experience, but I wouldn't expect it to be a bad one. You know the stereotype: Canadians are so clean and so polite. It's mostly true. The transfer time should not be a problem when leaving the U.S. (vs. entering of course) but no guarantees. I don't know that two-customs-in-one-trip will be your most treasured travel experience, but it will make a good story. I'd be interested to hear what you decide, and if you do go through Toronto, how it works out.

I know this thread is off-topic by now, I hope it's still useful for people.

Posted by
9553 posts

Nelly, thanks so much for all the information. Don't get me wrong, I'm not disparaging Canada or Canadians. I have been to Canada on several occasions, but always by car and not since passports were required. The worse thing that ever happened to me crossing the border was crossing back into the U.S. Once they (U.S. customs) confiscated my dog food because it was not in the original packaging. Not a big deal except the time it took to search my vehicle.

I am more concerned about having enough time. I checked other flights and all the flights available at this point go through Toronto. One has a longer layover, but at this point I will just keep things as is. I will hope for a quick trip through customs so we can make our next flight.