India 2021 – List of Posts

Introduction: India 2021, equal measure of frustration and fascination

Review: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, Montreal International YUL

Review: Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi, 14 hours in Signature Class

Review: Vistara Business Class, New Delhi to Mumbai

10 Pics – An ode to Mum’s cooking, India

Review: Grand Hyatt Goa, India

COVID Testing in New Delhi, and airport sleeping pods

Review: Plaza Premium Lounge, New Delhi International

Review: Air Canada New Delhi to Toronto, Signature Class Cabin

 

I have recently flown Air Canada Signature Class cabin in Canada, where my experience ranged from good to ugly. Since then I had been craving to experience the true international Air Canada Signature Class service. Glad that I was able to choose the inaugural Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi flight – AC 50, as my next ride in the Signature Class cabin.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi – Booking/Boarding

Let’s just say that diplomatic relations between Canada and India have been strained recently, with Canada imposing several peculiar conditions on travel between the two countries. After a few unsuccessful attempts to route myself from Europe and Middle East (multiple flights cancellations), I stumbled upon this Montreal to New Delhi flight. I paid 79,900 Aeroplan points (and $104 in taxes) for YOW-YUL-DEL-BOM with the final segment on Vistara airlines (Aeroplan partner). Unbeknown to me, I was booked on the inaugural flight from Montreal to New Delhi, a welcome surprise.

After spending some time at the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge (International), I made my way to the gate few minutes early, rather excited. Given that this was an inaugural flight, I was hoping to see some media event, perhaps ribbon cutting? Instead, what waited for me was an overcrowded gate area, with several people already in long lineups, with no signs of a boarding call. Air Canada staff was already walking up and down the lineup doing a visual check on the size of those carry-on bags, which were atleast twice the allowable size in most cases. The pre-boarding announcement started with repeated plea from AC staff to check-in oversized bag as the flight was full.

I am just going to come out and say it – folks from my part of the world love carrying bags, overweight, oversized, and generally do not care for airline regulations around baggage. And we line up well in advance for access to the overhead bins for our oversized baggage. 

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Luckily for me, Zone 1 boarding was rather easy, and I was able to board the flight without any altercations with AC staff, over the size of my carry-on.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

The Signature Class Cabin onboard the Boeing 787-9, is a 1-2-1 configuration in a reverse herringbone setup (seats angled towards window). I was on seat 2A for my 14 hour journey to New Delhi.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Signature Class Cabin – AC 50

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi – Seat 2A

I love Air Canada’s Signature Cabin – the Executive pods are elegant, and offer good privacy and comfort – including a seat massage function. If you like measuring the seat in number of windows you have access to, the executive pods in signature class offer 2 full oversized Dreamliner windows worth of space.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

AC 50, Montreal to New Delhi – Seat 2A

 

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Measure of Seat – two full oversized Dreamliner windows

A bottle of water, pair of noise cancelling headphones, and an amenity kit were already placed at my seat upon boarding. With plenty of space for little knickknacks, the pod itself is very accessible. Be it the retractable tray table tucked under the tv screen, storage space by the window, or the large footwell to place shoes, and small bag, the pod is well designed.

 

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

The in-flight entertainment system is impressive and offers a very response touch-screen tv, as well as a handheld control with a crisp screen for gaming.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Amenity Kit: Truth be told, it is disappointing. The one thing that lets down the Signature Cabin experience, are the below average contents of the Air Canada amenity kit. Other than the Vitruvi Travel Essential Kit (lip balm, and hand lotion), the other contents are generic and uninspiring. The kit bag (pouch) is functional, not fancy.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi – 14 hours!

The food and beverage service on this flight consisted of a Dinner shortly after take off, and a Breakfast just before landing in New Delhi. ‘Light Bites’ were also available on demand, in between the two meal services. The menu options included signature dishes by celebrated Canadians, Chef Vikram Vij, and Chef David Hawksworth. It was charming that the menu was presented in three languages, English, French, and Hindi.

 

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi – English Menu

 

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi – Hindi Menu

Shortly before take off, the crew came around to note the Main Course preference for the Dinner service. I chose the Chef Vij Signature meal – Chickpea kofta, with dal makhani, vegetable pulao rice, and naan.

About 30 minutes after take off the service began with some beverages, and I opted for the tried and tested, G&T, to set my palate for the meal. The beverage service was rather ‘hand-off’, with everything simply placed at the table, rather than serving a mixed drink. I did not mind that, fully aware that I was still travelling during pandemic, and that an adjusted service was underway.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Drink of choice – G&T, with packaged almonds

Appetizer included Mushroom carpaccio, with asparagus, and tomato bruschetta. Served with fresh seasonal green salad and bread. Although I am not a fan of cold appetizers, I did enjoy the mushroom carpaccio, and the fresh asparagus. The flavours were spot on, and I was overjoyed with warm bread (instead of cold hard bread served in plastic wrap).

 

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

 

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Appetizer: Mushroom carpaccio, with asparagus, and tomato bruschetta

The Main Course of ‘Chickpea kofta, dal makhani, vegetable pulao rice, naan’ was absolutely delightful. The kofta were soft, and packed the flavour punch. With dal and pulao a perfect accompaniment to the creamy kofta sauce.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Main Course: Chickpea kofta, dal makhani, vegetable pulao rice, naan

After the scrumptious main course, it was time to tuck into the dessert, because Chef Hawksworth 🙂 I was slightly worried when the plate was presented, maybe it was the cabin lights, but the cake did not look inviting right off the back. One bite into it though, the chocolate cake more than held its promise – the cake was spongy, with a subtle layer of coffee cream on top. Not too sweet, just the way I like it!

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Dessert: Chocolate cake

A hat-tip to the cabin crew for running the on-point meal service. There is nothing worse than a long drawn out meal service late at night, preventing passengers from their sleep. We were 2.5 hours into the flight, and the dinner service was all but wrapped up. And none of it seemed rushed – fantastic!

Although full, I prefer not to sleep right away. Instead, I decided to get some work out of the way. Connecting to Wifi was easy, and I chose the Ultimate Pass for the Full Flight, which cost $29 CAD. A reasonable price imo, to be able to stream, watch videos, upload pictures, browse social media, all without glitches and delay. Or so I thought.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

I was able to connect without any issues and worked until mid-night, before deciding to get some hours of sleep. I got in a solid ~6 hours of sleep in-flight. Upon waking up though, when I tried connecting again, I was greeted with the unending spinning wheel onscreen. After repeated trials, it dawned on me that we were on a polar route, and most (all?) wifi services would lose satellite connection.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Upon review of the map, I realized that we were in fact well past the ‘polar region’, and we satellite connections should have restored by now. Silly me, I had bought a ‘Full Flight’ pass without realizing that the connection would be out for most of the route. That said, I did inform the purser that it was a bit disappointing that Wifi connection had not been restored. The kind crew did their best to restart at their end, but to no avail.

The purser returned to my pod and said “Unfortunately, it looks like our Wifi service is down, but may I present an even better alternative? In a few minutes we will be passing over beautiful mountain region of Uzbekistan, into the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan/Pakistan, some of the best window views you will see”. Ofcourse, all my Wifi woes dissolved away a few minutes later as I peaked through my window;

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

AC 50 – the Polar Route, between Montreal and New Delhi

And just like clockwork, in a few minutes time, the terrain outside the window became a never-ending Instagram reel. Pictures don’t do justice, but the next 40 minutes or so were absolutely the best part of my 14 hour journey.

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Window view over Uzbekistan

My favourite sights were finding frozen lakes and glaciers over the mountains, that clearly charted the path down to rivers – stunning!

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Hindu Kush Himalayan Region (Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan)

After that bit of magic show, it was time to get breakfast as we closed into India, with just under an hour of flight time remaining. I opted for the ‘Pancakes, maple butter, fruit compote, chicken sausage’, served with side of Muesli, apples, raisins, coconut, pumpkin seeds, and a fruit plate.

The presentation of the pancakes was horrible, but pancake and fruit compote tasted far better than it looked. The smell of chicken sausage in-flight is nauseating to me, and I could not bring myself to even tasting it. The Museli and fruit plate is what made the breakfast for me, I polished that off in no time, it was tasty and refreshing!

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi

Breakfast: Pancakes, maple butter, fruit compote, chicken sausage

Air Canada Montreal to New Delhi – Take Away

As we approached New Delhi, I realized that I had spent 14 hours in-flight, without once feeling uncomfortable or tired. And thats a testament to the comfort of Signature Class Cabin, overall service, the friendly crew, and the beautiful Boeing Dreamliner. This would definitely be my preferred route if I was looking for the quickest way into India, from Canada. The YUL-DEL route compliments the YYZ-DEL route really well, and I hope that this is a permanent fixture on the AC roster.

For me personally, I cannot wait for the AC Mumbai flights to resume, since that is my final destination on most trips to India. On this trip however, I was riding the stylish Air Vistara from New Delhi to Mumbai, in Business Class – that review coming up shortly 🙂