Which Canadian Carrier Has The Best Cabin Product?

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When it comes to Canadian airlines, there are actually quite a few operating in the market. You have the largest and most expansive carrier, Air Canada, and its lead rival, the ever-expanding WestJet. Air Canada may soon acquire Air Transat, but for now, we can consider it a separate airline with a reasonably distinct product. Then there’s the list of smaller Canadian operators, which includes Sunwing, Porter, Flair, and many, many more.  So which of these carriers offers the best cabin product? There are several factors to examine before we come to a firm conclusion.

WestJet Air Canada Transat
Air Canada, WestJet, and Air Transat all operate service to Europe, as well as Mexico and the Caribbean. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Defining what’s ‘best’

First, we have to acknowledge that various airlines come in at different price points. In a very broad sense, customers do get what they pay for. Thus, a more expensive ticket will usually land you in the better cabin product, while a lower airfare will get you on a budget airline without much more than a seat.

However, in this article, we’ll primarily look at the ‘best’ cabin product period – meaning the best comfort, the best features, and the best food offerings. We’ll look at this for economy, premium economy and business class.

westjet-787-dreamliner
WestJet has been able to drastically improve its cabin product with the delivery of its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. Photo; WestJet

The top two contenders for the top cabin

Anyone who knows Canadian aviation will know that Air Canada and WestJet are the only carriers in the country to offer a true long-haul business class product.

Contender #1: Air Canada Signature Service

For Air Canada, international business class is known as Air Canada Signature Service, which the airline calls an “end-to-end premium travel experience…offered exclusively when flying to and from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America.” This service is only onboard the airline’s mainline Boeing 787s and 777s as well as their Airbus A330 jets.

This Signature Service cabin product offers the following:

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  • Executive (787 & 777) or Classic Pods (A330), with lumbar support and massage function, which convert to a fully flat bed: up to 203.2 cm (6′ 7″) long. Prods have direct aisle access.
  • A pillow, duvet and mattress pad packaged together with an amenity kit which consists of: Socks, earplugs, eye mask, toothbrush, lip balm and hand cream by Vancouver-based aromatherapy brand, Vitruvi.
  • A Customer Care Kit containing a mask, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, water bottle, headset, and a snack.
  • Dine-on-demand service for those who prefer to eat earlier or later than scheduled service times.
  • Meals are curated by award-winning Canadian chefs. Featured main courses are served with warm bread and butter, mixed greens, cheese and crackers, and fruit at any time during the flight.
  • Premium wines to accompany meals.
  • Large-screen, inflight-entertainment.

Contender #2: WestJet 787 business class

Air Canada has been the only Canadian carrier to offer a true lie-flat business class product for much of the last two decades. However, this all changed when archrival WestJet began to operate the 787-9 in 2019.

“From enhanced menu offerings, to lie-flat seats accompanied by luxurious blankets and pillows, whether you’re traveling for business or leisure, you’ll quickly understand that we mean business. For international flights we have also partnered with top Canadian brands to provide you with exclusive amenity items, including nourishing skin care products and more.” -WestJet website

These are the features listed for WestJet’s business class product:

  • Private pods that offer lie-flat seating. Seat pitch is 46 inches with 22 inches of width.
  • Custom-designed pillows and blankets.
  • The only Canadian airline with fully extendable privacy screens.
  • Dine-on-demand service accompanied by fine Canadian and international wines.
  • Large-screen (18.5 inch) inflight-entertainment system.
  • Amenity kit with products come in a Matt and Nat bag with products from Province .Apothecary, including socks, eyemask, earplugs, hand cream, lip balm, and towelette.

Verdict for best international business class

While Air Canada may have meals curated by some Canadian celebrity chefs, the business class product for both airlines seems somewhat comparable and may indeed come down to personal preference. WestJet being the newcomer, appears to have designed its offering to go head-to-head with Air Canada’s Signature Service in almost every way.

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A key thing to consider is the fact that WestJet only offers this type of service on its 787 aircraft – which internationally, only fly to Europe. Thus travelers heading to and from Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America, would not have any choice. In many cases, Air Canada would win by default.

It should be noted, however, that prominent flight-reviewers who have experienced WestJet’s 787 business class have given glowing reviews, with one even comparing it to Qatar Airways-level service. Not bad for the new kid on the block.

International premium economy

When it comes to premium economy, the two leading airlines offer comparable products. We’ll also include Air Transat’s Club Class for added comparison.

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Seating: The premium economy seats for both Air Canada and WestJet offer 38 inches of pitch. Air Transat’s Club Class seats offer 36 inches of pitch and 21.5 inches of seat width – more than Air Canada’s 20″ and WestJet’s 21″.

Inflight Entertainment: WestJet’s premium economy seats offer 13.3 inch touch screens while Air Canada’s touchscreen product varies between 10.4 and 11 inches.

Dining: All three airlines serve a premium inflight meal product, complimentary with the ticket. Alcohol is also included.

Amenities: All three airlines also offer an amenity kit of sorts. Air Canada and WestJet provide traditional amenity kits with toiletries as well as a pillow and blanket. In contrast, Air Transat’s ‘Comfort Kit’ simply consists of a blanket, inflatable neck pillow, and sleep mask.

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Air Canada 787-9
Air Canada’s flagship aircraft is the Boeing 787. Photo: Air Canada

Verdict for best international premium economy class

The verdict would be reasonably similar to the results of business class. Air Canada and WestJet offer comparable products. WestJet does win on the inflight-entertainment side as it has the larger screen. Again, Air Canada’s more expansive network means that it might just win by default on many routes that its competitors don’t yet serve.

Air Transat’s Club Class is below its competitors but will more often come with a much lower price tag. Therefore, Club Class may actually offer the best value for money when flying long-haul to Europe.

International economy

Seating: All three airlines have seats that are between 17 and 17.5 inches wide. Air Canada and WestJet both have a seat pitch of about 31 inches, while Air Transat’s A330 is listed as 32 to 33 inches. Air Transat’s brand new A321LR offers 31 inches of pitch with 18 inches of width.

Inflight Entertainment: All three airlines offer personal touchscreen entertainment systems.

Dining: All three airlines serve a complimentary inflight meal product. However, for Air Transat and WestJet, this is to Europe only. Air Transat’s flights to southern vacation destinations and the Unites States offer snacks and meals for purchase.

Air Transat
Air Transat often offers the best value for money with its products. Photo: Air Transat

The best Canadian international economy class

Again, depending on the time of year and scheduling, Air Transat’s economy class may be the best value. Air Canada again will win by default on routes outside of Europe, but WestJet brings some good competition with its transatlantic 787-9 service.

Have you flown on these Canadian airlines before? What’s your opinion on the best cabin product? Let us know in the comments.

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