Executive Class Breakfast
Ok.. I Flew back-to-back Air Canada & United Airlines premium service (AC -Executive Class (Business class, they have no First Class) and United's First Class.. all on Aeroplan points so don't think I have money raining down on me LOL.. I am fortunate though and grateful for the opportunity to have this experience. Just one note - I was one of only 2 people in J-Class on Air Canada while United's 767 First Class was jammed packed full. The routing was YUL-DIA -SFO-DIA-YUL. That being said here's my check list for the outbound portion:
AC: Of course let us in first. The AC gate attendant wasn't friendly, no smile & no personality. Nothing special for the people paying extra (ok not me LOL)
UA: Friendly greeting, small red carpet for everyone
AC: Nice cooler colors, bluish white with teal and blue material with the Maple Leaf motif here and there. Larger over head bins than in economy. Fresh and Modern with everything in good shape.
UA: Older creamier white walls and tope if not brownish coloured seats with no discernible pattern all in bad shape with some of the electronic buttons actually worn down. Larger over head bins than in economy also. Some signage was falling off the ceiling. Not impressive although I get the impression UA has a much higher First class turnover than Air Canada which explains it.
(AC Wins hands done)
AC (A319): 39" seat width with adjustable wide headrest. One wide deep pocket in front seat including a PTV (Entertainment unit) with USB Port for Ipod. Leg room excellent
UA (763): 38" seat width with adjustable wide headrest but headrest was more uncomfortably lower. I felt the missing inch too. Two pockets in front seat. UA's seats were a bit softer. Leg room excellent
Flight Attendant's Greetings
AC: I practically startled them when I arrived. They were nice however once geared up.
UA: Were warm and friendly and waiting for us
AC: I was offered newspapers & OJ
UA: I was offered a hot towel to freshen up and some drinks. F/A's were more prepared and organized for this than on AC.
After Take Off - Meals
AC: Breakfast - Two choices, Pan Cakes or an Ham & Cheese Omelet. The Omelet (photo above) was excellent. All in a real deep china plate. Fruit cup with fresh fruit in a plastic container (at this level you'd think they use a real dish not plastic). Nice hot roll with decent coffee and OJ with no pulp. No special ornament/flower or anything to distinguish it visually from an economy class meal
UA: Lunch. Two Choices, Hot Turkey Panini sandwich plate or a Cold Salmon Salad. I chose the sandwich but the FA came to me asking if I'd be willing to switch because the last passenger couldn't eat fish and there were no turkey sandwiches left. I agreed and he gave me a full bottle of California white wine tot take home. Note, the F/A put a cloth napkin on my tray as a table cloth. AC did not. The Salmon was delicious, the salad part quite ordinary. No special ornament/flower or anything to distinguish it visually from an economy class meal
(AC/UA Tie here - although hard to compare Breakfast with lunch.. if anything I'd give AC the edge on the food but the wine offering was quite special)
After Dinner Experience
AC: A bag of Almonds straight from economy except maybe a bit larger package.
UA: Hot mixed nuts in a small bowl - I LOVED these... could have ate more..
(UA Wins hands down)
In Flight Entertainment
AC: Seat back video units (PTV's) & dispensed ear wrap ear phones - Surprise, it didn't work (again) so we had nothing.
UA: Standard old fashion big screen projected images with over the head adjustable earphones tucked into the front seat pocket ready to use.. we all had to watch the same thing so no choice.
(No winner here but at least UA's worked, Had AC's worked they would have won hands down)
Exit:ing the aircraft
AC: Fast and Easy.
UA: the same
Overall conclusion - Air Canada had the nicer environment and more comfortable seats and technical amenities. UA had a slightly more professional customer approach to it's overall service. Food in both cases was much better than economy but in the end given the positives and negatives both were pretty much equally as good. I'm not sure what that says about United though considering they also have a Business Class. You'd think AC's Business Class should be a bit below United's First Class standard but if anything in many ways it was actually better. So from that perspective Air Canada really was the better value choice if that in fact means anything to anyone looking to travel at that level.
As is often the case it came down to personnel and how they treated their paying customers and Air Canada as has been the case from my personal experience came out shorter of the two airlines. That also being said the big advantage to Business/First class with these two carriers is not really the service but the front end cabin where you get in and out first. What happens after is more or less icing on the cake. The bigger seat is nice as is the more quiet front cabin away from the engines and closer to the exit... but overall unless I was really a guy who's constantly pressed for time or I was going on a very long voyage I wouldn't pay outright for it. People were not dressed any better or behaved any nicer so there was no change in the social environment. The full UA First class looked and felt not different than economy when glancing around quickly. On the way back for instance my seat mate was over 300lbs and he never ate a thing nor took any interest in any entertainment offering.. basically I presume he bought First Class just to be able to sit more comfortably in his seat (and it was still a very tight fit for him) ... so go figure airlines have to think of every reason why someone would want this service and they are very wide ranging reasons. Business executives in UA were more concerned about their laptops than watching a PTV or video presentation on a wall. The food is nice but I didn't get the sense any of that really mattered. For me it was nice not to hear F/A's muttering "$10 please" as they handed me food...and getting the free bottle of wine verses a mini bottle was just a lucky break for me even if I did have to bring it back with my luggage on the return LOL..
Yeah it was fun and on points I'd do it again in a heartbeat. UA just needs to refurbish their cabin and seats and get some PTV's. THe 777 on return was in better shape though. Air Canada needs to revamp the way they train their Flight Attendants to bring them up to other airline's levels. These are needs well identified years ago and still not yet adequately dealt with by the two carriers. So there ya have it, ..plus ça change.....