Air Canada Boeing 787 Premium Economy Review



When flying between Vancouver and Toronto, there certainly isn’t a shortage of airlines to choose from. Following my Premium Economy flight with British Airways,  I decided to hop on board with Air Canada to review their Premium Economy product. I booked this fare through SkyScanner which is undoubtedly the best after its interface upgrade.

Originally when booking this flight, I was supposed to be travelling in the economy cabin. However when checking in using the Air Canada mobile app, it gave me the option to upgrade Premium Economy for $295 CAD.

Premium Economy passengers can check in using the Priority desks, usually reserved for Air Canada frequent fliers or Business class passengers. The morning of my flight from Vancouver, there had been a number of cancellations to scheduled services, meaning the queue for economy check in was full of people trying to get onto alternative flights to their destinations. Luckily for me, the priority desks were almost empty meaning just 10 minutes after arriving at the domestic terminal, I was through security.

Ac34 vancouver – toronto:

The flight I was booked onto, Air Canada 34, doesn’t start it’s journey in Vancouver. It is actually the long haul service from Sydney to Vancouver then Toronto. Today the Sydney to Vancouver sector was being flown on a Boeing 777 that was delayed leaving Sydney by approximately 3 hours; rather than delay the service onto Toronto, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was put onto the route.

Air Canada also implement a zonal boarding system, much like that of British Airways. Being in ‘Group 2’, I was on the aircraft in no time at all, and took to my seat 14A. Immediately I was very impressed with the modern look and feel of this cabin, something you would expect from an aircraft that is just under 2 years old. Already, this put it ahead of the British Airways Premium Economy offering on my flight to Vancouver.

Seat 14A (As indicated by the big pink bag!)

After settling into my seat and getting a few pictures from my window seat, I was offered a choice of orange juice or water as my boarding drink. Shortly after the Captain came over the PA and announced that we would have a short delay in departing Vancouver as we would have to be deiced. At 9.20am local time we pushed off the stand and taxied to a remote part of the airfield for deicing.

Departing from Runway 08R at 9.43am, we started climbing to our cruising altitude of 41,000 feet. The seat belt signs were switched of promptly after take off and a crew member came around the cabin to hand out our breakfast menu. This mornings options were either Pancakes or a Parsley Omelette. Unfortunately as I was the last to be served in the cabin, my first choice of Pancakes were all gone, leaving me with little choice but to sample the Omelette.

Before choosing from one of the many blockbuster films on offer to watch, I decided to wake myself up with a freshly brewed Lavazza coffee from the drinks service. Only the Brave (A brilliant must watch film that’s based on a true story) was my selection from the In flight Entertainment System. Watching on my Panasonic ex3 system, the latest addition to Air Canada’s IFE offerings, I was impressed at both the screen size and clarity of the image. Just as the film was reaching it’s mid point, breakfast was served.

The IFE system found in the Premium Economy cabin

The Parsley Omelette was accompanied by a chicken sausage, potatoes and relish. Also offered were fruit, yogurts and a warm bread roll with butter and jam. As appetising as the omelette looked, it wasn’t quite to my taste. Leaving the Omelette I enjoyed the rest of my breakfast. Much to my annoyance, the passenger seated next to me (who had ordered the last Pancakes dish available), decided to leave his breakfast after taking only one bite. It was only after long deliberation that I decided not to try and steal the remains!

Breakfast served in Premium Economy

As we reached the mid way point of our 3 hour 50 minute flight, I decided to stretch my legs and take a wonder around C-FGFZ, the 787-9 Dreamliner I was flying on. After being given a few odd stares when walking through Business class in my hoody and trainers, I went into the galley to find that the crew had laid out a selection of complimentary snacks to choose from. Picking up a Kit Kat, Bacardi and a Coke, I headed back to my seat.

There are 21 seats in the 787-9’s Premium Economy cabin. All with a legroom of 38″ and a seat width of 19″. Found at every seat are power ports that can be used to charge devices via USB or Canadian plugs. Most of the seats can recline approximately 7 inches, however row 14 is slightly limited due to the bulkhead located behind. Seats 14A and 14K do offer some superb shots of the Dreamliner’s wings and the General Electric built GEnx engines. With seat selection complimentary to Premium Economy passengers, it would definitely be my recommendation for anyone travelling with Air Canada in the future.

Cruising at 41,000 feet

As we descended into Toronto, the crew passed through the cabin to clear our waste and prepare us for landing. It was at this point that I felt my good experience throughout the flight was ruined slightly. I had asked the Cabin Manager if it was possible to visit the flight deck after arrival on stand, a request that was met with a short, sharp “No”. I am fully aware that flight deck visits are strictly on a request basis, but the fact that the Captain wasn’t even asked annoyed me.

The rest of the flight passed without incident and as we touched down at Toronto Pearson International, I was left feeling that the upgrade had been well worth the money.

When compared to a similar product such as the British Airways’ World Traveller Plus, It certainly leaves me with no doubt in my mind which airline I would choose to fly with when planning my next trip to Canada. BA however were spot on with the customer service, and certainly made me feel welcomed and valued as a paying customer. Ultimately when flying comfort has to be a number one priority, and that’s where Air Canada comes into a world of its own.

 

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British Airways Boeing 747 Premium Economy Review

The Boeing 747 will soon slowly begin to fade from British Airways’ fleet. They are due to be replaced by the newer, more fuel efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner and in the not too distant future, the Airbus A350. During the winter season BA operate the 747 to Vancouver in place of the Airbus A380, giving me the perfect opportunity to get a hands on look at the Queen of the Skies.

No1 lounge terminal 3:

Prior to my departure from Heathrow, I had booked myself into the No1 Lounge in Terminal 3 as a nice relaxing way to start my trip. The lounge offers complimentary food, drink and Wi-Fi to all customers, as well as complimentary use of one of the few shower rooms that are on site. After my drive down from Birmingham earlier that afternoon, I thought it would be a good idea to freshen up before my 9 hour 30 min flight to Vancouver.

The shower rooms themselves could not be faulted, all essentials such as towels and shower gels/shampoos were provided free of charge. My only complaint with this is the actual walk in shower itself, it seems the water temperature has only 2 settings: Boiling Hot or 3rd Degree Burns Hot! For anyone who was booked into the lounge in the near future and intends on using the showers, my advice would be to re adjust your hair or makeup in the bathrooms that are separate to these shower rooms as they can become very hot and humid when the shower has been running!

The Fish Finger wrap from the menu in the No1 Lounge

The complimentary meal options at the lounge were limited, I was given a choice between 4 cooked meals and eventually chose to sample the Fish Finger wrap. When served to me at my table overlooking Runways 27L-9R, one issue immediately jumped out at me, the portion size. Now, I know with complimentary food you can’t go In expecting a 5 course feast, but this really did look like something served from a kids menu at a fast food restaurant. With a limited selection of snacks from the self serve counters, the catering really does let the lounge down.

If I had not of booked this lounge at a discounted rate to that advertised on the website, I probably would not have booked it at all. I would however, recommend it to any passengers transiting through Heathrow T3, as those shower facilities are a god send.

BA85 LONDON HEATHROW – VANCOUVER:

Sitting in the waiting area of Gate 31, gave me the opportunity to witness British Airways’ new boarding process by inviting passengers to board by ‘Group Number’ as issued on their boarding card, in this instance I was assigned Group 3. It all worked without a hitch and the time between arriving at the gate and boarding G-CIVA, my Boeing 747-400 aircraft was minimal.

Taking to my assigned seat 15K (a seat that I had to pay £45 to pre book), I was immediately impressed with the amount of legroom a the the World Traveller Plus cabin offered. Seating in this cabin boasts an impressive 38” of legroom. Now the extra legroom is brilliant to have when flying, especially when that flight is long haul. Seat width however is something that needs to be improved in this cabin. Not being the smallest person in the world I found it difficult to sit comfortably in the old style seating with a width of 18.5”. The personal IFE remote is housed on the inside of the arm rest, and can become very uncomfortable when sitting for a long time as it digs into your thigh.

The legroom offered in World Traveller Plus was exceptional

The In Flight Entertainment offerings were impressive, with a range of the latest Hollywood blockbusters and TV series’ available to browse and view. The system did show it’s age however as the software was slow at responding and the screen was tiny when compared to rival products such as the Emirates IFE System. The noise cancelling headset came in handy, especially due to my seat’s proximity to the engines.

The IFE seat back screen

We pushed back from the gate on time, and taxied for 20 minutes down to Runway 27R for our departure. I was very surprised to find that when the throttle was pushed forward to being our take off roll, I wasn’t pushed back into my seat by the power of the engines as I have been in the past, especially when flying on the Boeing 757. Our climb out took us north passing over Coventry and Liverpool.

Once the seat belt signs had been switched off, the first inflight drinks service and small bag of Pretzels was provided by Jennifer, who was fantastic when looking after us in Traveller Plus. As we climbed to our cruising altitude of 36,000 feet and headed towards Iceland, the meal service began.

I had pre booked my meal prior to checking in online for the flight, this service is offered complimentary and allows you to guarantee yourself a tasty chicken or beef option. I opted for the Chettinad chicken with Tadka Dal and Coriander Rice. Passengers in Plus are treated to the same appetiser and desert as their fellow passengers in World Traveller, but get to choose from one of two main meal options offered from the Club World menus. Plane food doesn’t have the greatest reputation amongst fliers, but I can assure you that the chicken option on this flight will not leave your taste buds dissatisfied. For those with a sweet tooth, the Salted Caramel and Chocolate dessert is the perfect treat to enjoy whilst watching a film.

The Inflight meal offered to Premium Economy passengers

Following the meal I grabbed some sleep, but was woken about 90 minutes before landing by the crew handing out snack boxes. These contained a sandwich and biscuit, both of which I chose to leave and decided instead to sit back and take in the beautiful scenery we were passing over.

The descent into Vancouver was smooth and before long the bright lights of the city came into view. We touched down on Vancouver’s Runway 26R and pulled onto the stand at 1830, 40 minutes ahead of schedule. During disembarkation, I was lucky enough to be invited up to the flight deck by the First Officer for a quick chat and photo opportunity. I found out that British Airways intends to keep the Boeing 747 in the fleet for another 5 years before sending them off for retirement.

The World Traveller Plus Cabin Inflight

With a flight like the one I experienced, I can see why BA has become so attached to these aircraft. Their long range and large passenger and cargo capacity makes them favourites for flying to destinations such as Vancouver and Nairobi. World Traveller Plus itself is well worth the upgrade on a long flight, the exceptional service and smaller cabin size have certainly made me think about flying economy again. On a newer aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner I’m sure this cabin is unfaultable, that being said; I can’t take anything away from the unique charm of the Jumbo Jet.

 

Check out our BA Premium Economy 787 review to see how it compares!

Leaked: United to Launch Premium Economy

A company memo that was leaked this week has revealed that United Airlines has plans to launch it’s very own Premium Economy cabin. Although the details have not been finalised yet, we do know that United’s Premium Plus cabins will be rolled out across selected International routes by the end of 2018.

Premium Plus will launch on selected International routes

When these seats come out on general sale within the next few months, travelers will find themselves travelling in more spacious seating as opposed to the airlines international economy seating which offers a legroom of 31-32″. On-board services will also be upgraded with a redesigned menu being served on china dinnerware. Luxury US department store Saks Fifth Avenue will be supplying blankets and pillows for use during the flight.

A spokesperson for United has confirmed that Premium Plus is coming but has not revealed any details other than those leaked in the memo. The move comes after rival airlines Delta and American Airlines both successfully integrated Premium Economy into their own business models over recent years. The upgraded economy cabin has been operated by various European airlines such as British Airways for a number of years, but it seems that only now the US carriers are playing catch up.

A concept image of how the cabin will look

United will certainly be hoping that their Premium Plus cabins are a huge success, especially after the pretty disastrous year that they had in 2017. April saw a passenger forcibly removed from an overbooked Chicago to Louisville flight. Just one month before this incident, United refused to fly two female passengers to their destination as they were “not properly clothed via the Contract of Carriage”. The two passengers in question were not ‘properly clothed’ because they were wearing leggings.

Despite the negative press in recent times, the airline has just launched a new advertising campaign in association with Team USA to celebrate their participation at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. The advert features US athletes such as Jamie Anderson, Gus Kenworthy and Erin Hamlin alongside airline employees with a variety of different job roles. It details their superhero powers necessary for winning medals at the games, and more importantly those needed by United staff to get them and fare paying customers there destination.

The United States Olympic Committee and United Airlines have a long standing history of transporting athletes to and from the games, and this isn’t the first time Olympians have featured alongside airline staff on video. In 2016, Team USA participated in a safety video that was broadcast on the majority of United’s aircraft. As the official airline of Team USA, United flies everything and everyone from athletes to equipment to wherever it is needed.

Video Credit: United Airlines.

 

If you liked this article, why not check out the brand new our review of Emirates’ new cabin or any other of our new cabin reviews including Finnair, Lufthansa and Singapore.

 

Delta Downgrade: Business Class Eliminated on certain Transatlantic Routes

In the US,  competition is arising over premium ‘coast to coast’ or transcontinental services, with American’s A321T and JetBlue’s revolutionary MINT expanding constantly. It’s led to Delta and United making major changes to the way they roster their aircraft, both adding more heavily premium configured 757 aircraft to these high yielding, competitive markets such as New York to Los Angeles.

JetBlue offers 16 ‘MINT’ seats on its new Airbus A321 aircraft, designed to appeal to the premium market. Image: JetBlue

However, the catch is that these Boeing 757 aircraft were previously used on routes like Manchester-Washington D.C. for United, or London-Philadelphia for Delta; both of these were unmercifully cut in the past few years. Delta are now coming up with an inventive solution to this, which could increase profitability and retain their presence in markets across Europe.

Due to the fact Delta is flying internationally configured 757s on more domestic flights, they’ll therefore begin flying domestically configured 757s on transatlantic flights. Specifically, Delta will eliminate Business Class (instead flying domestically configured aircraft) on the following routes:

  • New York (JFK) to Shannon (Ireland)
  • New York (JFK) to Ponta Delgada (Azores)
  • New York (JFK) to Reykjavik (Iceland)

    Delta’s Domestic First Class, soon to be utilised transatlantic. Image: Delta

This means that the only premium cabin available on these flights will be the US Domestic ‘First Class’. For Delta to sell these as International Business Class, it would be unfeasible and a significant downgrade from any other competitor. Therefore, as the rollout of Premium Economy comes into force on their A350 aircraft, they will sell these seats with a Premium Economy product.

By utilising domestic aircraft on routes such as JFK-Shannon, it has perhaps helped Delta justify preserving the route.

In my opinion, this is inventive and should work for the primarily leisure orientated routes they’ve selected. Considering they currently operate a similar system on their Minneapolis-Reykjavik route, its clearly working well and its easy to see why: it allows them to deploy sought after lie-flat seats in more premium markets, such as Seattle, New York or San Francisco – whilst retaining service and presence to markets in Europe. Whether they expand this scheme to other ‘thin’ or seasonal European markets like Glasgow-New York or Paris-Pittsburgh remains to be seen.

British Airways’ New Boarding Process: Zonal Boarding Introduced

In recent times, specifically in the US, airlines have been employing a ‘zoned boarding concept’. This is designed to speed up the boarding process, and make it more efficient for passengers to stow their cabin baggage – as numbers dramatically increase. The arguments for this system are:

  • Passengers are assigned zones easily
  • Consistent across aircraft types (unlike a ‘row by row’ boarding system)
  • Easier for passengers to comprehend
  • Refrains from blocking aisles when stowing cabin baggage

    Boarding a large aircraft – like a Boeing 747-400 – can be disorganised and time consuming for airlines.

As the concept grows in popularity, it has spread to Europe. For example, when I flew to Dublin – with Aer Lingus Regional – in August, I was assigned a zone on my boarding pass, but this wasn’t implemented at the boarding gate. Following this trend, it looks like the latest airline to implement this system is British Airways, to align itself with its IAG & oneworld partners – American Airlines and Iberia. This is what BA had to say about the new boarding system, which will be introduced from 12th December 2017:

British Airways will be changing the way it boards aircraft with the introduction of group boarding in December. Group boarding simplifies the process, making it easier for customers to understand the boarding sequence at the gate. At the check-in stage, the customer will be put into a group number dependent on their cabin of travel and frequent-flyer status. This number will then be displayed prominently on the boarding pass, printed or mobile. Customers who are entitled will continue to be offered priority boarding for both long-haul and short-haul domestic.

British Airways is introducing zoned boarding.

British Airways recently added a Business Class product to its domestic offering, so the short-haul boarding process applies to both European and UK services, and looks as follows:

  • Group 1 — Executive Club Gold, oneworld Emerald & Club Europe
  • Group 2 — Executive Club Silver and oneworld Sapphire
  • Group 3 — Executive Club Bronze and oneworld Ruby
  • Group 4 — Economy Class Passengers
  • Group 5 — Economy Class Passengers, with hand-luggage only fares

British Airways therefore seems to be disincentivising hand-luggage only fares, as its popularity grows, as boarding the aircraft last means a lesser chance of overhead locker space. BA will, however, check your hand luggage bag into the hold for no extra cost, if there is no space available.

The Club Europe seats British Airways now offers on domestic flights.

For long-haul flights the boarding process is similar, but differs slightly due to the different travel classes available:

  • Group 1 — Executive Club Gold, oneworld Emerald, and First Class 
  • Group 2 — Executive Club Silver, oneworld Sapphire, and Business Class 
  • Group 3 — Executive Club Bronze, oneworld Ruby, and Premium Economy
  • Groups 4 & 5 — Economy Class Passengers

This is a new scheme for British Airways, and it seems logical, following their partner airlines, who’ve clearly enjoyed more efficient boarding by employing this method. The main difference is that airlines such as American Airlines designate more zones to economy, to help further organise the process, in terms of back to front boarding etc. Providing the process is enforced with clarity and consistency, this new method should prove beneficial for British Airways.