Cathay Pacific vs Air Canada

A couple of weeks ago, I flew my first international flight on Air Canada (AC) from Hong Kong to Toronto and back. You may know that when I fly, I prefer Cathay Pacific (CX) out of an odd and unjustified sense of loyalty, and mostly because I know what to expect from them.

Here’s my experience with Air Canada:


  • Okay, bread rolls were ice cold and that’s never good, alright? Especially when it says warm rolls on the menu. I can forgive the butter being cold when you’re flying coach, but come on, I had to heat up the rolls and butter using my own entree. No, I didn’t ask to have them heated up because I’ve been told by frequent AC flyers that the crew flat out refuses to do it. Also it just wasn’t worth the trouble.
  • Drinks collection though, was nice. They mostly give you your alcohol in little mini fridge bottles which I thought was the cutest thing ever. Also a wider selection than on Cathay. For some reason on board both flights I really loved my Baileys even though I rarely ever drink this normally.


  • I’m still kind of on the food topic here. Their menu is electronic, found in the PTV which I thought was pretty neat. Better than having to pass out hard copies. Also super awkward for the cabin crew when you start running out.
  • Movies selection – up to date (had Bohemian Rhapsody) but definitely not as wide of a selection as on Cathay. This could be down to preference though, there were quite a lot of movies on AC, but I just wasn’t very interested.
  • One-off glitch: my seat back would fully recline but also returned to the upright position overtime – sneaky! i.e. it didn’t stay reclined


  • My PTV glitched right before the meal and it took the 3rd crew member I approached for it to be reset. I get that they were busy, but from a service point of view, it’s kind of sucky to make your passenger stare at a blank screen while eating. Fair enough, I didn’t drop everything to have a PTV reset when I was a flight attendant, but as soon as I got the chance I’d do it or call the front to ask someone to help have it reset. It mostly just felt like they didn’t care (which is why it didn’t feel like there was a point in telling them about my seat back, especially since it was a full flight).
  • I’ve put bathrooms here because it’s down to how often and well crew members do their checks. On AC, I was quite pleasantly surprised at how clean the bathrooms were. I’m quite aware that this also has to do with the passenger demographic because I would say CX passengers do tend to invite themselves to abuse the crew and aircraft, but still, props to the team!
  • In general, I think the crew members are friendly, but there’s definitely no service language to speak of (I think even fast food chains do it better). I know this makes me sound posh and picky, but when you’re paying a similar price for your airfare, and you know the service can be provided on other airlines (or are used to it), it comes as a bit of a shock. Added with how loudly the crew is comfortable with chit chatting over their carts, it really gives the feeling that they’re just here to get the basics of the job done and have a good time, which is fine, if you’re working for a budget airline.


  • I don’t quite get the queuing system at the gate where passengers start lining up about 20-30 minutes before the boarding time. Perhaps this is more passengers initiated? On AC they have lines for different zones but honestly, no boarding gate really has the space for it, and this might have to do with the cabin crew’s efficiency, but the boarding time is definitely longer than it is on CX. i.e. As a passenger, I don’t see this queuing system actually making an improvement.
  • My suitcase! Perhaps it’s old and it’s about time for it to go. But I don’t see any other airline breaking my suitcase:

Overall, I appreciate that AC crew are friendly, the passengers are a lot calmer which makes for a much more peaceful flight, the bathrooms are a lot cleaner, and the flight schedule worked better for me this time. Having said that, considering what I experienced flying in Economy, I would much rather fly Cathay Pacific if I were on Premium Economy or Business, just from having the confidence that I’ll be taken care of.

If I am flying Economy again, I think I would only fly AC again if the price and flight times are better. In other words, the only real advantage AC has over CX is that their passengers (my neighbours for 15 hours) seem to be much nicer to be around, and I’m not sure if this is really AC’s credit to take.

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