Review: Air Canada Business Class 787 Vancouver To Toronto

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Air Canada 1176
Vancouver (YVR) – Toronto (YYZ)
Thursday, May 19
Depart: 11:30AM
Arrive: 6:50PM
Duration: 4hr20min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 2A (Business Class)

Boarding commenced at 12:15PM through door L2. At the door I was welcomed by the friendly service director, Karen, who pointed me left towards the business class cabin.

Air Canada’s 787-8 business class cabin is intimate. It consists of just 20 seats, spread across five rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. The cabin consists of the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat, which is the same as those offered on Qatar Airways, Virgin Australia, and now on American’s new 787-9s and 777-200s.

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Air Canada 787-8 business class cabin

I had selected seat 2A, the left window seat in the second row. I love Air Canada’s seat finishes — while they’re not the most adventurous out there, they look sleek, in my opinion.

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Air Canada 787 business class seat

One of the things which makes the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat different from the Zodiac reverse herringbone seat offered by many other airlines (like Air France, American, AviancaCathay Pacific, Finnair, etc.) is that the tray table can’t actually be fully stored. Instead it slides out from under the entertainment screen. Furthermore, the entertainment screen is always positioned in front of you, rather than having to be folded away for takeoff and landing.

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Air Canada 787 business class seat

The seat controls were to the left of my seat, and were easy to use.

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Air Canada 787 business class seat controls

Above the seat controls was a fairly large compartment with the entertainment controls, headphone jack, and both a USB and 110v outlet. I like the space, since you can charge your iPhone, etc., while having the compartment completely closed.

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Air Canada 787 business class entertainment controls, headphone jack, and power ports

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Air Canada business class entertainment controls

This version of the reverse herringbone seat also has a decent size footrest, and even better, has an area under the ottoman where you can store shoes or a small bag.

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Air Canada 787 business class legroom

On the bottom left side of the seat was a magazine rack and a small storage space.

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Air Canada 787 business class literature pocket

On the bottom right of the seat was a small exterior storage compartment, which was big enough for a bottle of water, amenity kit, etc. This was located below the adjustable armrest, which had to be stored for takeoff and landing.

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Air Canada business class seat storage

I also love that Air Canada’s 787s have individual air vents, which many airlines don’t offer.

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Air Canada business class air nozzles

As is the norm on the 787, there weren’t window shades, but rather the windows could be dimmed using the controls immediately next to the seat.

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787 window controls

Also waiting at my seat were a plush pillow and blanket. It might sound minor, but I love the fact that Air Canada offers the same pillow and blanket on their domestic flights as they do on their longhaul flights. If you fly a US carrier, on the other hand, you’ll typically only get a paper thin blanket and no pillow, even in first class.

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Air Canada business class pillow & blanket

Once settled in the super friendly flight attendants came around with pre-departure beverages, with the choice between water and orange juice.

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Air Canada business class pre-departure drink

Shortly thereafter they came around with newspapers, and then finally distributed menus for the flight.

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Air Canada business class menu

Air Canada’s entertainment system becomes available during boarding, so I already started browsing the selection during this time. You can only use in-ear headphones plugged into the plane’s entertainment system during taxi, takeoff, and landing. You can’t use noise canceling headphones.

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Air Canada business class earphones

At around 12:35PM the service director made her welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 3hr54min and cruising altitude of 39,000 feet. All announcements throughout the flight were made in both English and French, as is the norm on Air Canada.

At 12:35PM boarding was complete — it’s impressive that Air Canada can board a full 787 in 20 minutes.

At 12:40PM the captain added his welcome aboard as well, anticipating a smooth ride to Toronto.

A couple of minutes after that the door closed, and then at 12:45PM we started our push back, at which point the safety video began to play.

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View after pushback at Vancouver Airport

Air Canada must have some of the most diverse casting of any safety video out there, and even features a gay couple in it:

We pushed back right next to a gorgeous Air Canada 777-300ER — I really do like Air Canada’s livery.

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Air Canada 777-300ER Vancouver Airport

While taxiing to the runway we passed an Air Canada 787-8, Air Canada A321, and Air Canada 767-300.

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Air Canada 787 Vancouver Airport

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Air Canada 787 Vancouver Airport

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Air Canada A321 Vancouver Airport

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Air Canada 767-300 Vancouver Airport

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Taxiing Vancouver Airport

Then we taxied out past the prop planes, and then past the WestJet terminal.

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Taxiing Vancouver Airport

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Taxiing Vancouver Airport

Lastly we passed the cargo area, where there was a DHL 767 and Cargojet 757.

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DHL 767 Vancouver Airport

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Cargojet 757 Vancouver Airport

At 1PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 26L.

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Taking off Vancouver Airport

We hit some light chop on the climb out, but once we were above the clouds the ride smoothed out. As usual, the views flying out of Vancouver were gorgeous.

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View after takeoff from Vancouver

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View after takeoff from Vancouver

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View after takeoff from Vancouver

It was especially cool that I got a direct view of Vancouver Airport a bit after takeoff, given that we took off into the west and then made a 180 degree turn.

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View of Vancouver Airport after takeoff

The seatbelt sign was turned off less than 10 minutes after takeoff. As we climbed out I continued to browse the entertainment selection. I started with the airshow.

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Airshow enroute to Toronto

Air Canada has an awesome interactive airshow feature, which showed all kinds of perspectives.

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Airshow enroute to Toronto

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Airshow enroute to Toronto

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Airshow enroute to Toronto

The entertainment selection is also extensive, with plenty of TV shows and movies. While many of the shows were ones which are also available on other airlines, I was shocked that there were episodes of both “2 Broke Girls” and “The Big Bang Theory” which I hadn’t seen. It has been a long time since I’ve found sitcoms I haven’t seen on a plane, as they all seem to recycle the same episodes.

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Air Canada enRoute entertainment system

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Air Canada enRoute entertainment system

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Air Canada enRoute entertainment system

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View from seat 2A in Air Canada 787 business class

After takeoff I headed to the lavatory — the 787-8 has one lavatory in front of the business class cabin, and then two behind the cabin. However, I believe one of the two behind the cabin is intended for premium economy.

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Air Canada 787 business class lavatory

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Air Canada 787 business class lavatory amenities

After takeoff the crew came around with proper noise canceling headphones.

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Air Canada business class headphones

The service director also came around the cabin to greet passengers and take meal orders. Air Canada really seems to embrace the concept of service directors, which I really appreciate. I’ve found service to consistently be better on airlines with someone actually in charge, rather than just the US airline model, where a purser is paid a couple of extra dollars an hour to do the paperwork and make the announcements.

Air Canada seems to prioritize meal orders by status and/or fare, since the crew hopped around the cabin to take meal orders.

The lunch menu read as follows:

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About 15 minutes after takeoff, hot towels were distributed — Air Canada’s hot towels are nice and thick.

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Air Canada business class hot towel

Then 25 minutes after takeoff a cart was rolled through the aisle with drinks and warm cashews. I ordered a gin & tonic.

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Air Canada business class lunch — gin & tonic and cashews

About 30 minutes after the meal was served, the crew rolled another cart through the cabin with the appetizer, which consisted of prosciutto and melon.

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Air Canada business class lunch — starter & bread

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Air Canada business class lunch starter — prosciutto and cantaloupe with mixed greens

There were two types of bread on offer — I selected the baguette.

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Air Canada business class lunch — bread

As soon as starters were cleared, the crew brought out main courses individually, rather than rolling a cart through the aisle again. I had ordered the chicken curry, which was quite good. It would have been a lot better if they used higher quality chicken. The chicken was only slightly better than what you’d expect in a microwave dish. However, the curry was nice and spicy, and the rice was surprisingly good given that it was prepared on a plane.

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Air Canada business class lunch main course — green curry chicken

Another 15 minutes after the main course was served, the crew came through with a dessert cart, consisting of fruit, cookies, and ice cream. I caved and had the vanilla gelato and freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. I had a cup of coffee to accompany it. Mmmmm…

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Air Canada business class dessert — ice cream and cookies

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Air Canada business class dessert — Freso Gelato

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Air Canada business class dessert — chocolate chip cookie

After lunch I decided to watch “Just For Laughs,” which seemed fitting. That’s the silent comedy show I’ve seen on a countless number of airlines, and it’s based in Canada. However, this happened to be the “stand-up” version, which featured some of the least funny comedians I’ve ever heard. I think the problem is that Canadians might be too friendly/polite to be good stand-up comedians. 😉

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Air Canada entertainment system

I managed to nap for about an hour after the meal, and woke up just under an hour out of Toronto.

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Airshow enroute to Toronto

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Airshow enroute to Toronto

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Airshow enroute to Toronto

At that point the crew came around with a snack basket and pre-landing beverages. I ordered a glass of still water, and selected a Kit Kat bar (which I placed in my carry-on for consumption at a later point).

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Air Canada business class snack basket

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Air Canada business class water and pre-landing snack

At around 7:25PM ET the captain came on the PA to inform us we’d be landing in about 30 minutes. At that point we began our descent, just as the sun was slowly starting to set.

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View enroute to Toronto

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View on approach into Toronto

We had great views of the Toronto skyline on approach.

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View on approach into Toronto

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View on final approach into Toronto

We had a smooth touchdown in Toronto on runway 23 at 7:55PM.

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Touchdown Toronto

From there it was about a 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate.

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Taxiing Toronto Airport

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Taxiing Toronto Airport

The traffic at the terminal was interesting, and a nice mix between what I’m used to (British Airways, Alitalia, etc.), and airlines I don’t see as much of (like Air Transat).

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Taxiing Toronto Airport

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Taxiing Toronto Airport

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British Airways & Alitalia at Toronto Airport

We pulled into our arrival gate at 8:05PM, about 75 minutes late.

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Arrival gate at Toronto Airport

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Air Canada 777-200 Toronto Airport

Air Canada 787 business class bottom line

While the food could be significantly better with just a small investment, Air Canada blew away their North American counterparts in every other way. Having a reverse herringbone seat for a transcon flight is pretty awesome.

The seats were great, the entertainment selection extensive, and the crew was friendly across the board. As I’ve said several times in this report, I suspect it’s largely just a Canadian thing, but every Air Canada employee I interacted with was chipper and attentive.

If you’ve flown Air Canada, what was your experience like?

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Comments

  1. You’re smart to choose the 787 for your transcon leg across Canada. AC offers quite a mixed transcon product, as the 787 flights are generally a connecting leg from Sydney to Toronto. Most of their flights are operated on a mixed fleet of Airbus A319/20/21 which offer a more standard domestic business w/ recliner seats and a more limited food offering

  2. Such a holiday treat! have been waiting for your SA series for a while. Let the fun begin!

  3. In the safety video, notice the Inuit mukluks in the overhead bin, and the box of live lobster under the seat. Very Canadian indeed! Love the review of the reverse herringbone seats and AC service – I’m flying the AC777 to Paris this summer in that configuration and you have given me lots to look forward to!

  4. Dude: Jim Carry, Mike Meyers, John Candy, Martin Short,Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Rick Moranis, Samantha Bee, Dan Ackroyd and Seth Rogan all of them CANADIAN stand up comedians. Hello!

  5. @nick Ha, I thought the same! But then again, if I’ve learned anything from the many trip reports I’ve read on this blog (all of which are fantastic!), it’s that Lucky’s taste in pop culture is, uh…well…

  6. Too bad you saw a batch of comedians you didn’t like, but the Just for Laughs comedy festival features comedians from around the world, not just Canadians, and I am pretty sure not even majority Canadians.
    I would also note that Canadian humour is generally a little more subtle than typical American humour as well as often being cleaner. Not a lot of Carrot Top or Andrew Dice Clay in the pantheon of Canadian humour.
    @Nick, I would note that your examples of Canadian comedians is a list of comedians from a generation ago, a golden age for Canadian comedy. Quite possibly a new generation of Canadian comedy has succumbed to the US crass cultural behemoth.

  7. Misleading review. It’s akin to reviewing UA p.s. service and extrapolating it to all domestic United J.

  8. “You’re smart to choose the 787 for your transcon leg across Canada. AC offers quite a mixed transcon product, as the 787 flights are generally a connecting leg from Sydney to Toronto.”

    AC flies the 777-200 LR for their SYD-YVR runs (as AC 33/34), not the 787. For the new YVR-BNE, that is a 787-9.

    But, yes, generally AC flies much smaller planes for their transcons, with an extra fee if you want to get one of the lie-flat J class flights.

  9. Prefer WestJet and since the major devaluation with AirCanada, I quit them after 15 years and gave my business elsewhere.

  10. Being Canadian, I feel like AC has gotten a bad rap, especially in the West of Canada. But they blow their competion away in both quality of service and amenities in both classes of service. Westjet started as a low cost carrier and maintained the same level of service while raising prices to match AC.

  11. “Most of their flights are operated on a mixed fleet of Airbus A319/20/21 which offer a more standard domestic business w/ recliner seats and a more limited food offering”

    true about the seats, but same J menu , same J food

  12. I find it strange that everyone is shocked with a good trans-con product nowadays. Delta’s newly moved A330s offer a fantastic reverse herringbone transcon product. Their service is consistently fantastic although the food is just okay. Even their 767s aren’t the worst thing in the world. American and its A321s also have a great hard product and the rest of their operation is improving everyday. United is terrible, it has always been terrible and always will be. Finally, JetBlue is the best airline in the Americas and their transcon is the best way to get coast to coast. Great food, better service. Every airline outside of Asia could learn something from them in the service department. Air Canada’s transcon product is not tangibly better than any of these. Their food is okay, just like everyone else (except JetBlue). Their service is pretty good, just like Delta (but still not as good as JetBlue). The biggest issue is that if you are based in the US, like most of the people flying transcon, it is just inconvenient to fly out of Vancouver/Toronto.

  13. I just flew Virgin Australia’s new business class cabin on the LAX- SYD sector and the suite product (as VA calls it) looks similar to this Air Canada one – the seat control, the large compartment for USB / chargers and monitor control and also the tray table that doesn’t fully stow away.

  14. Mike S – yes right always same ice cream box – same food – AC when are they going to change FOOD arrangement both domestic and intern – but at least AC is 10 times better than ex SAS pls in Europe and 5 times better than UA/AS US domestic.

  15. AC made a big deal over the espresso machines with Lavazza coffee they introduced on the 787, yet I see you’re drinking regular drip. Was the espresso/cappuccino service not offered or was the machine broken (which they seem to be on a regular basis)?

  16. That service isnt gonna remain that way for very long if donald trump is elected and americans flee to canada… 😉

  17. @ Arcanum — I could be mistaken, but I believe they only offer the espresso and cappuccino drinks on longhaul flights, and not when the plane flies within North America. I had one on my other flight, so stay tuned for that.

  18. You can’t forget Russell Peters either as one of the great Canadian comedians.

    It’s also worth noting that Air Canada is substantially more $ per km / mile than the US carriers. They just happen to be flying North of the 49th parallel in a limited market. It’s not unheard of a trans Continental fare in business class to go for above $2,000 round trip.

  19. “If you fly a US carrier, on the other hand, you’ll typically only get a paper thin blanket and no pillow, even in first class.”

    Incorrect. On AA transcontinental service, the pillow and duvet provided are the ones used on international sectors.

  20. Wonder if you had an ex-Canadian Airlines crew. IME they’re among the best in the AC system.

  21. I refuse to fly Air Canada. Yes, I am Canadian. Unlike your experience, Lucky, mine have been consistently middling to poor in economy and business class. There is no real regard for customers, nor the desire to foster long-term relationships with leisure and business clients. I take all of my US and international business to AA and One World partners, and I fly Westjet domestically.

    Air Canada is a disgrace.

  22. Seriously, I’ve been traveling for over 40 years and you can’t beat the product and service on AC. AC always had a great product and when they purchased CP, they inherited a superior service driven organization, which gave them the best of both worlds.

    On the domestic US side Rouge competes extremely well with the best of USA carriers, but internationally, going across the boarder to make international connections on AC is the right move.

    I think people forget, but flying use to be the start of your travel experience. Make it part of your personal treat , you work hard and deserve it, and spend a bit more for the better experience. Getting there is more 50% of experience and usually 25% of the price.

    You only live once.

  23. @worldtraveller73 I have never seen of any under ca$2000 ex-YVR transcon Js except during Christmas holiday, where did you find under $2000 ones?

  24. “I caved and had the vanilla gelato and freshly baked chocolate chip cookie”

    Given how you practically select the sweeter desert option when you fly, you must cave in often 😉

  25. In this Canadian’s experience, one never knows what to expect from an AC flight….it can either be a great experience or a rude one – it all depends on their inflight crews. Some crews are as good as we’ve had almost anywhere whereas other crews are as bad as we have ever seen. Each flight is a crap shoot.

  26. I agree about the AC flight crew experience being a crap shoot. Once in a while I have had some fantastic customer service while on AC. However, more often than not, they come across as not having woken up on the right side of the bed, which is unfortunate for a service industry employee.

  27. AC is just sending that plane to Vancouver so you need to compare the service to other airlines that fly premium coast to coast!
    AC is crap! Horrid service bad meals and the flight attendants have won awards for being the rudest in North America

  28. I flew AC on their 787-8 on ZRH-YYZ route. The service director, like you experienced, made a point to introduce himself to each of the passenger. Good food, good entertainment system and content. Overall, a very satisfying flight. The connecting leg, even though it was only on narrow body A321, was not bad either. Same great IFE, same great service. AC is still my #1 choice for North American-based carrier for premium cabin.

  29. <>

    Was that one of the jokes at the Just for Laughs festival?

    Westjet “Plus” is hardly a lie flat seat on a 787/89.

  30. Flew the 787-9 and 787-8 between YYZ-TLV and yyz-del. Impressive business class and infinitely better than anything else offered in NAs and Europe.

  31. I haven’t flown Air Canada but I recently flew Westjet and the Crew and service was delightful.

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