Review: Air Canada E175 Business Class Toronto to Boston

A short 90 minute hop on Air Canada's E175 regional service from freezing Toronto to slightly less freezing Boston.

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A few things to note about transiting in Canada. First, Singaporeans need to apply for Electronic Travel Authorization. Yes, even if you’re transiting. I could understand needing it if you’re entering the country, but to charge it even to transiting passengers seems like a meaningless money grab.

Canada ETA

This costs you CAD$7 and approval is usually instant, but I only learned about this requirement during online check-in. That’s on me, though, because I should have done my research before booking. That said, when my company switched to CWT we were told that we wouldn’t need to worry about this kind of thing happening because we’d be informed well in advance by CWT of all travel requirements, but that didn’t happen. My experience with CWT has been nothing short of abject so far, and there’s a big rant post brewing within me on CWT.

Second, if you’re transiting in Toronto, know that they have a US Pre-clearance facility. What this means is that you clear US immigration and customs while in Canada, and land in the US as a domestic flight. This is a great idea in theory, but it also depends how the individual airport carries it out. There were massive problems with the roll out in Abu Dhabi, and although it’s improved a bit you’re going to still want to budget extra time.

Image result for us global entry machine
US Global Entry Kiosk

It helped that I had Global Entry (even if you only travel to the US once a year, it might be worth the fee and hassle applying just to avoid insane queues…you have to decide how much you value your time) and was through in less than a minute. The regular lines? They were easily 150-200 people deep.

Third, there’s a very strange transit procedure for your bags. At your originating airport, your bags are tagged through to your final US destination. However, during transit in Canada you’re funnelled to a special waiting area.

Waiting area for baggage clearance, Toronto Airport

In this waiting area, you need to watch the screens and look out for your name. When your name appears, it means your bags have been screened and transferred to your connecting US flight. You can’t leave the area before your name appears, because at the exit point there’s a staff member who scans your connecting boarding pass to make sure your bags are loaded. I waited about 20 minutes, but can see this being highly stressful for connecting passengers because this takes place before pre-clearance

Waiting area for baggage clearance, Toronto Airport

After that there was just enough time to hop into the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge that serves flights to the US (they’ve chosen to mirror the US lounge model, which means the most continental of continental breakfasts). Unfortunately there was no opportunity to try what looks like a fantastic lounge, the Air Canada Signature Suite

Image result for air canada signature suite
Air Canada Signature Suite Toronto

Air Canada operates an E175 on this route, with a total of 3 rows of business class in a 2-1 configuration. I pre-selected the 1 seat at the side by itself by the window…only to have CWT again override my preferences because “you put in your profile that you’d prefer an aisle seat.” I swear, it’s like companies hire CWT just to frustrate employees.

Air Canada E175 business class cabin
Air Canada E175 business class cabin

The seats have the same tired, blue upholstery that long time AC flyers might remember from the legacy 77W lie flat business class seat (that has thankfully been replaced by a much more modern, sleeker product). There is, however, individual IFE in business class with a touch sensitive screen. It’s the old resistive touch screen tech though, so you’ll need to press pretty hard for it to register (potentially annoying the person seated in front of you). Also, the screen isn’t very high res or bright and gets easily washed out when the cabin is bathed in bright sunlight.

Air Canada E175 Business Class IFE Screen

The entertainment selection was more than adequate for a 90 minute flight to Boston.

Air Canada E175 Business Class IFE Screen
Air Canada E175 Business Class IFE Screen

It was absolutely freezing in Toronto, and you could see ice forming on the tarmac, on the windows, even on the wing, somewhat alarmingly. The cold was leaking into the cabin during boarding with the open cabin door, and the stewardess at the entrance was all bundled up.

Toronto tarmac

Because of the cold weather, it was necessary for the plane to be de-iced before takeoff. This takes place at a separate de-icing area away from the gate. It was pretty interesting for me because it was the first time I’d seen de-icing, but ended up taking close to 20 minutes in total.

Air Canada aircraft undergoing de-icing

The crew served breakfast as soon as the seat belt sign went off. There was only one option, and it had meat, so I guess you had to special order a meal beforehand if you didn’t partake. The omelette itself was nothing special, but I found myself enjoying the breakfast sausage against my better judgment. It reminded me of the one they serve at the Singapore Mcdonald’s, which may well be high praise for an airline.

Air Canada Business Class Breakfast

90 minutes goes by quickly, and after some choppy weather on descent we landed in Boston slightly delayed. As mentioned, we landed in the US as a domestic flight, so it was just the simple matter of reclaiming my bags, hailing an Uber and making my way to the W Boston.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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