I’m just gonna start with the bad news. I didn’t really enjoy this Air Canada Business Class flight. I think Air Canada really missed the mark here with their new “high density” business class cabin and I don’t think passengers on these long-haul flights will appreciate the new “updated” cabins either. Luckily for me, this was only a short flight but if you’re flying this aircraft to Hong Kong (or any flight over 8 hours), I’ll have some tips for you below to make this configuration less painful.
Air Canada Business Class, Boeing 777-300ER
Flight: AC 871
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Paris (CDG) to Montreal (YUL)
Depart: 1:25 PM on Thursday (1:36 PM actual)
Arrive: 3:55 PM on Thursday (4:07 PM actual)
Duration: 7hr 30mn
Seat: 6K Business Class
Both the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and the boarding gate for AC871 were located at gate 39. Because it was only a 10 second stroll to the gate, I walked up to the gate a few minutes before boarding time to snap a couple pictures of the bird and people watch before boarding was called. At approximately 12:45 PM, boarding was called for Air Canada business class and Star Alliance Gold passengers. I made my way down the jet bridge, presented my ticket to the flight attendant and was directed to my seat, 6K, on the right side of the plane.
This Boeing 777-300ER was equipped with Air Canada’s new “Studio Pod” International Business Class seats. These seats are similar to the business class seats that you will find on Austrian, Brussels, Finnair and SWISS. Having already flown on SWISS’ business class from Zurich to Los Angeles, I was already familiar with this product. Though the seats were similar, they were not identical as I think the SWISS seats offered a bit more space and privacy. The SWISS business class cabin also felt less cramped and the food and service were significantly better as well.
Air Canada actually has four different configurations for their long haul business class cabins. For a rundown of the different Air Canada business class configurations, you can read my analysis here.
Because I was traveling by myself, I wanted to grab one of the single “throne” seats. Instead of having a seatmate, the single seats had large tables to the right and left sides of the seat. The single seats offered the most privacy and space for solo travelers and every single seat had direct aisle access. I was able to snag seat 6K on the right side of the plane. Every seat was equipped with USB and universal power ports, personal AVOD entertainment and a reading light.
According to Seat Guru, seat 6K is 22.5 inches wide and offers 75 inches of pitch but it definitely felt a lot smaller and more cramped than that. These seats felt more claustrophobic than the SWISS seats and had less room to walk around. For example, the space in between my table and the seat in front of me was so narrow, I couldn’t easily walk in and out of my seat. I literally had to turn my body sideways just to slide out of my seat. My other complaint is the location of the seat controls. Located on the right armrest table, I accidentally moved my seat several times throughout my flight and would have to sit up to re-adjust myself. The armrests are also fixed so you can’t move or lower them out of the way to add more width when fully reclined.
The seat itself was fairly comfortable for lounging. It had a massage function and an air-adjustable seat cushion that could be controlled for firmness. The seat can be converted into a true lie-flat bed. However, the problem was that when fully reclined, your legs extended into a very tight cubby hole located below your IFE monitor. These seats are NOT good for anyone taller than 5’8’’ or people that are on the wider side. There was no “turn down” service or extra padding for people who wanted to sleep.
As I said, taller people really hated these seats and I must have heard at least two complaints to the in-flight manager during our flight. I actually struck up a conversation with another guy seated across from me in one of the middle aisle seats. He was a taller guy and told me he (unfortunately) flies this route quite often. Based on his experience with the different seats, he found that the seats directly next to the aisles were actually better for taller guys (as opposed to the seats that have an armrest in between the seat and the aisle) because the cubby holes on direct aisle seats were not fully enclosed and allowed for more leg movement.
I really liked the new color scheme for this Boeing 777-300ER. The earth tones were a nice upgrade from the drab blue used on the other planes and the new colors made the cabin feel light, fresh and classy. There was plenty of storage space in the overhead bins but not that much storage space around the seats. As much as I enjoyed the copious amount of table space, it would have been more convenient to have a space to store my backpack, camera or other electronics nearby.
Waiting at my seat were a set of cheap ear buds, a decent size pillow, blanket and an amenity kit. The blanket and pillow were decent but the amenity kit was a joke. It was one of the cheapest kits that I have ever received on any flight. The flimsy Air Canada branded, nylon package contained a pair of cheap socks, eye shades, ear plugs and a dental kit.
Within a few minutes of sitting down, the flight attendant came by to hand out menus and pre-departure drinks. As we pushed back from the gate, the flight attendants provided the in-flight safety instructions. That struck me as odd as they didn’t have a safety video. Maybe they didn’t have a video for this brand new jet yet. After the safety instructions, the flight attendants handed out real headphones to be used on the flight. The cheap ear buds were yours for the taking if you wanted it.
Once airborne and the seatbelt signs were turned off, the flight attendants prepared for lunch service by passing out hot towels and setting our tables.
To start, we were served another round of drinks and a ramekin of warm mixed nuts. It should be noted the flight attendants were extremely generous with the nuts and refilled my ramekin several times without me asking. I dunno. Maybe they thought I was really hungry. I just have this problem where I eat whatever is presented to me. The more nuts they dished out, the more I ate. The more nuts I ate, the more they dished out. It was a vicious cycle.
Next came the appetizer dish of peppered foie gras and duck magret with barley and apricot salad, mixed greens salad and warm bread. The appetizer was quite tasty and I thoroughly enjoyed the foie gras. Living in California, foie gras is actually banned in stores and restaurants so it was a nice treat to have.
Once I was done, my appetizer plate was cleared and the main course (pan fried beef fillet with potatoes au gratin, snap peas and red pepper julienne) was served. I’ll let you judge from the pictures but my main course was not that tasty. The beef was dry and vegetables were soggy. Lunch was concluded with a strawberry cheesecake and coffee service.
After lunch, I took some time to explore the in-flight entertainment system. The 12’’ IFE monitors were very crisp and clear but were unable to be dimmed once the cabin was darkened. There was a decent selection of movies, TV shows, music and games but my biggest annoyance was that they show you ads before your movie. Even though I had already seen it, I decided to watch American Hustle again and got some work done on my laptop.
The cabin lights were then dimmed and passengers were asked to close their window shades after lunch service so passengers could rest if they wanted to.
About an hour and half before landing, a pre-arrival light meal of chilled smoked peppered mackerel and salmon with mimosa potato salad was served. It wasn’t the best dish but there was no second option available.
Service wise, the flight attendants were fantastic. They engaged you in conversation, appeared to genuinely care about customer service and actually walked the cabin several times throughout the flight to see if the passengers needed anything.
Prior to our descent, the flight attendants came by to collect the headphones and hand out arrival cards.
Air Canada Business Class bottom line
Overall, this was a decent experience for my first Air Canada business class flight. There were some aspects that were better than expected and some aspects that were not so much. The IFE offered a great selection of entertainment and the flight attendants were fantastic. Everything else was just meh. I was really looking forward to experiencing this new product but I can’t say that I’m a fan of the new Studio Pods. The seats were too cramped and would be uncomfortable for any flight longer than 8 hours. I would definitely recommend their new Studio Pod business class seats over this one.
For those of you that enjoy a lot of pictures, I created a photo slideshow with additional pictures for you here.
Other trip reports in this series:
- The new Star Alliance Lounge at LAX
- The new Korean Airlines Skyteam Lounge at LAX
- Turkish Airlines business class from Los Angeles to Istanbul
- Hilton Istanbul
- Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge at Istanbul
- Turkish Airlines business class from Istanbul to Frankfurt
- Lufthansa Senator Lounges at Frankfurt
- Asiana Airlines first class from Frankfurt to Seoul
- Asiana Airlines first class lounge at Seoul
- Asiana Airlines business class from Seoul to Shanghai
- Westin Bund Center Shanghai
- VIP lounges at Shanghai Pudung International Airport
- Thai Airways business class from Shanghai to Bangkok
- Thai Airways Royal First Spa and Lounge
- Thai Airways first class from Bangkok to Paris
- Star Alliance Lounge at CDG
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at CDG
- Air Canada business class (Executive First) from Paris to Montreal
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at Montreal
- Air Canada business class (Executive First) from Montreal to Los Angeles.