Now with daily non-stop flights between Brisbane and Vancouver, Air Canada’s Boeing 787-8 Signature Class service is the airline’s new flagship business class experience, whisking travellers to Canada’s west coast with onward connections not just across the country, but also to the United States, Europe and more.
Australian Business Traveller hopped aboard Air Canada’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner to bring you this review.
- Frequent flyer program: Aeroplan, but travellers can collect miles in any Star Alliance scheme, including Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus, United MileagePlus and more.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x118cm "standard" bag or item, plus 1x92cm "personal article".
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg, or 3x32kg for Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers.
- Priority airport services: With no lines at priority check-in, Express Path security screening or SmartGate, I timed my entire journey from kerb to lounge at just 10 minutes: for an international flight with checked baggage, that's impressive. As you’d expect, there’s priority boarding and baggage handling too.
In Brisbane, Air Canada sends passengers to the lounge of its Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand, where I found plenty of natural light, a typical breakfast buffet spread with hot and cold items, WiFi, and machine-made espresso coffee to begin the day.
AusBT review: Air New Zealand business class lounge, Brisbane Airport
Under Star Alliance rules, Air Canada’s business class passengers and Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers can also visit the nearby Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, which some travellers may prefer, although as AirNZ’s lounge has better views looking back to the CBD and the Brisbane River of a morning, I remained there until boarding was called.
AusBT review: Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, Brisbane Airport
Air Canada’s daily Brisbane-Vancouver flights depart the Queensland capital at 10:40am, to reach Vancouver at 7:10am the same calendar day: a journey of 13hrs 30mins.
The airline also flies daily from Sydney using a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft, and three times per week from Melbourne with a Boeing 787. While the aircraft type may differ on each route, you’ll find near-identical business class seats on each one.
Aboard Air Canada’s Boeing 787-8 jets, 20 business class seats take pride of place at the pointy end, arranged in a 1-2-1 layout which guarantees every passenger direct aisle access.
The 21-inch-wide seat comes adorned with a pillow, blanket and mattress cover on boarding, which you can stash in the overhead locker until it’s time to doze…
… and speaking of storage, you’ll find a pop-open nook to your side, perfect for small items like glasses and smartphones – particularly as there’s a USB port within, allowing you to charge your phone while keeping it out of the way:
Nearby in the same compartment, your headphone plug…
… and an AC power outlet, with enough space around it to accommodate my Microsoft Surface charger, which isn’t always the case on planes when power outlets are tucked away into confined spaces: thumbs up.
More storage is available on the aisle side of your seat, although being an open compartment, it’s better-suited to amenity kits rather than valuables:
There’s a literature pocket in front of you, which could also be a handy place to keep smaller-sized laptops tucked away when not in use or the slippers Air Canada provides…
… along with another small storage compartment on the opposite side of the seat, where you’ll find the safety card…
… and, for use during the flight, a shelf directly in front of you, underneath the entertainment screen…
… which slides out and folds to create a meal table or laptop bench, which was incredibly sturdy, with no ‘table bounce’ problems even when I was typing furiously:
(If this seat looks familiar to you, that’s because it’s a customised version of the Super Diamond seat on which Virgin Australia’s The Business cabin is also moulded from: ditto China Airlines’ business class seats on A350 flights from Australia.)
The seat itself is controlled via a touchscreen side panel, with easy shortcut keys for sleeping and landing modes:
Tap “your seat” for English, and use the settings to find your perfect seat position, activate the massage feature, call the crew or adjust the overall ambience of your suite, including window brightness, overhead lighting and floor lights:
The seat also extends into an 80-inch/203cm bed, although you’ll need to handle the mattress pad and blanket set-up yourself, and pyjamas are BYO. Recognising that aircraft don’t fly parallel to the ground – instead, at a slight angle – the upper portion of the seat tilts slightly when in bed mode to offset this, so that the bed ‘feels’ flat when you’re in the sky.
Once you’re settled in, don’t forget about that side control panel, because you can also adjust your mattress from very firm to very soft, depending on your preference: a feature some travellers really appreciate, but not every airline makes available.
However, with a mid-morning departure from Brisbane and an arrival into Vancouver just after midnight local time back in Australia, sleeping on the Canada-bound leg of the journey can be tricky given the time difference, but with a combination of a dark cabin and a comfortable bed, I still managed a four-hour kip, which was more than I’d expected.
The journey begins with an offer of water, juice or Champagne (Laurent-Perrier Brut NV) before take-off…
… followed by another round of drinks in the sky. I opted for Air Canada’s Signature Cocktail, blending Canadian maple syrup, Sprite, ginger ale and bourbon, which comes on the side so you can mix to your taste – not everybody likes strong spirit drinks, after all:
About 90 minutes after take-off, that’s followed by lunch, but if you’re busy working and not ready to dine, you can ask the crew to keep your meal aside until later in the flight: or, you can opt for an express lunch with a starter, salad and cheese all served on the one tray, skipping the main course.
While it’s always nice to have that flexibility, I opted to eat lunch at the time served, kicking off with yellowfin tuna, wasabi mayonnaise, seaweed wakame salad and pickled daikon with a side salad: a lovely fresh start to the meal, paired with a glass of Canadian white: a 2016 Henry of Pelham Riesling, and an old favourite, garlic bread:
For the main course, the menu provided the following choices:
- Herb-crusted lamb with mint jelly, potato au gratin and roasted vegetable medley
- Stir-fried chicken with chilli black bean sauce, bok choy, red chilli, carrot and spring onion
- Seared salmon fillet with olive butter, steamed crushed potato, eggplant caponata and broccoli
- Eggplant capsicum lasagne in tomato basil sauce
I’d liked to have tried the lamb, but this was a popular dish and was no longer available by the time my order was taken, so I went for the salmon instead: a healthy choice, which came perfectly-cooked and delicious.
Next comes a cheese course with brie, cheddar, asiago, crackers and grapes, assembled by the crew in the aisles to your preferences and paired with a glass of Dow’s Port from Portugal…
… with dessert offering a spiced pumpkin cake, fresh seasonal fruit or a bite-sized Maggie Beer ice cream:
Throughout the flight, a selection of ‘light bites’ are also on offer:
- Peppered steak mushroom pie
- Chicken, feta, artichoke, avocado and capsicum hot sandwich
- Chicken Caesar salad
- Ice cream
- Snacks and fruit from baskets in the cabin and galley
Still being on Australian time and feeling like dinner later in the flight, a pie hit the spot:
Brunch comes 75 minutes before landing, beginning with juice and coffee, seasonal fruit, yoghurt and selections from the bread basket…
… with main course options as follows:
- Cheese and chive omelette, chicken sausage, potato cake, cherry tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms
- Vanilla French toast with strawberry coulis
- Ricotta and spinach tortellini with puttanesca sauce
Normally I’d go for something more adventurous than the omelette, but I didn’t feel like a sweet dish or eating lunch before an early morning touchdown in Canada (and trying to adjust to Canadian time), so the omelette it was:
While the flavours were fine, the presentation of the meal wasn’t as refined as the lunch courses, which tends to happen when a meal is cooked on the plate it’s served on, rather than being plated individually. On the plus side, espresso coffee is also available, so if you’d like a latte with your breakfast, it’s easily done.
Entertainment & Service
In front of you sits an 18-inch HD touchscreen, loaded with 600 hours of movies and TV shows, along with games and music.
The classical music library is particularly extensive, divided into several categories ranging from general classical to opera and orchestral, and being a Canadian airline, there are some great recordings of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra among the mix:
Cabin crew were friendly and attentive throughout the flight, without being overly so. Announcements are made in both English and French, which the crew can all speak.
With an onward connecting flight to the United States and a short transit time in Vancouver, I was pleased to find USA landing cards available on board by request, which saved some time on the ground in Canada.
Overall, a pleasant flight on a modern aircraft in a comfortable seat: all that’s missing is inflight Internet, which is increasingly expected (and available) on flights to North America… and some extra servings of the lamb wouldn’t go astray either, given its popularity in Australia.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Vancouver as a guest of Star Alliance and Air Canada.