Review: Air Canada Business Class, Vancouver – Sydney

Air Canada business class review: flight 33 was showing an on-time departure and we left the airline’s Signature Suite dining in time for the start of boarding. However when we got to the gate the Boeing 787-9 wasn’t ready to board. No announcements were being made. Anyone who asked was told we’d board ‘soon’ but with no explanation for the delay. Boarding commenced about half an hour late (and the flight was ultimately delayed by about 45 minutes).

I’d been on board an Air Canada Boeing 787 before, but not in 5 years. My first impression was that the business class seat is still good, but hardly leading.

Masks were still required for this flight, and flight attendants were scolding passengers either not wearing one or not wearing one properly. Canadian mask rules were still in effect, and so were Australia’s rules for flights headed there.

air canada business class review boeing 787-9 cabin

I immediately got a sense from the cabin crew of indifference. They were neither friendly nor hostile. For instance when I took a moment to consider what I wanted to drink the crewmember simply walked past me to ask the passenger in the next row what he wanted. Overall though this was a perfectly fine flight, and I’d happily take Air Canada long haul again.

Air Canada Business Class Review: Seat

Air Canada’s business class seat on the Boeing 787-9 is the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond. That’s the seat American Airlines uses on its Boeing 787-9s and some Boeing 777-200s. It’s the new British Airways business class seat (with doors added). Taiwan’s China Airlines and a number of other carriers use it as well.

This is a good, spacious and comfortable lie flat seat with direct aisle access, but not a suite with doors. It’s nice both as a seat and as a bed.

If there was one downside for me, taking a middle seat with my daughter, it’s that the divider between seats was fixed in the upright position and wasn’t adjustable down. (My wife took an aisle seat across from our daughter.)

air canada business class review boeing 787-9 seat

air canada business class review boeing 787-9 seat

My daughter slept a solid 7-plus hours in the seat, while I dozed on and off for about four while I watched several episodes of the latest season of Billions on my phone and did a bit of work on my laptop. Internet worked fine.

Amenities

There was a sanitary kit and bottle of water at the seat upon boarding. There were slippers, a blanket and pillow, and an ample amenity kit.

air canada business class review amenity kit

Main Meal Service

Service began with a beverage and packaged nuts. That was disappointing.

air canada business class review packaged nuts

Since we’d eaten an outstanding meal in the Signature Suite prior to boarding we weren’t hungry and were looking forward to settling in. We asked the crew to save our main meal for later in the flight – something Air Canada advertises on its menu and more airlines should offer. They just had us let them know when we were ready for it.

Here’s the menu for the flight.






On a nearly 15 hour flight a dinner at the outset and then breakfast around a dozen hours later seems too long between meals, even though midflight snacks are available. Delaying dinner until midway through the flight was a perfect solution.

The meal was a one tray affair, which I hadn’t realized until asking for the meal later in the flight. I’d asked if everything could be served together, rather than in courses, and I was told that’s how it’s done anyway. I understand the desire for quick service on a post-11 p.m. departure but feel like one tray (‘express’) service should be an option rather than the only option.

During the meal I noticed that the inflight entertainment system was promoting credit card offers. It struck me that the U.S. offer is so much more lucrative than Canadian offers, and I wonder if seeing such a rich offer they’re not eligible for makes Canadian passengers less likely to opt in for the one they can get.

air canada business class review meal
Butter chicken, salad, cheese and dessert

The butter chicken was reasonably tasty. I felt like this was a reasonable second meal, but disappointing as a first meal, acknowledging that the post-11 p.m. departure meal service is more limited (but at the same time wonder if it shouldn’t be on a scheduled 15 hour 30 minute flight). It turned out perfect for me because it was my second meal thanks to a nice dinner in the Signature Suite.

Midflight Snacks

I give Air Canada credit for offering a hot option as a midflight snack. You can order a pot pie at any time, in addition to packaged chips and chocolate. The pot pie was small but reasonably tasty, what you’d expect from a grocery freezer item. The fries accompanying it were soggy.

They ran out of bottled waters and wouldn’t give me a second – just refills of small glasses of water. I had actually picked up a few bottles at the vending machine by the gate before the flight in anticipation of this.

Breakfast

Breakfast was the major disappointment, as it often is on North American and even European carriers. I opted for the omelette over the pancakes.

The omelette came out fairly rubbery. The fruit was fine, but the “croissant” came in a sealed plastic package. They didn’t open the package or heat it and there was no pass for seconds. I don’t know how we were supposed to use the butter on the slightly cold mediocre croissant?

Bottom-line Air Canada Business Class Vancouver – Sydney Review

Let’s try something new for this Air Canada business class review and with my trip reports more generally, a rating by category and then overall for the flight. I may adjust the weights given to each category as I refine my thinking on this experiment. I consider 5 to be roughly average on a scale of 1-10.

Air Canada business class flight (1-10):
Seat (50%): 7.5/10
Bedding and amenities (15%): 6/10
Food and Beverage (20%): 6/10
Service (15%): 6/10
Weighted average: 6.75/10

Air Canada’s business class is generally competitive with other airlines flying between North America and Australia and I would probably choose them over United, American and certainly Qantas’ Airbus A380 in business.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. lol at masks!

    The US CDC still hasn’t produced a SINGLE randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of masks.

    Not one.
    In three years.

    Wonder what that means….

    George in Sweden

  2. “I immediately got a sense from the cabin crew of indifference.”
    “Service began with a beverage and packaged nuts. That was disappointing.”

    t’s Canada/Canadian service lol. I was on the YYZ – NRT flight. Exact same treatment. I agree with Gary’s AC rating.

  3. Gary,

    Thanks for the review. I appreciate the new reviewing tactic. I find it much more helpful as you rate each aspect from 1 to 10. However, I would definitely eliminate or move the percentage digits, as it just looks confusing and conveluted for something that should read simply.

  4. Interesting note about the one-tray service. I flew AC YYZ-TLV two weeks ago and dinner was served in courses (though it ended up taking about 2 hrs to complete). The crew on that flight were quite good though; maybe that’s the difference

    @George: And just how do you propose that you set up such a controlled experiment, at enough scale and with enough compliance? If you found yourself on one of such flights where you had to wear a mask for this scientific experiment, would you actually comply, or would you make a big fuss about having to wear a mask, and then having to be tracked for a week after the flight to see if you tested positive?

    They do have data on the spread, and they do have info as well on a few flights before masking how spread happened and afterwards as well. But ofc that’s not strong enough to show causation.

  5. Similar delay on YYZ LHR the other night. Flight showing on time so I left the lounge to find hordes of people and “boarding imminent” announcements but it didn’t start until one hour later. The delay was blamed on catering but the pilots clearly knew in advance as they didn’t show up until 30 minutes after boarding was scheduled.

    As an aside I hated that we were forced to listen to endless announcements from YYZ airport about distancing and keeping us safe, when they had crammed everyone into a small space for over an hour.

  6. I try to avoid AC as much as possible, even though I am YVR based
    Masks are deal breaker at this point for me, in addition, every announcement in french and english menas non stop BS interruptions from crew….

  7. @Gavin, this is not “Canadian service”
    This is Air Canada – a garbage airline with zero service, in the air and on the ground.
    Gary should be thankful his flight wasnt severely delayed or cancelled or he’d really see the full extent of Air Canada’s uselessness (60% of their flights are delayed)

  8. Your pictures were identical to my return yesterday AMS-YYZ.

    Howeve…both outbound and return…we had butter, jam, but no bread. “Covid” was to blame, I guess.

    It is nice not to wear a mask in Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Denmark, etc. but the air vents and circulation are fine with a mask on a Dreamliner.

    There seems to be a little more space on J seats and lavs on AC 787-9 than United.

  9. It’s sad that this is the above average standard of business class in North America. Non hostile service, and average food.

  10. Yeesh that wine list is bad. LP is fine for bubbles … entry level Champagne from a big house is totally reasonable for business class. But the still wines are shameful … come on, Air Canada.

  11. I travel on that plane alot between Vancouver and Toronto and the seat rating is too high. Iam 6’1 and the bed is very narrow, the arm rest makes it so you can out one arm elevated and the other is by your side when laying on your back. I flew overnight back from Maui and could barely sleep, hit couldn’t move well. For a non overnight trip the seat is great, for an overnight it is ave.

  12. AC isn’t competitive anymore. It’s just that Canadians due to no competition and this stupidity to always choose the national flag carrier leads to total mediocrity.

  13. “They ran out of bottled waters and wouldn’t give me a second – just refills of small glasses of water. I had actually picked up a few bottles at the vending machine by the gate before the flight in anticipation of this.”

    @Gary, great save, but how on earth did you anticipate this? A fifteen hour flight insufficiently stocked with *water*, of all things to run out of – I shuddered just reading it, and I can’t believe that’s not a major health risk that’s carefully monitored and proactively prevented.

  14. Last week, I flew Delta to Toronto and then WestJet from Toronto to another Canadian domestic destination and then reverse coming home. Delta didn’t require masks under landing, but then the gate agent meeting the flight at the ramp wasn’t wearing one. I kept mine off until I got closer to passport control. The Canadian customs/immigration officer wasn’t wearing a mask. After clearing, I took my mask off and walked through the Toronto airport without it. I put it back on when going through security for my WestJet domestic flight. I took it off again. The Plaza Premium lounge didn’t enforce masks at all. On the WestJet flight, I wore a mask when boarding but kept the mask off about 75% of the flight as I had coffee, drinks or food in front of me all the time. I was the only WestJet premium (their version of domestic first-class) passenger. Upon landing, I put my mask on to leave the plane but quickly took it off. Nobody at the rental car desk was wearing a mask. My experience flying back but in reverse was the same, except I never wore a mask when boarding my Delta flight or at any time on the plane. Also, I never wore a mask when doing U.S. customs/immigration pre-clearance in Toronto. If I had to guess, I’d say about 35% of the people in the two Canadian airports weren’t wearing masks.

  15. Suddenly a review on businees class seats feom Air Canada at this time where the complaints and frustration of passengers where flying around for delated flights, cancelled flights, delayed/ lost luggages and deboarding of passengers in flight. No comments on those?

  16. I remember being super excited to fly air Canada j London to Toronto five years ago. Really enjoyed it then lolllll. Feel the same feeling now with the old Ana (ie the one on most of the flights). A little tired.

    Btw when I flew with my kids we always stay on one side of the aisle. The two middle seats don’t help at all be there dividers or trying to mop up orange juice etc. prefer to have the kids in front of me or across the aisle.

    And it would be my wife who would take the other seat if she could!

  17. I’ve flown “Signature Class” YVR/SYD on AC twice this year and Gary’s review is fair, verging on generous. Sadly, Signature dining was closed on both occasions. I have an AC flight TRN/YVR in July which they just rerouted on me. I checked the last two weeks arrival times for the trans Canada leg and it’s been between 20 minutes and 5 hours late. On the transPacific sector, I would take United over AC any day.

  18. I flew LAX-SYD on a Qantas A380 in mid May and VIE-YYZ on an Air Canada 789 in early June. The J crews on both flights were rather indifferent, but the catering and seat were far superior on Qantas. The A380s have been refurbished with the new Business Suite found on their 789s and A330s, so they no longer have the old 2-2-2 Skybed II seat Gary may be thinking of. FWIW, both flights were equally late due to operational issues at the destination airports.

  19. Gary – how about including a Index of trip reports from the same trip, like OMAAT does
    It makes it easier to find especially when joining mid-journey

  20. One should mention that “deflategate” is still a big issue and AC has not installed a permanent fix after 3 years.
    The seats are basically air mattresses and unfortunately, quite frequently, a metal part inside damages the inflated pillow. Meaning the cushions are completely flat and hard as a rock, as you’ll. basically sleep on the metal structure.
    Would not take that gamble on trans pacific/atlantic flight. If the cabin is full and your seat is affected – you’ll be out of luck.

  21. Your lucky you flew out of Vancouver. AC out of Montreal is the absolute worst, actually Montreal airport is even worse haha! What a horrible airport, feels like some suburban strip mall.
    Unfortunately Canada has no other options for business service, but who’s surprised, we’re not really known for high end service, it’s pretty low brow in this country.

  22. @Kris: It’s interesting. While parts of Canada are very international after 50 years of unchecked immigration and multiculturalism as Canada’s ruling elite need to supplement the population because white Canadians aren’t having sufficient numbers of kids, Canada has always been poorer than the United States. Outside of the big cities, the average small town in Canada has always been blue-collar and more like the small towns of relatively rural America. Money (banking, lawyers, insurance) was historically concentrated in Toronto and Montreal.

  23. You wanted the meal served all at once but complained that it came that way anyway?‍♂️

  24. @FNT Delta Diamond
    I’m not quite sure that “unchecked immigration” has to do with anything? Maybe you just wanted to throw in a racist comment, who knows?
    From a strictly personal observation, white Canadians make up the majority of the “low brow” population. Whether they are in the business centers or not.

  25. @ Gary

    The QF A380s have been refurbished with the more recent business class seat akin to that on their B787s (which coincidentally fly SYD-YVR).

    Does your ranking account for such?

  26. @ George (in Sweden !!!)

    “The US CDC still hasn’t produced a SINGLE randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of masks.Not one. In three years. Wonder what that means….”

    It probably doesn’t mean what you think with your dumb LOL mask comment.

    So you are limiting your acceptable evidence to a “randomised controlled trial”. Just how are you going to design such an experiment, George?!

    To quote:

    “…for population health measures, we should not generally expect to be able to find controlled trials, due to logistical and ethical reasons, and should therefore instead seek a wider evidence base. This issue has been identified for studying community use of masks for COVID-19 in particular. Therefore, we should not be surprised to find that there is no RCT for the impact of masks on community transmission of any respiratory infection in a pandemic…”

    “An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19”
    Howard et al., 2021
    PNAS 118:4

    And try this and I quote the world’s leading scientific journal, Nature:

    “Face masks protect against COVID-19. That’s the conclusion of a gold-standard clinical trial in Bangladesh, which backs up the findings of hundreds of previous observational and laboratory studies.1.

    “Critics of mask mandates have cited the lack of relevant randomized clinical trials, which assign participants at random to either a control group or an intervention group. But the latest finding is based on a randomized trial involving nearly 350,000 people across rural Bangladesh. The study’s authors found that surgical masks — but not cloth masks — reduced transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in villages where the research team distributed face masks and promoted their use.

    “This really should be the end of the debate,” says Ashley Styczynski, an infectious-disease researcher at Stanford University in California and a co-author of the preprint describing the trial. The research “takes things a step further in terms of scientific rigour”, says Deepak Bhatt, a medical researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who has published research on masking.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02457-y

    And…are you limiting your evidence only to that which you claim the US CDC may or may not have produced?! So, you are discounting the available literature in the event you believe that it hasn’t been cited by the CDC?!

    Here’s a list of 2,360 papers for you to read, so you don’t have to rely just on the US CDC.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=effectiveness+masks+virus

    Enjoy your exercise in confirmation bias!

  27. First up let me state after living in Canada for almost a decade and then commuting to Australia and back far too many times, my opinion of AC is pretty bloody low. As I have said elsewhere, any airline can fly A to B, it’s the details, and how they cope when things go wrong that differentiate airlines. The reviewers comment about the 45 minute delay is typical ofAC. No information, no explanation. Staff on board don’t care attitude is also typical in my experience.

    The reviwers throw away line at the end regarding “better….than Qantas 380” was gratuitous and wrong. One Qantas doesn’t fly A380 to YVR, and if the reviewer had flown the Qantas 787 on that route post covid, they would have found a product that exceeds AC in every possible way.

  28. Totally agree about Qantas comment. The Qantas 787 product is FAR superior to any North American Airlines and your ignorance to what metal flies on this route and the fact that Qantas has refurbished their A380 fleet tells me that you are not worth reading anymore.

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