Air Canada A330 Casablanca To Montreal In Premium Economy

I recently had the chance to test out Air Canada’s premium economy offering on a flight between Casablanca and Montreal. Here are my experiences on this Airbus A330 operated flight.

AC A330 CMN
Our plane for the day, a 20-ish-year-old Air Canada A330. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying

Airport and boarding

I left my house in Rabat, Morocco, at around five in the morning for my nine AM departure. An hour and a half later, my grandmother, who would be traveling with me on this flight, and I made it to Casablanca airport.

When I arrived at Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport terminal two, it seemed that everyone under the sun was flying Air Canada. Indeed, I estimate that the queue could have taken some passengers upwards of 30 minutes to get through.

Luckily for me, though, my grandmother was flying with so-called “special assistance”, aka a wheelchair, which allowed us to skip most of the crowd. However, it should be noted that Air Canada offers priority check in to all premium economy passengers.

CMN Airport Baggage carousel.
CMN airport is modern and well air-conditioned. Photo: Hamza Izourane / Wikimedia Commons

Once checked-in, my grandmother and I rolled up to security and immigration, no pun intended. The queues were reasonable, perhaps a five to ten-minute wait. We arrived at our gate with about an hour to spare, and since we got up at four in the morning, we went for a bite to eat.

Casablanca airport offers an okay selection of food and beverage options, but seeing as we had time, we headed to Paul, a French bakery chain. For our breakfast, I ordered two croissants, two coffees and a bottle of water, which cost me €8 ($10, 96DHs).  After eating, we headed back to the gate.

CMN domestic gates sipre
Unfortunately, the international section of the airport does not feature this beautiful upside-down spire. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying

At around eight, Air Canada organized a secondary, or should I say tertiary, security screening. Everyone who was seated in the boarding area was asked to move behind a cord. The process was somewhat chaotic, and most certainly not appreciated by passengers already near the gate.

Ten minutes later, we found a seat in the now “secure” boarding area. Not long after that, boarding commenced with one long line.
Passengers in zones one and two had to navigate their way to towards priority boarding, something which wasn’t particularly easy for my elderly, 50kg, grandmother. Eventually, though, we made it to the plane.

Seat and amenities

I made it to my seat no less than seven minutes after boarding commenced. Premium economy passengers were invited to use the second door, like economy-class guests, while business class used the first.

AC A330 PE seat
This comfortable seat is where I would spend the next seven or so hours. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying

Waiting at my seat was a small amenity kit, a bottle of water, a pillow and a blanket. While the amenity kits were appreciated, the pillow and blanket seemed to be straight from economy class.

AC PE Amenities
The amenity kit featured some useful items, such as an eye mask. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying

Speaking of the seat, this A330’s Premium Economy cabin was spread in a 2-3-2 configuration. According to Air Canada’s website, the seats measured 45.7 cm/18″ in width and featured 96.5 cm/ 38 ” pitch. Each seat also had a nice little footrest and supportive headrest.

AC PE A330 Legroom
Legroom on this plane is excellent, adding to the seat’s comfort.  Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying
Like on my last Air Canada flight, my seat featured some dirt and grime in various places. While I am perhaps a bit discerning when it comes to these things, I feel that messiness leads to a poor first impression.
AC in-seat snacks
My Air Canada seat even featured a snack for later. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying

 

AC Carpet Gum
At my feet, I found a piece of gum. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying

Cabin cleanliness aside, each seat also featured an AVOD system. Unlike on my last Air Canada A330 flight, this last-generation system is a staple of the Air Canada fleet. I’ve mentioned the system once before when flying between Montreal and Edmonton, so I won’t go into details.

AC A330 PE IFE
Air Canada’s A330s feature a classic, smaller, AVOD system. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying

To put things briefly, the IFE, though a bit finicky at times, is more than suitable and provides a decent amount of content. North American power plugs were also available at each seat.

Video of the day:

One thing about the AVOD that bothered me, however, was the seemingly small French-language selection.  Although this likely isn’t an issue for our readership here at Simple Flying, my grandmother only speaks French, and the lack of content in her language made it hard to find a movie.
While I’m not going to sue Air Canada over this, the IFE content was by no reasonable definition fully bilingual.

Service before takeoff

While waiting for bags to be put in the hold, a cabin crew member came around to offer us a choice of orange juice or water.

AC PE predeparture drinks
Air Canada offers pre-departure beverages, served in plastic cups. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying
A few moments later, a crew member popped by to ask passengers what they wanted for lunch. No menus were provided; instead, simply chicken or pasta options were presented.
Perhaps I’m being nit-picky, but I feel that a simple chicken or pasta choice, with no further explanation of the dishes offered, doesn’t really feel premium. For comparison, when Simple Flying flew Air France’s and Air New Zealand’s premium economy products, complete menus were offered to each passenger.
CMN Runway
I caught this stunning view of the runway. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying

Just after 09:30, 20 minutes past our scheduled departure time, our aircraft made it to the runway. Seconds later, the two Rolls Royce engines propelled us into a slightly cloudy North African sky.

Inflight service and food

Once the seat-belt signs were turned off, a flight attendant came around the cabin offering moist cloth towels to each passenger.

At 10:17, our meals were served. My chicken dish was served with a fresh salad and a berry dessert and my grandmother’s pasta dish was served with the same sides.

AC PE Chicken
My chicken dish, served with risotto, also came with a few goodies. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying
I started my meal with the salad. It consisted of fresh lettuce, grilled peppers and some cheese. Though slightly on the bland side, it seemed to be of decent quality.
AC metal fork
Air Canada uses metal cutlery in premium economy. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying
Next, I went for my chicken dish. The sizable piece of chicken came with risotto, mushrooms and carrots, all in a white sauce. Thanks to a few years of boarding school meals, I’ve come to dislike carrots and white gravy. Indeed, I think a menu would have helped me avoid this meal choice.
That said, before I dock off mental points for the meal, my sentiments are 100% due to personal preferences rather than the quality of the dish. From a more objective standpoint, the dish was okay but the was chicken a little dry.
AC PE Pasta
My grandmother’s pasta dish was quite good, and I regret not choosing that.  Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying
Slightly peckish, I had a nibble at my grandmother’s pasta dish. To be honest, I should have ordered that! The pumpkin-filled ravioli was, honestly, rather nice, and the flavors complex.
Lastly, I went for the raspberry and chocolate cake. To put things simply, it was decadent and made for a great sweet treat.
AC PE desert
The raspberry chocolate cake was delicious. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying
About an hour and a half after the meal began, the crew came around with coffee and other drinks.
AC PE Coffee
Coffee was served in a paper cup, which I feel is a missed opportunity PaxEx-wise. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying
For the rest of the flight, I read an article which was recommended to me by a reader, on aviation taxation. Once I got through my readings, I slept and watched movies.
An hour and a half before landing, a cabin crew member asked if me if I wanted “chicken or vegetarian”, with no further explanation. Rather confused, I had to ask what the chicken or veg item was. While I was told it was a sandwich, I received an odd empanada type item.
AC PE "Sandwich"
I did not care for this aluminum warped “sandwich” no, not one bit. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying
I found the snack rather bland and disappointing; luckily though, I wasn’t particularly hungry.
As for the crew, they were okay. They did their jobs and went through the motions. At no point was I greeted by name, and the overall experience could best be described as unmemorable.

Thoughts on the flight

Overall, I have mixed, but generally positive feelings on AC’s premium economy product based on this flight. Let’s start with the negatives.

Firstly, I think Air Canada can do more when it comes to cabin cleanliness. Admittedly, I say this based on previous flights in addition to this one. But, while I can forgive accidents, such as a coffee spill on a recent Air France flight, I really do not like sitting in someone else’s crumbs, or gum, for example.

The latter form of dirtiness leaves me with the impression that the current upkeep schedule is insufficient, and maybe even cheap.

AC PE View
Though I complain, the views were excellent. Bye-bye Africa! Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying
Secondly, traveling with my francophone grandmother made me realize how limited the French AVOD options are. Many countries are bilingual, and many airlines operate in languages other than English. Plenty of airlines have IFE offerings which are bilingual through and through, but not Air Canada.
While I think French-language content would be an ideal objective, the option to have subtitles would have also been acceptable.

As for the positives, let me say this – the seat was spacious. Not once did I feel cramped or claustrophobic.

AC A330 "race"
We even raced against an Embraer, I think we won. Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying

Indeed, thanks to the layout of the seat, I was able to work on my 14″ laptop and have a drink by my hand for most of the flight. When I decided to rest, I found ample room at my feet for my belongings, and I was able to find a comfortable position. The space is, in my eyes, perhaps the most compelling reason to buy premium economy and, in this regard, Air Canada did not fail.

Lastly, while the food wasn’t by any stretch a gastronomic delight, portions were sizable, and the quality was adequate. Compared to economy class, this was definitely an upgrade.

That is, of course, not taking into account that so-called ‘sandwich” and the lack of menus.

AC A330 Arrival
While I was disappointed by some aspects of the flight, I did fly to Montreal in comfort.  Photo: Thomas J. Hayden-Lefebvre / Simple Flying

Have you flown Air Canada’s premium economy product? Did your experiences match ours? Have I been too harsh on the North American carrier? Let us know in the comments.

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Raphael Solomon

Air Canada premium economy has never been luxurious. It is mostly economy food and amenities with more legroom. The video system is much better on the Dreamliners, but it has sadly not been updated on their Airbus aircraft. The other advantage of premium economy is early boarding and free checkin of a second bag.

I have flown premium economy with Air Canada to Brussels, Paris, and Tel Aviv. If it’s not a Dreamliner, its probably not worth it.

Rich Rayburn

Descent review, thanks. Only issue is the aircraft on this route is one of the very few not yet retrofitted to the new Air Canada standard, so the seat amenities and IFS are completely different (and much improved) to what you experienced. As well, all entertainment is available in French and English with voice over or subtitles by choosing the language selection.