Today (June 19, 2019): Review of Air Canada’s B787 Dreamliner Business Class from Brussels to Montreal.
I recently flew in Business Class on board an Air Canada Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner from Brussels (Belgium) to Montreal (Canada). Air Canada calls its international Business Class ‘Signature Class’, which is offered exclusively when flying to and from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America on board the carrier’s Boeing 787, 777 and 767 aircraft and Airbus A330 aircraft. IMHO, Signature Class is one of the best Business Class products across the Atlantic Ocean, as long as you get to fly on one of the carrier’s B787s or retrofitted B777s, which feature excellent “executive pod seats” in a 1-2-1 layout (the other aircraft types feature seats that are not revolutionary anymore). Air Canada provides great entertainment, excellent bedding, a stylish amenity kit, and above all, wonderful service by a jovial crew (this is Canada after all). The weak points of the product are the mediocre inflight meals and the lack of fleet-wide WiFi (the carrier expects to have equipped all of its planes with WiFi by the end of this year).
Air Canada features in my top 10 list of the best airlines in North America.
Have you ever flown Air Canada’s Business Class? What was your experience? Leave a comment below.
- Trip: Brussels (BRU) to Montreal (YUL)
- Airline: Air Canada
- Aircraft type: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
- Aircraft registration number: C-GHPX
- Flight Number: AC833
- Date: 20 April 2019
- On time departure: yes (10 am)
- On time arrival: yes (11 am)
- Miles: 3450 miles
- Flight time: 7 hours
- Seat: 1A
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of my ticket
- Facts & figures about Air Canada
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Onboard internet
- Other inflight experiences (crew, bar, lavatory & views)
- My verdict (score)
1. COST OF MY TICKET
I paid 1600 euros for this return trip between Brussels and Montreal. I booked the journey directly on Air Canada’s website during a flash sale.
2. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT AIR CANADA
- Air Canada is Canada’s largest airline and the largest provider of scheduled passenger services in the Canadian market, the Canada-U.S. transborder market and in the international market to and from Canada.
- In 2018, Air Canada, together with its Air Canada Express regional partners, carried nearly 51 million passengers, offering direct passenger service to more than 220 destinations on six continents.
- Air Canada is a founding member of Star Alliance, providing the world’s most comprehensive air transportation network.
- Air Canada’s predecessor, Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) inaugurated its first flight on September 1, 1937. The 50-minute flight aboard a Lockheed L-10A carried two passengers and mail between Vancouver and Seattle. By 1964, TCA had grown to become Canada’s national airline; it changed its name to Air Canada. The airline became fully privatized in 1989.
- Air Canada is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and employs 30,000 people. Its corporate headquarters are located in Montreal.
- Air Canada has a fleet of Airbus A330, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, and Boeing 787 Dreamliner wide-body aircraft on long-haul routes and uses the Airbus A320 family aircraft (including the A319, A320, and A321 variants), Boeing 737 MAX 8, and Embraer E190 family aircraft on short-haul routes. Air Canada’s average aircraft age is 13.8 years.
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
Air Canada’s Boeing 787-8 seats 251 passengers: 20 in Business Class (flat bed seats), 21 in Premium Economy Class (recliner seats), and 210 in Economy Class (standard seats). The carrier also operates a stretched version of the Dreamliner – the Boeing 787-9 – which can carry 298 passengers, with 30 in Business, 21 in Premium Economy, and 247 in Economy Class.
Air Canada’s B787-8 features a single Business Class cabin with 5 rows of 4 Business Class seats each (in comparison: there a 8 rows of Business Class seats in the B787-9, also located in one single cabin). The seats are arranged in an excellent 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout, with the seats on the sides angled out toward the windows while those in the plane’s center are angled toward one another. This configuration maximalizes privacy while ensuring direct aisle access for all passengers. There is also a privacy screen between paired center seats, which can be raised for complete privacy in case you are traveling solo. This is currently the best Business Class layout in the skies, and you also find it onboard the planes of American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Finnair, Avianca, and SriLankan to name a few.
The cabin features a sleek design of understated elegance and is fitted in a neutral and soothing color palette of white, grey and some subtle red touches. The pod walls are white, while the seats are upholstered in a light gray fabric. Air Canada’s famous logo – a red maple leaf in a circle – features prominently on the back wall of the cabin, and is also present in a tiny version on the seats’ black headrest covers.
Click here for a seat map of Air Canada’s B787-8 Dreamliners.
4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
Air Canada has selected the excellent Rockwell Collins (formerly B/E Aerospace) Super Diamond seat for its Dreamliners. The seat has a pitch of 80 inch (203 cm) and a width of 21 inch (53 cm), which ranks among the most generous dimensions for a Business Class seat in the airline industry.
One side of the seat – located towards the cabin wall for the window seats or the center line for middle seats – features a large arm rest, which holds a pop-open compartment, perfect for storing smaller items, such as glasses, wallets, cameras, and/or smartphones. This storage cubby also contains the wired controller for the inflight entertainment system (more on that below), a universal power port, a USB port, and the port for the headphones. There is enough space in this box for your electric divices while charging them and the power ports are very easy to reach, which isn’t always the case on other planes where power outlets are often tucked away into confined and hard-to-find spaces. This arm rest also features an embedded touchscreen side panel which controls the seat position (with shortcuts for the sleeping and landing modes), the overhead lighting, the floor lights, and the massage feature in the seat’s adjustable pneumatic cushion headrest.
In front of each seat is an 18 inch personal entertainment screen, the largest offered by a North American airline in Business Class. The tray table is hidden underneath the TV screen; it slides forward and folds out to expand if you want to use is a dining table or as a work desk. I much prefer this set up compared to Business Class seats where you need to pull the table out from a side-compartment. The suite’s apex, below the TV screen and tray table, features a footwell with an ottoman; there’s some space underneath the footrest to stow away your shoes during the flight, and there’s also a literature pocket on the side, which is large enough to keep a laptop tucked away when not in use. Another open storage compartment is located on the aisle side of the seat at floor level.
At the press of a button, the seat can be extended into a fully flat bed with a lenght of 80 inches (203 cm). You can also lower the arm rest on the aisle side in the fully flat position, increasing the bed’s width from 21 to 26 inches (53 to 66 cm). Using the control panel on the side, you can also adjust the firmness of the mattress depending on your liking (from very firm to very soft).
What are the best Business Class seats on Air Canada’s B787s? For a seat map, click here.
- Solo travelers should choose one of the window seats.
- Travel companions should go for the middle seats.
What are the worst Business Class seats on Air Canada’s B787s? For a seat map, click here.
- I suggest to avoid the very front row (row 1) due to its proximity to the galley and lavatories.
- I also suggest to avoid the last row of Business Class (row 5 in the B787-8) since the ‘window’ seats here don’t have any windows.
Air Canada provides the following amenities to Business Class passengers on longhaul flights:
- Designed by ‘Want Les Essentiels’, Air Canada’s Business Class amenity kit comes in the form of a vegan-leather pouch, which doubles as a clutch thanks to its clever hand strap. Inside you’ll find all the essentials for a long flight: Vitruvi skin products, a sleeping mask, socks, earplugs, a dental kit, a glasses cloth and a carrier bag.
- Excellent bedding, comprised of a quilted matress, high quality duvet, and a medium-size pillow. Turn down service is not provided though: you’ll need to handle the mattress pad and blanket set-up yourself.
- Air Canada branded noise-cancelling headphones, which aren’t of the greatest quality (I advise to bring your own).
Two meals were offered on this day flight: a 3-course lunch was served right after takeoff, and a light dinner 90 minutes prior to arrival. The nicely executed menus were featured in three languages (Dutch, French, and English).
I choose following selection from the lunch menu:
- Appetizer: smoked halibut with salsa verde, fresh arugula, and roasted pine nuts
- Salad: mixed greens, bell peppers, balsamic vinaigrette
- Main course: pan-fried beef fillet, served with demi-glace sauce, potato au gratin with broccoli, and suatéed mixed mushrooms
- Cheese: Père Joseph, Chimay, Damse Mokke, and crackers
- Dessert: Belgian chocolate, vanilla, and pistachio ice cream
And I was served the following light meal before landing:
- Chilled plate featuring bresaola beef, artichoke, tomato salad, and Parmesan
- Fresh orange segments
Overall, the food was decent, but it definitely did not rank among the best meals I was ever served on a plane: the presentation was rather uninspiring and the food itself lacked strong tastes. This surprised me since Air Canada’s cuisine is overseen by award-winning Vancouver-based chef David Hawksworth, owner of famous Hawksworth Restaurant.
The selection of wines on this flight was chosen by Air Canada’s sommelier Véronique Rivest, and included Laurent-Perrier champagne and a new Air Canada Signature cocktail. One of the most respected sommeliers in Canada and abroad, Véronique Rivest is the winner of the 2006 and 2012 Canada’s Best Sommelier competitions, the 2007 Wine Woman competition in Paris, the 2012 Best Sommelier of the Americas competition and more. She is the wine columnist for Ottawa’s Le Droit newspaper and Radio-Canada and the owner of a wine bar in Gatineau.
As mentioned above, each Business Class seat features an 18 inches entertainment screen, the largest offered by a North American airline in Business Class. You can navigate the inflight entertainment by directly touching the screen or by using a handheld remote which has its own small screen display. Air Canada’s IFE system is loaded with more than 1000 hours of entertainment, which represents the most hours of in-flight entertainment offered by any airline in the Americas. With 340 movies (with complete collections of top movie franchises), a selection of short films, 500+ TV programs, plus 100 music albums, playlists, audio books and podcasts, your trip is sure to fly by. One of the system’s best features is the interactive 3D Voyager flight map, which ranks among the best in the industry.
8. ONBOARD INTERNET
Unfortunately, this Boeing 787-8 was not (yet) equipped with WiFi. There is good news though as Air Canada is currently installing WiFi on all of its planes and expects to complete this process by the end of the year. This page on Air Canada’s website is being updated as aircraft are fitted; the only aircraft type that currently guarantees you onboard internet access is Air Canada’s B777-300ER.
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
#CREW: I am a big fan of Canada and its warm people, and the crew of this flight embodied all the good things you hear about Canadians. They were graceful and jovial, and delivered efficient and impeccable service.
# TOILET: The B787-8 features three lavatories for the 20 Business Class passengers: one is located behind the cockpit (for exclusive use of Business Class passengers) and the two other lavatories are located at the back of the cabin (shared with the Premium Economy Class passengers).
10. MY VERDICT
- Cabin design: 8/10
- Seat comfort (upright): 9/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 8/10
- Food (quality): 7/10
- Food (quantity): 7/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- WiFi: not available
- Service: 8/10
- Overall experience: good: 7.8/10