Review: Air Canada Boeing 787-8 Signature Class (Brisbane-Vancouver)

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, July 19 2018
Air Canada Boeing 787-8 Signature Class (Brisbane-Vancouver)

Brisbane - Vancouver

Aircraft Type

Boeing 787-8


Air Canada



Cabin Class




The Good
  • Direct aisle access for every passenger
  • Comfy bedding with highly-customisable seat
  • Plenty of onward connections across Canada, USA and Europe
The Bad
  • No inflight WiFi or pyjamas
  • Eat when it suits your schedule with 'dine on demand'


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.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.


30 Jul 2015

Total posts 102

AA also has the same exact seat on their 787-9's that run down to SYD, not just VX!

Also these airlines with "Signature" and "The Business". Both sound absolutely stupid!!..especially VX's. Not enough eye rolls.

Hi Eli, assume you mean VA there rather than VX (which was the airline code for Virgin America). In the North American market at least, many airline give their flagship experiences a brand name to help customers identify the product and service they're booking.

(Yes, it would be far easier to use global terms like "first class" and "business class" as appropriate, but often, "first class" in North America refers to a standard reclining seat on a short-haul flight which rarely includes lounge access as part of the ticket, so by definition, "business class" would be a lesser product, and to counter that, brand names like Flagship for American Airlines, Delta One for Delta, Polaris for United and Signature Class for Air Canada serve to identify when a flight features the airline's top-tier experience: it's just the norm in this part of the world.)

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 67

Quite so;. A few years ago I got a "First Class" reward ticket from the Canadian east coast to Sydney almost entirely on United (Air Canada was threatening to expire miles at the time). As far as LAX "First" was no better than Qantas domestic Business reclining seats; LAX to SYD lie-flat beds were very similar to Air New Zealand's Business Class of the time, but without Air NZ's lovely service. But by calling this "First" the airline could charge a hefty premium of something like 50% more miles than a "Business Class" reward ticket. Quite a racket, that.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2518

Eli: it's The New Thing, isn't it? Airlines are rebranding business class with its own unique brand (UA Polaris, AC Signature) although these represent the entire business class experience inc lounges, meals... the real catch is when an airline such as United launches its new seats under the Polaris name but also applies that same moniker to all current business class seats (eg Boeing 787-9 Polaris from Sydney to San Francisco), I know many people who've gotten caught by assuming this means the Dreamliner will have the new ditect-aisle Polaris-class seats :(

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 197

Why should airlines stick the the “traditional” approach here. For example only calling onboard cabins First/Business/Econony, it sounds very dated and old fashion. It’s a bit like saying we still need to call iPhones -mobiles.

Company’s today in general are more forward and confident to back their brand and push individuality.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 390

I beg to differ. On trains worldwide, I know what a first class sleeping or sitting car is and how it will differ from economy (sometimes called second still) class sitters, sleepers or, in Asia, third class. And 'couchette' instantly tells me there'll either be four or six berths in my compartment.

'The Business' is a particularly silly name. Is 'Polaris' something to do with the north pole stars? 'DeltaOne' - what does that mean?

Simplicity is best.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Dec 2012

Total posts 53

Except for China on their bullet trains where business class is a better product that first class!

19 Jul 2018

Total posts 6

Rebranding of business class is nothing new. United and Continental got the ball rolling in the early 1999s with United’s Connoisseur Class (which Americans pronounced as con-e-sewer, slightly disconcerting), and Continental branded as BusinessFirst when they eliminated first class and were arguably the first to introduce a genuine hybrid business and first product. Of course, BA’s Club World moniker has been around forever and a day. Funny enough, United was the first to ditch the silly branding and go back to Business Class but has now thought it necessary to start using the cabin class marketing name to define itself in a crowded market. In fact, Americans have had the branding of premium seats and services around since the 1950s with American’s Flagship Service, Delta’s Crown service etc.

09 Jul 2012

Total posts 27

There's a part of me which actually sympathizes with Eli. If you're not a regular flyer with a particular airline which uses its own terminology for premium cabins then you could easily get confused about which moniker applies.

Take EVA for example: 'Royal Laurel' and 'Elite Class'. At first glance, would you know which is which? Or perhaps Thai with 'Royal Silk'. When you're in a hurry and all you simply want is to book a seat, I can totally understand why having to stop and google would be.......annoying. Not all airlines see added value in tacking on made up names. SQ dumped 'Raffles Class' years ago and hasn't looked back. So simple. It's no big deal for me, either way. But I honestly appreciate knowing at first glance what is before me. It's the substance (hard/soft product) which matters, not fluffy names.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jun 2017

Total posts 36

Air Canada, being a Canadian airline, from a country with two national languages, tries to brand themselves excuslively in words that are the same in English and French for ease of advertising and consistency.

altitude is their FFP
Rouge is their LCC


Not everything needs to satisfy a cranky Australian one percenter’s world view of how things should run.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 67

And Canadian Airlines, before it was subsumed into Air Canada, was Canadi>n, which solved the problem of Canadian/Canadien.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Mar 2015

Total posts 89

Despite living in canada I gave up on AirCanada. While the metal was usually fine for international travel, their service ranged from passable to non existent. Perhaps things have improved over the last five years, but based on your ratings, service received the fewest stars, so I suspect not.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

19 Jul 2018

Total posts 18

I frequently fly with both Qantas and Virgin AU here in Australia, international and domestic, and I've found their service to be hit or miss. Food tends to be somewhat better than on North American airlines, but service is the same -- even the same as United Airlines. Honestly, this bashing of North American (more specifically, Canadian) airlines shows how biased people are towards particular airlines. Air Canada has a great product. Consistently higher quality than both Qantas and Virgin. Well, their international arm at least. Their domestic operations are subpar, but the economics of operating an airline across Canada and North America is certainly different from operating one within Australia. People also forget that, aside from Skytrax ratings, which we all know is subjective and biased, the other measure of quality is the value of a company's stocks, as it is inherently tied to customer perceptions. Air Canada and even United beats any Australian airline everyday on this regard.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Mar 2015

Total posts 80

Dear euges116 how you know that flying in Australia is cheaper than Canada? Australia has much less inhabitants than Canada... but equally have challenges as we do...there are more airlines flying around Australia than within Canada because most of the federal government only supports buying AC flights (mostly unless they do not have that route) They are totally spoiled and they do not do much for customers... QF serves FREE hot breakfast on 1 hr flight, what AC serves? Arrogant flight attendants selling things like on a bus.... and the list of bad thing for AC keep going..

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 67

Australian flights are never delayed or cancelled by snow storms (very frequent for several months a year); Australian flights are never delayed by cold so extreme that it becomes next to impossible to refuel the plane (the pumps more or less stop working); Australian airlines never have to de-ice their planes. The country is in any case considerably larger than Australia. All this adds to costs.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Mar 2015

Total posts 80

Outthere1000 you probably right but remember as well how costly fuel and aircraft maintenance is in Australia... Anyway, there is no excuse for bad service on AC... Countries with similar climate challenges as Finnair and SAS have a much better attitude than AC...even AEROFLOT estate support airline has a better service...

09 May 2016

Total posts 10

Why any savvy traveller leisure or business spends their own or company funds flying on either American or Canadian arilines is totally beyond me. It is not in their make up to know or understand what service is. There are so many choices from Australia and New Zealand.

Hi cross40, people obviously book flights and airlines for different reasons and everybody has their own preferences, although Air Canada's advantage in the Brisbane market is that it's the only airline offering non-stop Brisbane-Vancouver flights (or indeed, Brisbane-Canada): anything else requires a transit and takes more time, such as Qantas or VA to LAX, where you have to clear US passport control and Customs, and then fly onwards to Canada with another airline, after which you'd have to clear another round of passport control and Customs when entering Canada. I'd rather fly non-stop and save time, but that's my personal preference, of course.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 390

Agree: Asian airlines far superior and worth any extra time. Time pressed businessmen might not agree, but they're not the majority of travellers (though important in revenue generation).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Aug 2016

Total posts 25

I'd imagine anyone shelling out the $$ it costs for 'signature class' or 'the business' are more than capable of running the names through a quick google search to see what they are going to get.

Heck, getting onto airlines and travel review sites and learning about the products is part of the fun : )

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 390

But why make them do it in the first place?

Why not just use terms such as 'first class', 'business class' and 'economy class?' No need to consult the lexicographer.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jun 2017

Total posts 36

See above. Has to do with French-English. They try to make their branding the same word in both languages as often as possible.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jun 2016

Total posts 43

As a point of comparison, Air France simply calls their flagship 777 service "La Premiere" which is far clearer and very elegant! And business is "Classe Affaires" . Canadian French - or Quebecois - is somewhat archaic in terms of vocabulary. But that's off topic!

As for AC service - awful. But, they are the best of North America according to latest skytrax awards. Not saying much when you look at what they're competing against. And their frequent flyer program is also a joke.
I wish QF would fly year round direct to Canada - perhaps one day we will see them expand to Toronto? But hopefully, I'll be back home in Australia before then.
Thanks for the review Chris - am curious if you flew return with AC to BNE? Catering would have been completely different I suspect and probably not as good? My last flight with AC in "exec first" as it was called then, was with the old product which was terrible - at every level. (Both trans-pacific and trans-atlantic).

Hi lafleche, no, I flew onward from Vancouver to New York on Air Canada's Boeing 787-9 (which will be another review that we'll publish at some point), and then onward from New York to Europe, returning home via Asia.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 67

On what grounds would you think the catering's different on the return journey and why would you think it likely not as good? The meals are identical in both directions (speaking as an AC SuperElite Million Miler so I see these meals often), except that the dessert may be different.
It's also easy to say the FF program is "a joke" but it might be an idea to tell us why you say that. Easy to throw unsupported insults around, isn't it?

03 May 2013

Total posts 627

What is it with the plain classless colour scheme? Is this a cost thing or do airline interior cabin designers just have no flair or style as a job requirement? Air Canada, Qantas and a few other carriers must have all used the same boring colour blind designers for their First and Business cabins.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 390

From the photos it looks almost blindingly white. If teh intention is to relax passengers, that's a 'fail.' Good in a home according to estate agents I know but elsewhere...

09 Jul 2016

Total posts 28

how do book this with SQ KF miles.. availability seems very scarce!

SilkAir - KrisFlyer

20 Jul 2018

Total posts 3

It seems the airline never cleans the aircraft. Have a close look at the phots and you can see dust around the plug pins.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 67

The YVR to BNE, MEL and SYD flights operate on a tight, two hours or less turnaround (obviously less if the flight is late), and that includes deplaning, cleaning, catering and reboarding several hundred passengers. Do you really think that allows enough time to do a deep clean around a power socket? Which probably won't come into actual contact with your fingers either. I might add it's a bit of a stretch from there to "it seems the airline never cleans the aircraft".

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Mar 2015

Total posts 80

Thank you for your review, but AC still not my airline at all... I dislike os much that re-branding that at the end is the same poor service used...Not sure why but it seems you had a good service and good champagne because in April to/from PEK-YVR was not great selection of wines... Ontario's wines are not great the acidity is very high and not really my type... the food was OK but the attitude is not great at all... I have to say that the best North American airliner service on international J is AA at this point... TO SYD despite the seats were nor "Pod's" QF was fantastic with great Australian wines and great Champagne, the food was excellent the service well balanced and efficient... I'm glad you had a good review for AC because I'm still not buying it that much.... To SYD or Australia in General QF and NZ still my best...and third option AA... To China still from CX from YVR or YYZ... and I wish SQ had flights from any Canadian Airport but not yet... hopefully one day

25 Feb 2017

Total posts 26

Re: No Lamb available...I still cant understand why no Airline has followed AA and Given Premium Passengers the ability to pre-book the Main Meal of their choice up to 24 Hours ahead.

23 Jul 2018

Total posts 9

Just flew them to Vancouver out of Melbourne. Ordinary to say the least. One of the best examples was cabin crew who looked at my name and completely had no idea how to pronounce it and just screwed her face up. Was quite embarrassing. Here's a list their sub standard "service "

  • Smashed luggage upon arrival
  • Cabin crew judgmental about paying for upgrade at check in, like I was too poor to have booked it a business to start with. gave me the " sad face " look.
  • No salmon
  • Curtains never closed between business and premium
  • Lack of consistency of approach on service in cabin.
  • Chocolate stains all over seat
  • Then crew made me put mattress as seat was wet !
  • Even with added mattress ( 2 of them ) and mattress adjusted to softness it was still very firm and back / seat join jabbed into my side all night
  • Nowhere to put shoes
  • Divider in centre didn’t go down is ridiculous / not up to industry standard at all. just stupid when travelling with a partner.
  • Toilet not accessible, curtain pulled in front of toilet door with trolley stored there ! making it a no go zone according to the crew.
  • Business class toilet shared with premium economy ? Why ? Only one business class toilet and it was in galley and tiny
  • When I went to other toilet cabin crew tells me “I’m busy working here “. ?? Was rude and abrupt
  • Three times attendants forgot to bring things ( sugar, etc )
  • Twice ran out of wine / port
  • Can’t screen entertainment just on handset
  • Crew felt / came across like they were at work not providing a service / experience.
  • Rushed, minimalist
  • Food not busniss quality at all.

Sorry folks but when you pay that price you expect a lot more than the above. I'd not recommend them and cant wait to fly Qatar later in the year. There's a real world class airline, business class produce and crew.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 390

This is a 'classic' for a review and epitomises the general poor reputation of most 'North American' airlines. Great amount of detail. so thanks.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Mar 2015

Total posts 80

aceboy Thank you for the detailed review, that is a consistent bad service on AC premium cabins, including their International Premium Economy.. reason why I have stopped flying AC on International flights and avoid it at any level on domestic flights. Doesn't matter how he called, if they do not change the core of the value preposition, it would never "Take off" properly and it eventually it would fail...

23 Jul 2018

Total posts 9

One more thing, apparently I can't claim any points for this because I wasn't an Aeroplan member at the time of the flight ? Anyone know if this true or how I can claim points for this flight ? Cheers

Please help - I am travelling on this aircraft later in the yearand I have a CPAP machine - can I use it in Business Class? If so, does it need a special adaptor?

Hi Joan, that’s a question you’ll need to ask of Air Canada.

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