I recently flew Westjet’s Boeing 787-9 on the inaugural flight from London to Calgary. Their main long haul competition is Air Canada, the country’s flag carrier. How did it measure up?
I took this flight to position myself into North America prior to embarking on a diverse trip including Aeromexico and Azul, down the spine of the Americas – and of course, to make a video for my YouTube channel:
My flight began with a transfer experience in Frankfurt. This is a terrible airport for connections – I had to re-clear security, as is the norm here, and the distances involved are lengthy. Fortunately, I had a sensible buffer of four hours and arrived just before the Air Canada Lounge at the B gates opened, at 6am.
This is an excellent lounge, with understated decor, great food options, an apron view and four well-appointed shower suites.
My flight was operated by a Boeing 797-9 Dreamliner, which was still in the old Air Canada livery of “toothpaste blue”.
Onboard, Air Canada’s business class (which they brand as “Signature”) is arranged in a standard 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration.
Each seat has direct aisle access and the otherwise drab grey colour scheme is offset by occasional red highlights, such as the company logo embroidered on the headrest.
These are solid seats for long haul business class – I liked the faux wood finishes.
The main difference between this and Westjet’s seat is the absence of the literature holder beside the window:
Takeoff was punctual and uneventful, and the in-flight service started shortly afterwards.
Food service is a definite highlight on Air Canada’s long haul business class. A menu was handed out on the ground highlighting the four main courses (Westjet have three), and the dine on demand concept.
I chose to start things off with a whisky, gin and cranberry signature cocktail – a fine drink to precede a lunch, with just enough kick to make it interesting.
The food service was outstanding. All of the courses were equally delicious, well presented and interesting to eat. I chose the beef fillet for my main, which arrived cooked medium.
Clearly, a lot of thought has been put into the catering. The crew also deserve special mention; they were well-drilled and the service was professional and polished without being too formal. The meal service was concluded two hours after takeoff, and I had a “nightcap” of Baileys before retiring to bed.
The bathroom in the mid cabin on the 787 features a window, which can be dimmed, and even has a blind – I left it open but bizarrely it was closed later in the flight (I am not sure who would be looking in at FL400!).
The bed reclines fully flat and is comfortable and wide enough to fit most people. Arm space wasn’t an issue for me, and I got five hours of unbroken sleep.
The bedding was of a good quality with a reasonably sized pillow; it may be too soft for some tastes, but I found it to be comfortable and supportive. A plain amenity kit also comes with the business class fare, which contains mid-range products and everything you would expect to find on a flight of this length.
Noise cancelling headphones are also provided, which were quite good, although certainly not near Bose quality (not many airlines’ are!).
The IFE was conspicuously good, with a wide selection of English and French options and some new releases. There is something for most tastes and I could have watched 20 or 30 hours of the programming and still not been bored.
The service concluded with a second light pasta meal, which was also delicious, and very sensibly portioned given the flight landed in Vancouver in the early afternoon, with most customers wanting to eat dinner in the evening.
Touchdown in Vancouver was punctual and in perfect weather.
Overall, a very high quality experience by Air Canada. This was my first time flying their long haul business class and I was impressed by the service proposition and the execution. The excellent crew made the flight memorable and I was left with a very good impression upon landing.
My fare cost £1,350 return from Tunis.
You can find many low business class fares from Tunis, but I should warn that this is a destination with some security risks and you will need to be a confident and streetwise solo traveller to navigate it without difficulty. Please check travel restrictions on Tunis and make your own risk assessment before you try it for yourself!