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Flying to Canada - Air Canada vs KLM

 Poster: A snowHead
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Just wondering if anyone who was used to flying with these airlines had any opinions over which one to chose.

Now the summer holiday is over thoughts are turning to winter and this year we are heading off to Banff. Living in Yorkshire it looks like we have a couple of options for the flight. We've discounted BA direct from Heathrow - it lands late evening in Calgary so realistically it would need a hotel stay there, and lose a day in Banff. So we can either fly Air Canada direct from Heathrow (a four or five hour drive) or KLM from Leeds/Bradford changing at Amsterdam. Or finally BA from Leeds to catch the Air Canada flight. The costs are much the same - but flying from Leeds will save us an awful lot in carparking. Also it saves having to drive back up north after an overnight flight

Is their any difference between KLM and Air Canada - or is longhual economy equally bad in both? Has anyone changed in Amsterdam and what's it like? Would Amsterdam likely be a nicer experience than Heathrow? The KLM flight gives us 4hr in Amsterdam, which should be plenty but I'm always slightly worried about connecting flights vs direct in case one leg is delayed or cancelled?

If anyone has any thoughts that would be great, thanks
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Air Transat used to do a Manchester to Calgary via Toronto in the winter, I can only get the website to accept a date until end Oct at the moment, so maybe not.

Just watch out for the LBA via Amsterdam, they often offer a very short transfer so your bags don't make it (or you don't). Schipol is a colossal airport, is very busy and can be prone to fog early doors so there is a tad more risk than going LHR direct.
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Have you considered a US airline from Leeds if that route exists and getting an 'internal' flight once you are on that side of the Atlantic? Might open up more options. I find transiting in the US quite easy if you stay with the same airline. Only downside is going through border control with is just bearable.

In regards to the difference in evonom class I think they are all fairly similar. it's the type of aircraft that makes the difference and that would decide it for me all other things being equal. A 787 is my first choice due to newer entertaining system (likely to be a day flight), and higher cabin pressure (makes a big difference to jet lag) or 747 if feeling sentimental as they are generally roomier.
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@TommyJ,

We've done all these options, over the years. If you do the BA from Leeds to catch the AC flight, you won't be able to check your bags all the way through to Calgary, but you'll have to collect them at LHR and then lug them across to whichever terminal AC now fly from to re-check them in (used to be T4, I think). This is a right royal PITA. (You'll be able to check them right through to LBA on the way home though).

How late is "Late" in Calgary? The transfer from Calgary to Banff isn't too painful - I've never had to miss a day by including a local airport hotel after arrival in Canada.

If you go KLM via Amsterdam, the 4 hour transfer is OK. Schiphol is a MUCH nicer airport than Heathrow (try and bag one of the lounger type seats when you get there and you can put your feet up and relax).

Longhaul economy is painful in every airline.

@Ozboy,
I don't think any US airlines fly from Leeds (thank God, since they're universally awful).
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Thanks for the replies. I didn't realise that if we caught the BA flight to LHR then the AC we'd have to collect our bags - I think it pretty much rules that one out as there's no advantage to going via Amsterdam - and it sounds like Schiphol is a nicer airport.

If we are booked through from Leeds to Calgary via Amsterdam do we have to collect our bags in transit? And do we have to go through immigration and security at Amsterdam or just transfer gate to gate?

The BA flight doesn't land till 19:30 (local time) - so I was guessing an hour to clear the airport and get bags and car and 1.5-2hr drive to Banff so it would be nearer 10pm when we arrived. This of course is 5am local time and rather too late for our 7yr I think!! It would definitely mean we couldn't sort ski hire, lift passes etc out that evening.

You can't fly to the US (or anywhere longhaul from Leeds). There are very few options for flying to Canada direct from the North, even going via Toronto or Montreal. So the next option would be US from Manchester, and for all that hassle I might as well drive to London!!
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I flew with Westjet direct to Calgary from Gatwick this year, then on to Kelowna ~£600 for the flights, I could have flown from Teesside via Amsterdam but that was £1600! Later in January the flights were sub £500. I trawled around and the only direct flights at that time of year were LHR or LGW and travelling alone from Whitby N.Yorks I could have flown from MAN but via a 5hr wait in LHR and still had the cost of parking.
I think the flight left LGW at 11:40 so I got the O/N coach from Middlesbrough, I've never understood the concept of getting a hotel the night before an early flight unless I had money to burn.
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I havent done it using that route but I would guess that with KLM, you would check the bags all the way to Calgary and shouldn't have to go through security etc at Schipol unless changing terminals.

Also, if you are booked through on the same airline, should there be a delay in the Leeds flight that means you can't catch the onward flight to Calgary, they should get you on the next one. If it is a bit tight, you normally get fast tracked if possible. With BA/Air Canada, they would be seperate flights so if your one to LHR was delayed, Air Canada would not be responsible for getting you onwards to Calgary.
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we do BA to Heathrow and then out again on AirCanada and they move our bags for us as they are checked straight through. We go to Vancouver so not a direct comparison I am afraid, happy with AC never any issues other than pretty full planes. Yes you have to move Terminals but you do even if you stay with BA.

I did look at KLM but the hanging around time at Schipol was too long for us - so stuck with our usual.

Also looked at Via Iceland as at least that is on the way, but you would have to start in Manchester. Look on sky scanner.com to find all the possible flights. Manchester also gives you the via USA options suggested above.
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I don't have money to burn but I think an overnight coach journey followed by the airport then a longhaul flight might just be a bit too much for my 7yr old!! I think MrsJ would draw the line at an O/N coach!

Whenever we've flown longhaul (which we've done a few times with him) the cost of car parking is very similar to the cost of a hotel + parking with the advantage of not getting up in the middle of the night.

I didn't think of WestJet, but will look into it. Mind you Gatwick is another hour or so further from us so unless the flight is significantly cheaper we'll stick with Heathrow. Basically I'm trying to decided direct flight from London or local flight from Leeds involving a change somewhere
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Quote:

I don't have money to burn but I think an overnight coach journey followed by the airport then a longhaul flight might just be a bit too much for my 7yr old!! I think MrsJ would draw the line at an O/N coach!

It was a kind of torture! but as I was alone, it was half the price of driving, I would not have considered it if there had been two or more of us. Apart from getting to Gatwick, the Westjet flights had the best timings and price.
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TommyJ, We did exactly this trip last year, HUY to AMS - YYC with KLM - dreamliner plane too. Wasn't a problem, everything went smoothly in AMS - we did have a bit of a layover so breakfast was taken. Lounge seats are upstairs over looking the runways, grab a couple if you can well worth it.
Dont worry about connections in AMS, very rare you miss them and 4 hrs is more than enough. We've landed on the return leg with 30 mins to connecting flight and made it Smile They did make us a priority to get off the plane, thanks to a friendly cabin crew and we had to run to the gate. The big surprise was our luggage making the same flight too.
The flight wasn't a problem and food pretty good for air food. They provide nibbles FOC in the galley - help yourself. Along with beverages - alcoholic and non. You don't see your luggage until YYC if you go via Amsterdam - no need to collect.

We arrived in YYC around 13.30 IIRC plenty of time to collect 4x4, hit the road to the hotel. We stayed in Canmore as it suited our needs better only just over an hours drive. When we go again the Canada we'll do the same flight. We've done Heathrow with air Canada before, but wouldn't again. KLM seemed a better option and more professional.
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If I had a choice of doing a transfer at LHR or Schiphol then I'd pick Schiphol every time - that's an airport not an airline issue. It's just that UK airports are terrible. I don't really notice the difference in those airlines but you can google all that if it matters to you. I'd pick the cheapest and avoid the food. Obviously any transfer increases your risk of baggage loss, but that's not a variable you can control if you're coming from there.

I've always flown from T3 on Air Canada from LHR. That's the one with only fat peoples' food available.

Air Canada check in last year told me they'd take snowboards (and I suppose skis) for free at holiday times, although I don't know for sure or care as I don't have that much stuff anyway.

As far a getting into Calgary... earlier is better, but as stated a bus transfer there is pretty low stress, or you can stay right there in the airport. If you do the transfer then the main challenge is to stay awake; I don't have kids, but I'd imagine they would fail that and be asleep, so you'd likely not have a problem until about 00:30 next morning wink Overall I'd not be worried about those timings, although earlier is better just generally.
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Air Canada deffo takes a snowboard/ski bag for free. On top of your normal hold bag.
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I went with air Canada and carriage was included, times were spot on and the service was great. Wouldn't dream of going with any other airline but hey I'm in London so was ez pz!
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Acacia wrote:
@TommyJ,
We've done all these options, over the years. If you do the BA from Leeds to catch the AC flight, you won't be able to check your bags all the way through to Calgary, but you'll have to collect them at LHR and then lug them across to whichever terminal AC now fly from to re-check them in (used to be T4, I think). This is a right royal PITA. (You'll be able to check them right through to LBA on the way home though).


Not quite right (at least according to the information I have been given from both Air Canada and BA for similar routed flights in March 2018).

If the two connecting flights are part of the same ticket then your bags will be checked through from initial check in to final destination.

If you book the two flights separately then yes you will need to collect and re-check in.

Also, with Air Canada you can check in skis and boots in addition to standard hold allowance at no extra cost - I doubt this is the case with KLM.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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TommyJ wrote:
Just wondering if anyone who was used to flying with these airlines had any opinions over which one to chose.

Now the summer holiday is over thoughts are turning to winter and this year we are heading off to Banff. Living in Yorkshire it looks like we have a couple of options for the flight. We've discounted BA direct from Heathrow - it lands late evening in Calgary so realistically it would need a hotel stay there, and lose a day in Banff. So we can either fly Air Canada direct from Heathrow (a four or five hour drive) or KLM from Leeds/Bradford changing at Amsterdam. Or finally BA from Leeds to catch the Air Canada flight. The costs are much the same - but flying from Leeds will save us an awful lot in carparking. Also it saves having to drive back up north after an overnight flight

Is their any difference between KLM and Air Canada - or is longhual economy equally bad in both? Has anyone changed in Amsterdam and what's it like? Would Amsterdam likely be a nicer experience than Heathrow? The KLM flight gives us 4hr in Amsterdam, which should be plenty but I'm always slightly worried about connecting flights vs direct in case one leg is delayed or cancelled?

If anyone has any thoughts that would be great, thanks


BA LHR to YYC lands at 1545 and leaves you plenty of time to get to Banff.
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We travel each winter from Wakefield West Yorkshire by taxi to Heathrow and then Air Canada to Calgary.
It's a breeze,- but it does increase the cost.
Driving to Heathrow is not bad but then factor in parking and the cost adds up. Also the return journey is the harder one. You are too tired to safely drive after the flight.
The taxi option removes all stress. This is always provided you know a reliable taxi/transfer company. If you can afford it I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this option. Free ski carriage is available with Air Canada.
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Flying with Air Canada in Jan to Vancouver. My booking tells me I'm allowed a ski bag but not a suitcase also. Will have to check with the TO before we work out how to get 5 lots of skis there without costing the earth.

Agree with the taxi, works well. Just discovered a company I do some consultancy for has it's new HQ 5 mins from LHR and will let me leave car there secured for free. Shall get an uber to the terminal. Can even drop the luggage and others off on the way.
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@TommyJ your going to have great time.
Air Canada is nice and KLM is nice too.

When you arrive in Calgary in the evening, your body clock will be six hours ahead and you'll be knackerd.
Driving to Calgary even though its not too far its a bad idea, Alberta in January may have its own ideas of where you can go.

Get your head down after a couple of beers in an Airport near the hotel, if you are feeling not too tired you should make a visit to the Bass Pro Shop, also if one of you has a Costco account you can save quite a lot on your lift tickets.
These are all near the airport. You should visit it on the way home if you want to waste some time,

you'll want to get up at about 4am to get on the road.
You'll be on Banff in a flash and you can get a great breakfast ... in the Caribou Lodge
(thats my favourite in Banff)


The favourite airline used to be Transat (because of their price) I think they have changed their schedules though Sad

Have a look at the "Canadian affair" website, they seem to have the best deals. for flights cars and hotels.

Have a great time and let us all know how its going.

I hope the weather is good for you, you'll need a neoprene face face mask
Razz
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I'd take the KLM option via Schipol.

Air Canada has a bit of a reputation... not sure how may Canadians are on this board, but some I know are not exactly overly proud of their national airline.

Flew them from UK - on the return trip, my friend was bumped due to overbooking and had to fight to get them to sort out alternative arrangements which still got him home a day later...

I had Star Alliance ( which includes Air Canada) Gold membership, but despite that when I checked in was told I was on standby due to seat shortages.... but got 'lucky' to get the seat i'd booked and paid for...

Isn't KLM a fair bit cheaper as you avoid the ludicrous out-of-Heathrow International departure tax rate ( paying the cheaper Euro rate to Amsterdam)?.
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Dual citizen and I echo @coops1967, about Air Canada. Would always fly west jet over Air Canada everytime. For internal flights, in my expereine Air caanda are plagued with delays, overbooking etc etc.

West jet fly to Gatwick, is that an option with an internal flight to Leeds? Ditto transat?
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I took the BA to Calgary then the Airporter to Banff, and indeed arrived somewhere around 10pm - and my 7 year old survived it Smile I'd have to go back and check, but I guess we also did Lisbon to LHR in the early morning, so comparable to you flying down from Yorkshire.

My children are good, and I forewarn them that it will be a bonkers long day, I also instruct them to put an eye mask on for an hour or so of the flight to make sure they have a little rest in the middle of the "day". I think they conked out on the Airporter, and we had to shake them awake to get them off; forgotten if they walked off or if I had to carry the little one. As I say, no tears as they were expecting it, and compliant, and hotel had been warned to have the beds ready. I do recall we forgot to pick up one of our bags from the Airporter! but they delivered it back the next day. We then "wrote off" the next day for a long lie-in, getting skis fitted etc.

I'm still looking at how "early" the coming Easter is, and wondering whether I should throw caution to the wind and go to Banff again! (Did get a shock when I was looking last year and accurately added up the cost though - compare that to loading up the car and driving to Pyrenees, it was definitely a luxury Sad )

Good luck!
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There are no internal flights to Gatwick at least there were non when i looked earlier this year, so i have booked to Calgary from Manchester with ba early feb but driving to Vancouver for the return via a few ski resorts.
Looked at icelandic air and a stopover on the return leg.
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You can use Matrix to find out all options.
https://matrix.itasoftware.com

Use expert flyer for seat availability as well Happy Before Booking Happy


In Matrix you can type in multiple options (note, if you use premium economy you default to business on smaller internal routes ad it is too advanced to use the workaround for a newbie)

e.g. I search using the from box. GLA, EDI, MAN, DUB and then get a shock how cheap it is from DUB


You could use LBA, MAN, BHX for leedsBrad, Manchester and Birmingham


What are your dates? I just searched 31st March to 14th April and BA timings look better than KLM.

Also KLM uses a 777 in that route so in economy. BA uses the 787 dreamliner and you could get a premium economy one one leg for a small amount.
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PS: AMS Airport is miles better than LHR or LGW. Tons of shops, eateries and bars. Heathrow for non-status (Lounge access) is crap and you are lucky to get a seat at gatwick. I'm off again in 90 mins to India and if I wasn't BA Silver/Gold I would be going via AMS for sure rather than endure one of the London airports.
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coops1967 wrote:
...Air Canada has a bit of a reputation... not sure how may Canadians are on this board, but some I know are not exactly overly proud of their national airline. ....

That's true, although strangely the same is true of Brits and BA. You can google the stats, but for me at least airline loyalty isn't really a decider for me, it's all down to the specifics of a given flight option.

I like Air Canada, who are at least snow sports friendly, and whose "support" is not "offshored" like some I could mention.
On the very rare times I've seen them bounce people, they're all well paid volunteers. And I never had to threaten them with legal action, unlike BA.
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Can't comment on your specific routes but flew KLM to Thailand via Amsterdam and it was the best flying experience we've ever had. They seemed to be constantly wondering round offering snacks and ice cream. No luggage pick up, went straight through to Bangkok.

Flew back with Air France and although it was good service it wasn't up to KLM.

No other long haul flights to compare them to, but I would fly with KLM at the drop of a hat if they were an option for any future travel plans of mine!
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philwig wrote:
coops1967 wrote:
...Air Canada has a bit of a reputation... not sure how may Canadians are on this board, but some I know are not exactly overly proud of their national airline. ....

That's true, although strangely the same is true of Brits and BA. You can google the stats, but for me at least airline loyalty isn't really a decider for me, it's all down to the specifics of a given flight option.

I like Air Canada, who are at least snow sports friendly, and whose "support" is not "offshored" like some I could mention.
On the very rare times I've seen them bounce people, they're all well paid volunteers. And I never had to threaten them with legal action, unlike BA.


+1 on all counts (except legal action)
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Thanks everyone for all the tips and advice.

I'm aware that air Canada doesn't have a great rep amongst locals - but then you can find large numbers of postings online criticising KLM! And WestJet had a terrible rep when they started their long haul flights - 10hr with no free food other than pretzels(!) and no entertainment and frequent delays and cancellations.

I think we're edging towards KLM based on all the comments - my main worry was connecting. But it means we need only a cheap taxi ride to a local airport - and no long drive the day after a night flight.
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@TommyJ, I'll never fly KLM again with ski's.....lost ours 2x and I vowed never again, customer service useless.
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@philwig, my kids have gone off to Austria and had to pay for ski carriage with Air Canada. Their website is ambiguous to say the least. So I called them, explained their website seemed contradictory and asked what the policy would be. She told me incorrectly and agreed with me about the website, said there was nothing she could do about their website being misleading.

For internal flights I would always select west jet. Know too many people how have missed business connections with air Canada.
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@gryphea, last time I looked it was free ski carriage for people travelling from Europe to Canada but not the other way . to promote tourism I guess.
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Markymark29 wrote:
@TommyJ, I'll never fly KLM again with ski's.....lost ours 2x and I vowed never again, customer service useless.


Long haul or short ? Just wondering as we've done the Local airport - through Schipol, to North America for the last 8 years without any problems - last 3 years we haven't even paid ski carriage going out, but that's another story Toofy Grin Not for a public forum wink
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