An Unscheduled Redeye on Air Canada

Air Canada Express CRJ900

For my return from Toronto and The Travel Summit, I booked Air Canada nonstop from Toronto to Atlanta. When I booked, the options were cash ($250 economy, $400 business) or points (10k economy, 19.4k business). Since I had about 5000 points sitting in my Aeroplan account, I decided to just transfer over 14000 points from CapitalOne and book business class.

On these Air Canada regional jets, business class is a 1-2 configuration, which provides a lot of personal space (a window and aisle seat combined) plus priority boarding, lounge access (which I already had anyway thanks to Star Alliance Gold status through ANA) and a hot meal. Of note, Delta does not serve a meal in First Class on their flights between Atlanta and Toronto as it’s less than 900 miles, which is their current cutoff for meal service in First.

After my lounge hopping, I was at the gate just before the revised boarding time an hour later than originally scheduled. Of course, we were delayed a bit further, even though our aircraft was there. Eventually, we were sent through a very long corridor then walked outside to actually board.

Following the airport employees towards boarding

Everyone boarded and I was hopeful we would get going and arrive around 10:30pm, an hour or so late.

My view for four hours (instead of two)

We sat there. After about 20 minutes or so, there was an announcement from the cockpit that a passenger had to be taken off the flight. A couple of airport officials boarded and escorted a lady off the plane. She didn’t put up much of a protest. Remember that we all went through US Immigration before boarding in Toronto. My guess is that something was flagged by the US and that person was not allowed to enter the country.

OK great, now we can get going right? Wrong! Apparently, this person had six! checked bags which all had to be found in the hold and pulled off the flight. At this point, the flight attendant asked us if we wanted a drink, but could not serve alcohol for some reason. I’m guessing there’s either a large fee for serving on the ground or something to do with being a transborder flight. Either way, my whiskey would have to wait.

We had nice legroom and footrests in business class while we waited

A few people started asking if they could get off the flight. I speculated that they may have had a Star Alliance connection in Atlanta with Turkish Airlines as they have a late redeye to Istanbul. At this point, nobody was making any connection in Atlanta tonight as it was almost 10pm.

An announcement was made that it was the last opportunity to get off the plane and stay in Toronto as the doors were closing. We finally began our long-delayed taxi. At this point, I had been onboard for almost two hours. Of course, as it turned out, the IFE and internet did not work on this flight at all.

After we reached our cruising altitude, drinks were served. I was ready for a large whiskey.

Dinner was a choice between chicken or pasta. It was OK. I probably would have skipped it if the flight was on time as I had eaten at the lounges, but by this time, I was hungry again.

I’m not sure what the butter was for as no bread was served. Anyhow, refills were offered (I declined at this point). At least there were no further delays and we landed in Atlanta around 12:15am Monday morning, about three hours late. As we were in the International Terminal but precleared, I was able to exit there and order an Uber. It took a bit longer to get one at that hour, but I made it home safely around 1:30am.

Despite the age of their planes and the fact that they are regional and not mainline, Air Canada has a nice product in business class. I’m not going to totally blame them for an immigration issue with a passenger, however, I will note that they do not leave much slack in the schedule with these regional planes and they are often running an hour or so late by the end of the day due to the inability to make the scheduled turnarounds.

Up next: We go to Marco Island in December and then it’s New Year’s Eve in QSuites (hopefully).

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