The purpose of this trip was to try Air Canada's new International Business Class. Being an employee, I had the ability to track down what flights C-FMXC was assigned to... Air Canada only has one widebody with the new seats. AC896 Vancouver-London was my best option.

The flight was uneventful, as most Winnipeg-Toronto flights have become. I got a middle seat, and played flightsim for most of the flight. Meal service was buy-on-board; I bought a sandwich. We had to de-ice in Winnipeg, causing a brief delay, but I had a long connection in Toronto, so the delay was no big deal. We departed from Runway 31 at Winnipeg, and landed on Runway 05 at Toronto, in the dark. Having a middle seat, I didn't take any videos, or photos.

I planned on taking the Gimli Glider 767-200 from Toronto to Vancouver on a 13:00 departure, but it cancelled. They re-assigned the Glider to the 12:00 flight, which I had time to list myself for, but it looked full. So I decided to take a 12:00 Calgary flight, which had a Vancouver connection to get me to AC896, the Vancouver-London flight that night. The gate agent gave me an aisle seat up front, at last minute, and I was underway to Vancouver via Calgary.

I didn't have much time in Calgary. It ended up being the same airplane and crew, that would take me to Vancouver. So when I got off the airplane, I went to the counter to checkin, they gave me a standby card, I went and found a seat, and recharged the laptop battery. About 20 minutes later, I was called for a seat, and boarded shortly thereafter. We pushed back early, did not de-ice, and departed from Runway 28, and climbed to FL380. I was given a middle seat again, because the flight was full. So no photos or videos for this 1hr flight.

I didn't have much time in Vancouver either. I checked in online at the Fairmont hotel... and went to the security checkpoint at the International Terminal. As my camera bag was undergoing its now routine secondary inspection, the security guy asked me what I photograph. I said that I was an aviation photographer. He mentioned his favourite website..... drumroll....................(, and that he visited the site on a daily basis... so we started talking about planes and photography. But I didn't have much time, so I went to the gate, where my name was paged for seat assignment. I was given seat 8F, to which I asked if any windows were available, to which the answer was no. I boarded last, and got settled in the middle seat, in the last row of the new Executive First Suite cabin.

The cabin looked really nice, and obviously different. I hadn't seen a 767 aircraft fitted with suites before, it looked odd, but the suites looked so damn comfortable and private too. The cabin was full, and people were busy familiarizing themselves with the new seats, and the seating layout. An older couple was sitting in front of me, looking at each other with confused looks on their faces. The woman even said out loud "I'm not sure if I like this or not". She was obviously referring to the fact that she would rather be sitting next to her husband, and not across an aisle from him. The flight attendants also looked like they were unfamiliar with the new seats, with the exception of one F/A who was a pro.

We pushed ontime, and rotated ontime off RWY 26L. A left turn was made, as we made a shallow crossing to London, even flying over Washington State for the first portion of the flight, which was unusual.

The load was light for this flight. So I felt free to walk around the 767 taking photos of the cabins. Meal service started over 1 hour after rotation. The meals were all awesome. I started playing flightsim after dessert, and also tried out the inflight entertainment. The large screen is really nice, and the touch-screen controls are simple and quick. But lately I haven't been interested in watching TV shows or movies on IFE screens, so I played more flightsim, and music on the laptop before converting the seat into a suite.

The seat controls are simple to use, and in 20 seconds, the seat converts into a lie-flat bed. A blankets and sheet were provided in what looked like a sleeping bag. The bed was very comfortable. I stand about 5'10, and it seemed like there was at least 2 or 3 inches to spare. I did not feel cramped in the seat. It was certainly wide enough too. I could easily turn from one side to another if I needed to. Two pillows were provided, one white, and a smaller red one. The larger white pillow did not offer much support, so I grabbed my inflatable pillow and threw in underneath the white pillow for added comfort.

After a few hours of comfortable sleep the only thing that I had a complaint about was the I started to 'overheat' if you could call it that. The sheet that is used overtop the bed itself was probably too thick, and that made me feel way too hot. I removed the sheet, which reduced the comfort level cause the seat wasn't as padded anymore, but it certainly cooled things down. Luxury cars these days have both heated and ventilated seats. One idea for a nice decked-out F/J seat would be ventilated seats... just an idea. I don't give a shit about lumbar support, so I have no comments on this seat's lumbar system, cause I didn't use it. The only problem with my seat was that the reading light in the overhead bin area would not switch off (after meal service). It became frustrating, but I took the eyeshades from the amenity kit, and covered the eyes for sleep. Problem solved.

But yeah, the seat/suite/bed really serves its purpose. As we were all preparing our suites for 'bedtime', the man in front of me commented to his wife "yeah but this makes it all worth it" commenting that even though they weren't sitting side-by-side, at least he could stretch out and get a comfortable sleep.

Hours later, we were served breakfast, so I put my suite in a cradle configuration, and then the technology failed... the seat would not respond to any inputs. The cabin crew was busy with the meal service, so I didn't bother them until 30 minutes later, to fix the seat. Apparently there is a manual reset button underneath the seat, that the F/A pushes, which resets the "system". Immediately after that was done, the seat worked again.

There was one seat 2 rows ahead of me that was completely INOP, and two others seats were set aside for crew rest, included seat 8K, the window seat across from me.

As we started the descent into London, and inevitable hold, the crew rest seat (8K) became available, so I moved there for some aerial photography of the city. We lined up for the 27L approach, and I got some cool shots of the city, and video of the landing. We did not have an open gate, so we deboarded from a hardstand position, something I can't ever remember doing before in London. I have boarded a Speedbird 777 from an outside gate, but never arrived under such a scenario. Customs was empty, so the fast track card was meaningless. I was gonna keep it for another time when T3 customs is zig-zagged 8 lines deep, but the guy saw the flourescent pink sheet inside my passport and directed me to the appropriate line.

For the way back, my options were London-Calgary on the A330, London-Montreal on the A340, or London-Halifax on the 767-300. The Halifax flight had well-timed connections for Halifax-Toronto (same plane), then Toronto-Winnipeg, so I decided to fly to YHZ. The lineup, upstairs at passport control was ridiculously long... the longest I have ever seen there. I thought, "shit, I'm not gonna make it"... and started troubleshooting. Then I saw a fast track line, where I knew you needed a special sticker on the boarding pass, to use that line. I said to the inspector... "look it says Executive First class, but I don't have a sticker because it was web check-in", and boom, I was in the fast track security line. 10 minutes later (instead of 110 minutes later), I was through security, and on my way to the lounge. I love how the monitors at T3 say "AC861 - Gate Closing" 45 minutes prior to departure just to get people to the gate early.

At the gate, I was onloaded into an aisle seat, to which I asked to see the seat chart, and selected one of the few windows left (1K). I would have rather had the last row on the window for better photo ops of the engine/wing, but was S.O.L. I was offered a drink, along with a Dasani water bottle. We were late leaving the gate because of an ATC gate hold due to shitty weather. But eventually we were airborne off 27R, and climing fast for FL380.

One of the F/As came around with the Panasonic DVD players and asked what movie I wanted to watch. Die Hard 1998 --- I thought that can't be Number 1, cause it was way before 98. So I chose it, and it was Die Hard One, a movie I hadn't seen in a long time. With both seats to myself, I put the DVD player on the other tray table, and watched the movie while enjoying the meal service. I selected the Gourmet Express meal, which was a cold plate of salmon and asparagus... and it was awesome. After the meal, and Die Hard had almost finished I went to sleep for a few hours. The seat was more the old-school style J-class seat, but I found it comfortable, and got some good sleep.

Clearing customs took all but 10 seconds and 6 touches on a kiosk screen, with the Canpass card, which I will be renewing in April -- best 50 bucks spent in a long time.

Halifax-Toronto was on the same 767-300 I had just flown from London, but this is where I left J-class behind, and settled with Economy. I went upstairs to the indoor observation area at Halifax, and took some shots of the aircraft. Another photographer in the lounge asked if I was a spotter, to which I said yes. We started talking a lot about planes and photography. He was from Strousbourg France, and had spent 3 months in Nova Scotia... and was heading back to France via a 12 day visit in Toronto. We talked for a while, and ended up sitting next to each other for the flight to Toronto. I was really surprised to hear that he knew about the contrails site. A really nice guy... nice to meet you Dimitri.

We deplaned on an International gate at Terminal One, and C-GDUZ was next assigned to AC880 to Paris. The next flight to Winnipeg was operated by an A321. I had about 90 minutes to kill, so I went to the gate, and recharged the laptop.

The flight was in total darkness, so I only took a few videos. Most of the pax around me were complaining about the horrible service they received from Air Canada that day, and how they were sitting at the airport for hours waiting for a flight to Winnipeg. Apparently the weather in Toronto was total crap that morning, with low ceilings and fog, forcing some cancellations... and of course Air Canada is completely to blame for less than desirable atmospheric conditions. I had to turn on the laptop and listen to loud music in order to tune them out. I will say no more. We departed from 23 at Pearson, after a quick taxi. I bought a sandwich and some cup noodles for the flight... and eventually we landed on RWY 31 at Winnipeg.

The trip went really well, and I was happy to have successfully flown the new J-suites. They were comfortable, easy to use, and even if the seats "break down", the simple reset switch solves the problem easily. Entertainment options are fantastic, especially because they are on-demand. The service was outstanding, and the food excellent. It would be nice if the 763s could be fitted with the 777-style overhead bins, with mood lighting, and maybe even the "tweeting bird" audio (Emirates-style). I am told mood lighting is planned for the future. It will be really nice to see this new J-cabin on the brand new 777s, to be delivered in just over 3 months.

Thanks for reading.

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