Air Canada has big plans for the Boeing 787, with the next-gen jetliner a candidate to debut both a new Executive First international business class and the airline’s first premium economy cabin.
The Dreamliner will also make it possible for Air Canada to introduce more non-stop flights between Sydney and Vancouver, along with adding Melbourne to its route map.
“Vancouver to Sydney is the single longest route we have and the only way we want to do Australia is non-stop” said Air Canada President and CEO Calin Rovinescu at a media briefing in Sydney today, and "Melbourne would be logical next destination for us in Australia."
“Our challenge is aircraft. We need the Boeing 777-200LR or the 787-9 to fly non-stop to Australia” he explained.
“We have only a few of the 777-200LRs and if the opportunity comes up to take another 777 to deploy here we’d do it, but realistically until we get the 787-9 series we won't have the aircraft to make this route a non-stop basis."
Air Canada: Boeing 787 a "game-changer"
In common with many other airline executives, Rovinescu considers the Boeing 787 as a “game-changer”.
Air Canada will run a mixed fleet of Dreamliners, Rovinescu told Australian Business Traveller, with the 787-8 due in 2014 and the long-range 787-9 "starting in 2015, although we don’t have the full schedule on that."
“What happened with (our Boeing 787 order) is that it’s actually evolved as the aircraft was completed and we saw its capabilities, we needed to shift more to 787-9” because the stretched Dreamliner had “the capabilities we expected in the 787-8.”
The Canadian flag-carrier may also use the Dreamliners to roll out a second generation of its fully flat Executive First business class and an all-new premium economy section.
“We’re looking at new designs” Rovinescu confirmed. “It’s a reflection of the competitiveness of the market” he added, citing that the introduction of the current Executive First seat – similar in design to Air New Zealand's Business Premier and Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class – was “almost a decade ago, so we’re looking to something that will be more competitive in the 787s.”
Rovinescu also told Australian Business Traveller that “premium economy is on the to-do list, I like the premium economy concept, but we haven’t confirmed exactly what form that will take and how many airplanes that will be on, whether it’s just the new ones or some of our existing fleet as well.”
Rovinescu suggested that premium economy is a likely starter for the 787s, agreeing that triple-class Dreamliners with business, premium economy and economy “is more likely, but we have nothing confirmed yet in terms of final design.”
Air Canada was last month tipped to launch premium economy seating in its new Boeing 777-300s due next year, along with the Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.