Air Canada debuts new Signature Class business class

By David Flynn, April 18 2018
Air Canada debuts new Signature Class business class

Air Canada is raising the business class bar with a rebranding of its premium cabins to Signature Class, and wrapping them in an 'end to end experience' known as Signature Service.

It's a play similar to that of United Airlines' Polaris business class, although in the case of the Canucks there's no new business class seat – the airline's existing flatbed seat, such as seen on its Boeing 787 flights from Brisbane and soon Melbourne, as well as the revamped Boeing 777 from Sydney, will continue to be its flagship product.

Air Canada's international business class is now Signature Class
Air Canada's international business class is now Signature Class

However, part of the new Signature Class experience now includes

  • an upgraded an meal service designed by award-winning Vancouver chef David Hawksworth, with a 'dine on demand'  concept covering both the main course and lighter items from the snack menu, all presented on what the airlines describes as "restaurant-style dishware and glassware"
  • a revised drinks menu featuring Laurent-Perrier champagne and an 'Air Canada Signature Cocktail' (comprising bourbon, Sprite, ginger ale, maple syrup, and lemon)
  • mattress pads for a more comfortable sleep on the long overnight flight
  • refreshed amenity kits with Canadian brands such as Want Les Essentiels and Vitruvi
Mattress pads bolster Air Canada's Signature Class sleep experience
Mattress pads bolster Air Canada's Signature Class sleep experience

Air Canada's Signature Class and Signature Service is making its debut on all international flights today, including services from Australia to Vancouver.

On the ground, Air Canada's Toronto-Pearson hub features the Air Canada Signature Suite lounge, opened in late 2017.

Signature Class travellers enjoy access to the Signature Suite lounge
Signature Class travellers enjoy access to the Signature Suite lounge

This is counted among the best business class airport lounges in North America – mainly for its superb David Hawksworth à la carte menu and a drinks list including cocktails and Moët & Chandon champagne.

Signature Class travellers enjoy access to the Signature Suite lounge
Signature Class travellers enjoy access to the Signature Suite lounge

The Signature Suite is availably only to Signature Class passengers departing on international flights – Air Canada Altitude and Star Alliance frequent flyers have to make do with one of the nearby Maple Leaf lounges.

The Signature Suite lounge also locks out upgraders from economy or premium economy.

The Signature Lounge isn't for upgraders or top-tier frequent flyers
The Signature Lounge isn't for upgraders or top-tier frequent flyers

Although Air Canada confusingly says the lounge is for "full fare Air Canada Signature Class customers", the ticketing categories include all business class booking codes (J, C, D, Z and P) – which covers the lowest business class fares – however, travellers who've used their points for a bump up to Signature Class won't be allowed in.

On the ground there'll be Signature Service concierges at Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, and – from later this year – a fleet of BMW sedans to whisk travellers between domestic and international flights at Toronto.

Air Canada will also extend its Signature business class on selected domestic and USA flights starting June 1 on its Boeing 787, Boeing 777, Boeing 767 and Airbus A330 aircraft between Toronto and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver; and between Vancouver and Montreal and Newark.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 186

Looks fantastic, seat shell looks similar to Virgin Australia’s suites though not has heavily modified.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Nov 2015

Total posts 35

It's actually the identical product to VA suites, just less customised as you mention.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 95

This does look reasonably good. I must say, however, with experience travelling with AC from time to time over the past few decades, I have never been impressed with them as an airline.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Apr 2018

Total posts 4

Hard product looks decent but I've never heard good things about the customer service when it comes to Air Canada.

09 Jul 2012

Total posts 27

Lacklustre or just plain bad service on AC seems the norm rather than the exception, if you glance through FF forums and reviews. I prefer to come to my own conclusions; but the sheer consistency and volume of lukewarm opinions on their customer service has dampened my interest in AC! This is so incongruous, since Canadians really are some of the nicest folks you'll meet.

27 Aug 2015

Total posts 28

Lounge access only for jclass fares holders, not points upgrades - take note QF Fclass lounge

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 89

This David Hawksworth chap sounds like a real “Neil Perry” type. Does he sport a similarly emblematic ponytail?


Jokes aside, we seem to be witnessing the beginning of a step change in the way carriers position their J class product. Generally, lounges have steadily been losing their charm as more and more savvy travellers learn about ways to get and retain status.

International J class fares typically start for at least a few thousand dollars. For that kind of money, the experience ought to match the price. Sharing a lounge with some “FIFO” types is not consistent with such an experience. Yes, frequent flyers deserve access to a quality lounge, but the F/J experience should be differentiated, in my view.

I, for one, welcome this trend and think it’s a smart move by the likes of the Canucks and United.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

01 Mar 2012

Total posts 173

I agree, having a distinct Business Class Lounge creates a more calming environment. I don’t really want to be flying and away from my family, so if I have to be away, then I need an oasis like atmosphere in the lounge so I can relax, get work done or have a nice shower without waiting for hours.


The Signature Product, Polaris and even SQ lounges out of Singapore (not because of how they look like but the fact they are business class pax only) would make me use their product over other airlines without that distinction.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 56

Air Canada has a good business class seat but I have found meals to be very average just like other North American airlines so let's hope they are better. I agree with it just being a business class lounge, give frequent flyers a good lounge of their own and they can't complain. SQ's Gold Lounge at SIN T3 is the worst example of this but if you look at the new United Clubs they are pretty decent and good enough for Star Alliance Gold members in economy or premium economy.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jun 2016

Total posts 37

But it will still be the very average AC service from FAs that give the impression of hating their job. And, if they really want to make it 'signature' AC should add pyjamas for the long-haul (i.e. YVR-SYD) flights and much better champagne... such first world problems!

Zac
Zac

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2014

Total posts 128

Have never considered AC before but now very tempted to try this on my next trip to North America. I really like that it's a big bang international rollout available now, not previewing something that may or may not be available in Oz in 2 years time (Polaris?). Couple of quick questions in case anyone knows:

- best way to earn points for an Australian FF (SQ then transfer to Virgin?)
- what lounge is used in Sydney?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jun 2016

Total posts 37

@Zac - AC use ANZ lounge in Sydney - at least they did last time i travelled that route.

Will let someone with greater knowledge answer the points question.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Feb 2017

Total posts 12

Zac, we booked AC J class fares last year using Lifemiles FF program as they're part of Star Aliance. Flew Bne-Yvr. Now we didn't use earned points to fly so not strictly answering your question but as another option......we purchased miles on Lifemiles' bonus 2 for 1 offer (in fact earned extra 125%) at the time! ABT has reviewed this deal many times before, so search the site if you haven't heard about Lifmiles. Upshot, cost us less than $3.5K/ea return for J class fares, great for long haul on 787 & nice overall product! There was also plenty of availability via LM booking site on AC but check this before you spend the $$ to buy the miles. Bit of lateral thinking & hope it helps.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

10 Aug 2015

Total posts 79

I’m certainly noticing more differential treatment being reported between points pax and cash pax from airlines at least on the ground. Do you know if people using points outright for business class are entitled to the lounge?

29 Oct 2016

Total posts 35

Business availability using Aeroplan air miles never showed anything on a maple leaf tail from Australia to Nth America whenever I tried - always United or ANA. Perhaps as an upgrade mechanism there may have been some though.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Apr 2018

Total posts 1

I would hope that Air Canada would debut better service from flight stewards and reduce the fussing around they engage in.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 44

Note that the new Signature lounge at YYZ is not available to pax to Australia because it's situated airside in the international terminal; AC33 to Australia from YYZ (BNE and MEL flights originate in YVR) is domestic as far as YVR and thus departs from the domestic terminal. So it's basically only for J passengers to Europe, Asia (direct, not via YVR) and South America. When travelling on a points-only J ticket you get access to the Maple Leaf lounge but not the Signature lounge, irrespective of destination. And to confirm, AC uses the Air NZ lounge at SYD.

20 Apr 2018

Total posts 1

I experienced the new Signature Class service last night on AC33 YYZ-YVR-SYD. New menu and amenity kits were a winner, mattress protectors made for a much more comfortable sleep. I've noticed FA's have been more friendly and professional on all recent flights not only to me as a 100k Super Elite FF but other J class pax. Unfortunately the start of AC33 YYZ-YVR even though on the same metal as the continuation YVR-SYD is treated as a domestic flight so no access to the Signature Suite lounge in YYZ, only regular Maple Leaf lounge. I did use the Signature lounge last year on a YYZ-HND J class trip and it is top shelf. Good work AC!!

Air Canada, Air Canada... Shaking my head because they have a world class product delivered poorly, and I blame management. Take irregular Ops as an economy class passenger. I purchased their trip insurance specific for irregular operations called "on my way" on the toll free free number, the only way to contact them, and it was overwhelmed and unreachable. I waited in a slow line, no info, staff was processing passengers not helping them. They talk among themselves. someone left for break. no info. and so I get to end of the line and...


rebooked, hotel for 2 nights, food voucher instructions to the shuttle bus...

Next!

OMG! that was above and beyond what was is expected for a weather delay! incredible for a North American airline. And the next day I got through to the insurance and they upgraded me.

great service delivered poorly.

the issue with air canada is they are their own worst enemy. they process passengers effectively, they don't treat them as guests. Flying Air Canada is like entering a machine to be processed. All the bits are similar standard to every other solid international airline in the world, but the customer service and the absence of information lags and distroys the experience (youll never see a single sign, board or app with the actual departure time for a delayed flight, usually the boards are 2-3 notifications behind so you leave the gate area at you're own risk.)

Maybe they'll get it together, we will see. it's a solid airline, 100% state of the practice, all the bits are there, but a culture that is not "help our guests" but "prevent passengers from screwing up" so expect alot of "let me see your ticket" "go in this line!" "it's that way" "here you go, NEXT“

but the seats, lounges, and food is best in North America. and international business class is remarkably consistent at this point. it's what Delta will look in a couple of years. they just need to fix the culture, but that is a heavy lift.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Mar 2015

Total posts 79

Just rebranded... Customer service still the same bad attitude of AC... If AC don't change internally, it will never change as airline...is like trying to cover the sun with one finger!! I just got back in AC from China and it was horrible...the food was not great, but the attitude of AC crew is just "tasteless". I hope this change will "inject" optimism to the people and get a better quality outbound and inbound product.


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