Review: Air Canada Express CRJ-900 Economy Class from Yellowknife to Edmonton

After spending a few days in Yellowknife, it was time to continue my around-the-Northern-Hemisphere trip and head to my next destination – Vienna, Austria. Doing so involved four flights the first of which was a short hop down from Yellowknife to Edmonton on an Air Canada Express CRJ-900.

Continue reading to see what the economy class flight was like and what you can expect if you take a similar flight on Air Canada.

Air Canada CRJ-900 Economy Class
Air Canada CRJ-900 economy class.

Booking the Flight

After booking an award ticket from Calgary to Vienna via Frankfurt, I had to figure out a way to get from Yellowknife to Calgary. The easiest and slightly cheaper option was flying non-stop on a WestJet 737. However, since I took the flight in the opposite direction, I decided not to book it.

Instead, I decided to book an Air Canada ticket from Yellowknife to Calgary via Edmonton. That would give me the opportunity to try Air Canada Express CRJ-900 and Dash 8 for the first time. The ticket cost 370.78 CAD in basic economy. While that would normally mean no checked luggage, as a Star Alliance Gold member, I was able to check one bag free of charge.

Check-in & Boarding at Yellowknife Airport

I took a cab from my accommodation – Aurora Bayside Inn – fairly early, reaching Yellowknife Airport around 7AM. I headed to the check-in counters about two hours before the scheduled departure time of 9:15AM.

With just a couple of people ahead of me at the priority check-in desk which I could use thanks to my Star Alliance Gold status, it was my turn to check-in in just a couple of minutes after I joined the queue. The check-in process itself took longer than usual, though, as I wanted to have my bags checked through all the way to Vienna.

The check-in agent seemed a bit irritated by the fact that I checked in online since it meant she had to cancel the check-in and do it all over again to be able to check the bag through to the next ticket. While I could understand her frustration, I had no checking in online would cause issues, and would have appreciated it if she just went through the process without any commentary or explained the situation in a more friendly manner.

Yellowknife Airport
Yellowknife Airport.
Air Canada Check-in at Yellowknife Airport
Yellowknife Airport check-in hall.
Air Canada Check-in at Yellowknife Airport
Check-in counter.

With boarding passes for all four flights I would be taking that day in my hands, I headed to an area in the public area of the terminal that offers a good view of the apron and runways and did some plane spotting.

About an hour before departure, I went through security. There were a few people in the line but it still took me only about five minutes to get through. Airside, there were plenty of benches to seat everyone (not sure if that is the case for flights operated by 737s) and even a cafe.

While waiting for boarding to start, I was even lucky to see one of Buffalo Airways’ C-46s land.

Yellowknife Security Check Entrance
Security check entrance.
Yellowknife Airport Gate Area
Gate area.
Buffalo Airways C-46 at Yellowknife Airport
Buffalo Airways C-46.

At some point, me and one other passenger were paged. It turned out that either of us accepting an aisle seat instead of our assigned window seats would allow a family to sit together. While I wouldn’t have minded giving up my window seat, the other passenger offered to give up his.

Boarding started at 8:48AM and was a bit disorganized. At that point, I got into the queue, had my boarding pass scanned, and walked to the Air Canada Express CRJ-900 registered C-FDJZ that flew in from Edmonton the night before.

Yellowknife Airport Boarding Air Canada
Boarding.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Yellowknife
Walking to the CRJ-900.

Air Canada Express CRJ-900 Cabin & Seats

As the aircraft spent the night on the apron in Yellowknife, it was quite cold on board when I got in. Just like all other Air Canada Express CRJ-900s, the aircraft was equipped with 76 seats in two classes. I settled in my right-hand side window seat 24F.

At the front of the aircraft was a 12-seat business class cabin. It was equipped with four rows of standard recliner seats in a 1-2 layout. In addition to a power outlet and a USB port, each business class seat on the Air Canada CRJ-900 was equipped with a personal screen too.

Air Canada CRJ-900 Business Class
Business class cabin.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Business Class
Business class seats.

Separated from the business class cabin by a curtain was a 64-seat economy class cabin with 16 rows of seats in a 2-2 layout.

The seats offered perfectly fine legroom for the one-and-a-half-hour flight and the overhead panels featured an individual air vent for each of the seats.

Air Canada CRJ-900 Economy Class
Economy class cabin.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Economy Class
Economy class seats.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Economy Class Legroom
Legroom.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Overhead Panel
Overhead panel.

I was surprised to find that even economy class seats on the aircraft were equipped with personal screens (I wasn’t expecting any personal screens on a CRJ). Additionally, the seatback was also equipped with a USB-A charging port and the obligatory tray table and seat pocket.

Inside the seat pocket were a safety card, a buy-on-board menu, and a waste bag.

Air Canada CRJ-900 Economy Class IFE Screen
Seatback.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Safety Card
Seat pocket contents.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the airplane’s age (around 18 years), windows had a lot of scratches on them and a cabin looked a bit worn overall.

Air Canada Flight 8114 Departure

Boarding was completed just before 9AM. By that time, while there was an empty seat here and there, the aircraft was mostly full.

Soon after that, the captain welcomed us onboard and mentioned that the flight time would be 1 hour 18 minutes and that we would be flying at 37,000 feet. He also mentioned that it was 9 degrees Celsius and clear in Edmonton, and that we were expecting an on-time or slightly early departure.

The announcement was followed by a safety video played on the personal screens.

Air Canada CRJ-900 Safety Video
Safety video.

Eventually, we were pushed back at 9:08AM – seven minutes ahead of departure. Just as we were being pushed back, Buffalo Airways’ DC-3 taxied by – what a nice “goodbye gift!”

From our parking spot, it was just a short taxi to runway 16 from which we took off at 9:17AM.

Air Canada CRJ-900 Wing
DC-3 taxiing by.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Take-Off Yellowknife
Take-off.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Take-Off Yellowknife
Banking after take-off.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Climbing
Climbing.

Air Canada Express Domestic Short-Haul Service

A bit more than 15 minutes after take-off, seatbelt signs were switched off. At that point, the cabin crew sprung into action and, in economy class, did a drink run.

There was the usual selection of drinks including Coke, Diet Coke, ginger ale, juices, water, etc. I got a cup of ginger ale and, in what I thought was a nice touch, was asked whether I also wanted some water or anything else. With that, I decided to get a cup of water too. When my neighbor asked for a full can, the flight attendant happily obliged.

Air Canada Express Economy Class Drinks
Drink selection.
Air Canada Express Economy Class Drinks
Ginger ale and water.

In addition to the free drink service, there was also a fairly steeply-priced buy-on-board menu (that said, some fares offered items from the menu for “free”).

Air Canada In-Flight Menu
Buy-on-board menu.
Air Canada In-Flight Menu
Continued.

Less than ten minutes after I got my drink, one of the flight attendants was passing through the aisle. When she noticed my cup was empty, she asked if I wanted anything else. Considering that I was flying in economy class on a regional jet on a flight just over an hour long, I found that to be a nice touch.

In fact, the crew was nice and friendly overall.

Air Canada Express CRJ-900 Wing
Cruising toward Edmonton.

Air Canada Express CRJ-900 In-Flight Entertainment System

As mentioned earlier, I was really surprised to find the seatback in front of me equipped with a personal screen. That said, just like the aircraft overall, the screen was definitely showing its age. It was relatively low resolution and very unresponsive (and inaccurate when responding) to touch. No earphones were provided.

The in-flight entertainment system itself, which was available in English and French, was extremely slow – almost to the point of not being usable. When loading a list of movies or other entertainment items, it literally loaded them item by item, each taking at least a couple of seconds.

Air Canada CRJ-900 In-Flight Entertainment
IFE system.

That said, I guess it was better than having no entertainment system at all. For those with enough patience to navigate the system, there was an OK selection of movies, TV, and audio. Especially so considering the type of flights the aircraft is mostly used on nowadays.

Music was available both in the form of “channels” and albums.

Air Canada CRJ-900 In-Flight Entertainment
Movie categories.
Air Canada CRJ-900 In-Flight Entertainment
Movie.
Air Canada CRJ-900 In-Flight Entertainment
TV show.
Air Canada CRJ-900 In-Flight Entertainment
Music.
Air Canada CRJ-900 In-Flight Entertainment
Albums.

In addition to the above entertainment, there was, of course, also an in-flight map. With the system being quite old, rather than allowing any sort of customization, the map simply rotated between different views automatically.

Air Canada CRJ-900 In-Flight Entertainment
Map.
Air Canada CRJ-900 In-Flight Entertainment
Flight information.

Air Canada Express CRJ-900 Onboard Wi-Fi

Shortly after take-off, an announcement was made that in-flight wi-fi was available on the flight and that passengers should refrain from using voice applications.

That said, while there was an onboard network that I could connect to, the internet functionality did not seem to work. Every time I tried to see if I could connect to the internet so that I could see the pricing, I would get “Inflight internet is currently unavailable” and “Our inflight experience has been interrupted” messages.

Air Canada Express CRJ-900 Wi-Fi

Arrival at Edmonton Airport

We started descending just over an hour after take-off. Around the same time, the captain addressed us over the PA once again mentioning that we would be landing in 16 or 17 minutes and that the weather in Edmonton was clear, and thanking us for flying with Air Canada.

At 10:31AM, the seatbelt signs were switched back on, and a few minutes later – just before the landing gear was lowered, the aircraft pitched down in a typical CRJ fashion.

Air Canada CRJ-900 Economy Class View
Descending toward Edmonton Airport.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Economy Class View
Almost there.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Economy Class View
Seconds before landing.

We landed at Edmonton Airport at 10:39AM and reached our parking gate at 10:45AM – 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

Air Canada CRJ-900 Economy Class View
Landing.
Air Canada CRJ-900 Economy Class View
Taxiing to our parking spot.

Air Canada Express CRJ-900 Economy Class Summary

The one-and-a-half-hour-long flight on Air Canada’s CRJ-900 (operated by Jazz) was more or less what I expected it to be. The seats were perfectly fine for the short hop and free soft drink service was offered with the rest of the catering being available at extra cost.

Having a friendly crew working on the flight was a nice bonus. As for the personal screens, it was definitely nice having them although they were so slow I would not use them for anything other than watching the in-flight map.

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