Why We Don’t Fly Air Canada to Hong Kong (or anywhere else)

Fellow Canadian travellers who have stumbled upon the post about this week’s online booking disaster with Cathay Pacific might be wondering:


It’s a reasonable question. I live in Toronto, Air Canada’s hub, and AC, like CX, offers nonstop service to Hong Kong. The truth is that for many years I gave the bulk of my flying business to Air Canada. But everything changed when I flew Cathay for the first time in 2010, and I’ve remained loyal to them ever since.

For frequent flyers, this Altitude/Distinction malarky between Air Canada and Aeroplan serves only to obfuscate and confuse. With CX it’s Asia Miles for rewards and Marco Polo Club for status. Easy. Oh, and speaking of Asia Miles, my RBC co-branded VISA gets me 2x AM on CX tickets booked with the card—whereas the best that CIBC and TD can do is 1.5x the equivalent Aeroplan points. For status, I got in on an AMEX Platinum perk that offers cardholders complimentary membership in the lofty tier of Marco Polo Gold.

Can I just say that it was almost embarrassing how much I was fawned over during my first flight as MPG, even though I had my cheap ass sat in a lowly Economy Class seat?

“Welcome Sir, I’m the crew director. If there’s anything I can get for you please let me know…”

“Sir, for your comfort during the flight we found you and Madam some socks and eye shades…”

“Sir, may I take your and Madam’s breakfast orders? I know the cart hasn’t reached you yet but we’re running low on one of the choices, which I’d be happy to fetch for you now…”

Like a Sir

Mmm, quite…

Contrast this with Air Canada, where the only time I was ever singled out as a customer with status was when I was greeted by name boarding an Air New Zealand flight. Seriously.

With Cathay the good times have kept on keepin’ on. Here’s how last winter’s vacation went down at CX check-in counters in Toronto, Hong Kong and Taipei:

“Merry Christmas Sir and Madam, you’ve been upgraded to Business Class for your flight to Hong Kong…”

“Happy New Year Sir and Madam, you’ve been upgraded for your flight to Taipei…”

“Sir and Madam, you’ve been upgraded for your flight back to Hong Kong…”

“Madam, if you had let Sir check you in I would have upgraded you both for your flight back to Toronto…”

Ok, that last interaction clearly didn’t happen, but you get the general idea. Insiders on FlyerTalk say that this AMEX perk is on the way out, but the still-achievable Marco Polo Silver status would still get us into Cathay’s Hong Kong lounges. Those lounges are honestly the stuff of legend, definitely deserving of their own post; for now I’ll just say that they’re otherworldly oases where you can expect to get fresh noodles, Dim Sum and all manners of gourmet coffee made to order.

Meanwhile, Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge in T1 YYZ marks the only place on this earth where I’ve ever been called a “faggot” for asking someone seated beside me yelling into his BlackBerry while simultaneously eating an apple to maybe lower his voice and kindly not spit apple shards into the side of my face.

True Story

You say that Air Canada has won multiple awards for Best Airline in North America; I say way to set the bar low. You dismiss my accolades of CX as evidence of some form of Stockholm syndrome, due to the online booking calamity that kicked off this blog. Fine. But while you’re suffering through our hometown airline’s new high density seating, we’ll be enjoying the only available non-stop Premium Economy service to HKG from YYZ on CX.

Yup, Premium Economy. We can’t actually afford to fly Business Class, yet Cathay still treats us like a Madam and Sir. And that’s why I don’t fly Air Canada to Hong Kong (or anywhere else).


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