Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Iggy Itinerary: Air Canada rouge - Premium rouge Class, Vancouver > San Francisco (A319)

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When booking an exciting itinerary with Lufthansa First Class and Singapore Suites Class, the short flight from Vancouver to San Francisco wasn't something I researched.

For non-stop Star Alliance flights, I could choose among United, United Express, or an Air Canada product I had never heard of called "Premium rouge" (with a lower case "r"). I booked the latter but didn't bother looking it up, assuming that it would look like United/Delta/American's domestic first-class products.

Nope.

Source:  Air Canada rouge

"[M]iddle seat blocked for your comfort"?

Yep. Middle seat blocked for my comfort - in all other respects, the seat is like a seat in the economy cabin. This is what most European carriers do for intra-Europe flights: the first few rows have the middle seat blocked and the airline markets the product as "Business Class."

Air Canada 1844, Vancouver > San Francisco
Premium rouge Class, Seat 3D

Middle seat blocked with pillows 

Premium rouge legroom 

Another legroom shot

Unable to charge a business-class price when offering only an economy-class seat, the European airlines try to justify the price by offering airport lounge access, priority bags, and a meal service (even on short flights).

That's what Air Canada chose to do as well - they handed out a paper menu and offered a full (and good!) meal service for the short 2 hour 15 minute flight. You could learn something from our neighbors up north, U.S.-based carriers!

Compare their menu (containing no capitalization in line with their "rouge" theme) with Lufthansa's menus (capitalizing every single noun).

welcome aboard.

a choice of orange juice
or mineral water will be served
prior to departure

mixed greens with grape tomatoes,
fennel and dill seed served with balsamic
olive oil dressing

beef tenderloin with mushroom tarragon
sauce, red skin mashed potatoes
and broccoli florets

or

green curry chicken with coriander
pilaf rice, carrots and edamame beans

or

cheese tortellini served with
Italian-style tomato sauce
and mozzarella

apple blackberry crumble

warm breads served with butter

a full selection of beverages
is available at all times
throughout your flight

bon appétit!

okay, i lied. they capitalized "Italian." but i still admire their dedication to their branding.


A flight attendant brought some almonds and cashews with my Coke zero.

Nuts


Perfect logo facing out

Because the flight is relatively short, the salad, bread, main dish, and dessert were served together on a tray.


Lunch

And the amazing part: a North American airline served a way-better-than-merely-edible main dish on a short-haul flight.

Beef tenderloin

I'll admit that my expectations weren't super high, but the beef was not horrifically overcooked (it came out at about a medium); the broccoli wasn't wilted and damp; the mashed potatoes looked like they actually came from real potatoes (rather than a mix).

Premium rouge passengers also get an iPad preloaded with TV shows, games, and movies. The selection isn't very extensive - I watched a Modern Family re-run, but I appreciate the effort. There were disposable headphones in our seatback pockets; I used my own.


And after a quick flight, I was back in the beautiful land of freedom and democracy. Going straight from gate to curb without having to clear customs (especially the long lines at SFO) feels great. 

Air Canada rouge A319

Conclusion
I was disappointed when I first boarded the plane to see that my business-class seat was really just an economy-class seat, but kudos to Air Canada for making every other aspect of their product first-rate. No, it's not Singapore Airlines Suites Class, but Premium rouge Class is still a pretty good way to travel.

The Iggy Itinerary
1. Introduction
2. Booking

Outbound (LAX-NRT-SIN-PVG)
3. Lounge Report - Star Alliance First Class / Business Class Lounge, LAX
4. Singapore Airlines Suites Class, Los Angeles > Tokyo-Narita (A380-800)
5. Lounge Report - ANA Suite Lounge, Tokyo-Narita
6. Singapore Airlines Suites Class, Tokyo-Narita > Singapore (A380-800)
7. Lounge Report - The Private Room, Singapore
8. Singapore Airlines Suites Class, Singapore > Shanghai-Pudong (A380-800)

Inbound (PVG-ICN-FRA-YVR-SFO)
9. Lounge Report - Air China Business Class Lounge, Shanghai-Pudong
10. Asiana Business Class, Shanghai-Pudong > Seoul-Incheon (767-300)
11. Lounge Report - Asiana First Class Lounge, Seoul-Incheon
12. Lufthansa First Class, Seoul-Incheon > Frankfurt (747-8i)
13. Review: Hyatt Regency Mainz
14. Lounge Report - Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt
15. Lufthansa First Class, Frankfurt > Vancouver (747-400)
16. Lounge Report - Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Vancouver
17. Air Canada rouge - Premium rouge Class, Vancouver > San Francisco (A319)

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