Air Canada (AC)
- Flight: AC896
- Class: Business Class
- From: Vancouver (YVR)
- To: London (LHR)
- Duration: 9h10
- Aircraft: Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner
- Seat: 2K
- Status during flight: Star Alliance Gold (Avianca Amigo Gold)
- Booking type: Cash fare
- Date: June 2016
After a rather underwhelming pair of lounge visits I was keen to get onto the Dreamliner as soon as possible, to see Air Canada’s version of the highly praised B/E Diamond seats (as used by Qatar).
My ride back to London
Boarding was a very smooth and civilised process, with business class and star alliance gold called first. As the gate agent checked my documents he said, “enjoy your flight aboard our brand new dreamliner!”
It’s always great to see airline staff taking pride in their product and almost always results in a commensurate improvement in the onboard experience.
My first impressions of the cabin, upon boarding, were great. The slightly grey colour will probably age better than a pure white and gives the feeling a of a cool, snowy, Canadian landscape.
The main, immediately noticeable difference between this and the Qatar Dreamliner is the degree of privacy offered by AC. The seats have large privacy walls, which mean that you don’t really see other pax once you are sat down.
Aurora Borealis mood lighting to welcome us onboard.
The cabin was only around half full and plenty of people were taking pics, the crew were quite relaxed as they had plenty of time to deal with the light load, letting us all get the snaps we needed before take off!
There was nobody sat in seat 1K until a couple of minutes before the doors shut, so I took the opportunity to photograph it. I had avoided this seat as I thought I might be disturbed by the galley but in reality it is set quite far back and would have been absolutely fine.
I was extremely impressed with the bedding that greeted me at my seat. The enormously plump pillow and soft duvet are the kind of thing you’d expect in First Class.
My seat: 2K. A very sharp and large IFE screen, which is fixed in place, meaning that you can watch entertainment from gate to gate.
Everything here just looks so sleek and clean, not a scratch or scuff to be seen. I was really impressed with the amount of counter space and storage in particular (although I was surprised not see a magazine rack at the rear of the countertop, near the headrest)
The main storage compartment contained a very responsive IFE controller, 2 USB ports, a universal power socket and the audio connector. Earbuds were provided for use during take-off and landing, with proper noise cancelling headphones distributed once we were airborne.
Very cool looking and surprisingly high quality, both in terms of audio fidelity and comfort.
I really like how there is a gap for cables to pass through, when the storage compartment is closed.
The little reading light felt really solid and well manufactured. It’s such a small detail but was reminiscent of handling an iPhone when you’re used to a plastic cased alternative.
Unlike the Qatar seats, the adjustable armrests here are ‘open plan’, resulting in a reduction in capacity and security. Another interesting detail here is how the seat runs in an uninterrupted line. There is no join under your knees, you wouldn’t think it but this really made the seat far more comfortable than its competitors, for both lounging and sleeping.
Not the largest footwell, definitely no space for a carry on here. A rather unusual location for this literature holder, so unusual that AC decided not to put anything in it!
The safety cards and magazine are instead located under the main countertop, alongside a small storage dish.
A couple of basic seat control buttons…
…plus a far greater range of features on the touch screen.
Plenty of space to spread out in seat mode, the high walls don’t make your shoulders feel hemmed in at all. The right arm rest is very well positioned, ergonomically.
The staggering of the seats and the size of the walls means that you’ll never see another person’s head whilst seated.
I was really, really impressed with this seat and think that on balance it is probably the best reverse herringbone product I’ve encountered. The combination of features and finishes is really hard to beat. Adding the privacy walls, in particular, makes such a huge difference. The padding also feels a lot thicker and more comfortable than the offerings on Cathay, Qatar, AA etc.
In addition to the enormous bedding that I previously mentioned, there was a water bottle and amenity kit waiting for me, at my seat.
I really love this herringbone tweed design, a nod to the layout of the seats perhaps? ?
Escents toiletries plus socks, eyemask, a dental kit and ear plugs. The earplugs came in a hard carry case and the dental kit contained a floss pick. Another small detail which puts this above the competition.
Always nice to have another pen to add to the collection and better still a metal one.
Menus were distributed before take-off. I really like how much flexibility is built into the offering. There isn’t full dine on demand but you do have the option to have a smaller meal at any time plus, at 75mins before landing, the full hot breakfast service is served later than almost any other airline, meaning you have more time to sleep!
Shortly after the menus were handed out the drinks service commenced. I asked for a glass of the Spanish white wine and was asked if I’d ever tried it before. When I said no, the FA offered me a small taste first, displaying the bottle to me as a I sipped. Unexpectedly great service. The wine was very drinkable and served alongside a ramekin of warm cashews.
A large salad served alongside three chilled prawns with fennel, orange, pickled onion and horseradish and celeriac puree. A fantastic way to start the meal. Fresh, light and delicious. I was genuinely surprised to see such a varied combination of flavours in the prawn dish.
The presentation on the sablefish was with San Marzano tomatoes, chickpeas and chorizo could have been improved a little. However the fish was both generously proportioned and beautifully cooked. Once again there was a powerful combination of flavours here, perfectly designed to stimulate the taste buds in a pressurised cabin.
Given that I’d done almost nothing other than eat, sleep and sit in planes for the last few days, I skipped dessert: much though the cabin crew tried to convince me otherwise! Speaking of which, the crew were unimaginably friendly and welcoming, it felt like I was flying on an airline run by close family members, inviting me into their home – rather than a major corporation.
I actually wrote this in my notes: “SQ levels of service”.
After the meal service, snack baskets were placed atop the centre bulkhead seats, with little reading lights to assist passengers in making their selection.
Night time lighting
Given the light load I was able to grab an extra pillow and had absolutely zero trouble getting to sleep. Whilst taking these nighttime shots, I couldn’t help noticing that the crew were speaking in whispers, tiptoeing quietly and using two hands to pick things up, close drawers etc. They were doing everything possible to reduce noise and improve passengers’ sleep. Very impressive and rather heartwarming ?
After around 5 hours of sleep I woke up. As soon as I returned from the bathroom an FA came over to ask if she could get me anything. I ordered a macchiato, which came with a lindt dark chocolate.
When the FA cleared my first coffee she asked if I’d like another, I obliged and she brought it within a couple of minutes. This time it was served with a couple of Lotus biscuits.
Breakfast arrived shortly after my second coffee. I was very impressed with the variety and presentation of the fruit. I also thought that the sausage with omelette, sour cream, salsa and potatoes was leagues ahead of the offering I’m used to on BA. No visible oil or grease, no stringy bacon, plus: soft and fluffy eggs, with no burn marks on the outside. A genuinely pleasant dish, with the kick of salsa and freshness of the sour cream, really serving to wake up my taste buds!
The hard product offers a notable improvement over the Qatar reverse herringbone, with more comfortable padding and far more privacy.
The crew were unbelievably charming and welcoming.
The food was light, fresh and full of big flavours: ideally suited to being served at altitude.
The bedding was plush, soft and crisp.
There was Lavazza espresso.
True, there were no PJs, no Krug and no Rimowa amenity kits – this doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of EVA Air (let alone the closing doors of Q Suites). However, the overall experience was absolutely one of the best that I’ve ever had in business class. I had no real expectations going into this and came away with a real fondness for AC. If this is the service standard that they are able to consistently deliver, they have to be one of the best airlines in North America.