Air Canada unveils new business & premium economy seats

By John Walton, February 13 2013

Air Canada is changing its Executive First business class to a staggered layout, installing premium economy seats and squeezing an extra economy class passenger into every row on its newest jets.

Business class passengers on board the airline's factory-fresh Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will see more compact seats in a staggered layout, rather than the current herringbone style as seen on AC's Sydney-Vancouver route.

Refresh yourself on the differences between staggered and herringbone layouts with AusBT's guide to business class seats and configurations

Air Canada's newest jets will be found on Asian and European flights, with Australian flights remaining on the longer range Boeing 777-200LR.

A mixed bag for business class

The new seats mean Air Canada can fit 36 Executive First seats into the space where it used to have 24 seats in the older herringbone layout.

The new business class (on the right) is much more tightly packed.
The new business class (on the right) is much more tightly packed.

Frequent internatinal business travellers will be familiar with the seats, used on numerous airlines including Swiss, Finnair (on the Airbus A330) Austrian and Brussels Airlines.

Air Canada has yet to release images of the seat in its colours, but here's what the cabin looks like on Finnair.
Air Canada has yet to release images of the seat in its colours, but here's what the cabin looks like on Finnair.

The fully flat bed is a plus, but the staggered layout is a relative minus because it doesn't offer direct aisle access for all.

In the old business class, some travellers dislike being at an angle, but the benefit is space and no neighbour to climb over.
In the old business class, some travellers dislike being at an angle, but the benefit is space and no neighbour to climb over.

Unfortunately for passengers, the new staggered layout means a return to the "midnight clamber" problem, where people in a window seat have to climb over the person next to them in the aisle to get out when the seats are reclined into beds.

On the plus side, if you're a traveller who dislikes sitting at the slight angle of a herringbone layout, you may prefer the new seats.

The fully flat beds vary in width from 20.6 to 22.5 inches (52.3 to 57 cm) and in bed length from 75 to 78 inches (190.5 to 198 cm).

Taller passengers should note that solo seats in this seating layout tend to have less space in the footwell when in bed mode. 

Solid new premium economy cabin

Good news for business travellers whose budgets don't stretch to Executive First: Air Canada will offer three rows of premium economy seats on its new planes.

Despite the CGI-only imagery, the seats look to be towards the higher end of premium economy offerings compared with other airlines.

Seats are 20 inches wide, with a pitch of 38 inches (that's 50.8 cm wide and 96.5 cm in terms of pitch), and laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration — standard for a Boeing 777.

Ultra-narrow economy seats

But regular economy is a disaster for travellers down the back. Air Canada is squashing a tenth passenger into every row on its 777 and cutting seat width by a full inch and a half.

That's a real problem: elbow room can actually be more important than leg room in economy

The new seats are just 17 inches (43.2 cm) wide — that's one of the narrowest in the sky — with correspondingly narrower aisles.

Seat pitch, too, is poor: just 31 inches (78.7 cm).

Taken together, the new economy layout means that Air Canada on these plane will move into the "avoid" category for many savvy flyers.

Stay informed with up-to-the-minute news on business travel: follow @AusBT on Twitter.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jan 2013

Total posts 55

Same as the Emirates 777-300 I guess

 

07 Aug 2012

Total posts 197

At least EK give you 34" of pitch in Y

QFF

06 Nov 2012

Total posts 47

It all looks most unpleasant. I've never flown Air Canada, but nothing I see here would tempt me. And as I usually have to pay my own way, down the back, AC has just gone to the top of the Avoid list.

 

 

KG
KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

They are cramping more seats on their new 777-300ER than Qantas on their (older) A380, enough said.....

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

Ouch! Used AC a couple of years ago to avoid LAX when going on a ski trip to Canada. Went economy which was a long time cramped in the old seat. I don't think I could handle these new economy seats at all.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 328

Wont be flying AC in a hurry. Shocking Y cabin, I mean who would bother?

Wow 31" pinch and 10 abreast! holy cramp batman.

thats not far from budget airlines standard, like air asia, where the pitch is 29".

except this one, you get a "free" meal. so i guess thats.... something

RR
RR

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 64

I thought AC was doing ok financially. They were my favourite way to return from North America to Sydney. That is a less comfortable arrangement even for Business compared to current aircraft (where every seat was more or less equal). Swiss only have either 4 or 5 across - this has 4 or 6, effectively making 2 levels of space/comfort/privacy - and as noted the 'slum' 6 across returns to the 'legover' concept. Hardly a way forward I would have thought. I have a trip scheduled from the Americas in a couple of months, and you can be sure AC have lost me. 

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 125

CA is Air China.  Air Canada is AC (or Eh C if you prefer).

I think a lot of people are disappointed with AC's new product, especially since their herringbones were quite cutting-edge at the time they were installed.  I personally prefer the staggered product on Swiss to the herringbones, but as you say this staggered layout has its own issues with aisle access, space, etc.

As for economy, it does look a bit on the cozy side.  Fortunately, the 777-300 mostly runs to Europe so it's typically only 7-8 hours of torture.  The longer routes like SYD and HKG use the -200LR, so no worry about getting the new cabin to Australia any time soon.

Air Canada really embodies the Canadian spirit of mediocrity - no need to be world class so long as you're ahead of the Americans.  Yes, their product (hard and soft) is unimpressive compared to Asian or Middle Eastern carriers, but it's still marginally better than the US and EU carriers they compete with across the pond, and that's where most of their business is.  Is it a coincidence the new product is so similar to the LH group, their TATL joint venture partners?

As for Asia and the south Pacific, again there's limited pressure to compete.  Connections via the Middle East are geographically and politically inconvenient, most Canadians will pay a premium to avoid transiting a US airport like LAX, and there's limited TPAC competition from anyone besides Cathay.  The only other airline flying to Australasia is NZ, who (a) are a Star Alliance partner and (b) offer a similarly tight Economy cabin.  Why bother to step up their game?

It'll be interesting to see how things change once (if?) 787s start flying in large numbers and some of these marginal routes open up.  Could we see Qantas, Singapore, or ANA service to Canada?  How about AC to Melbourne?

FWIW, my good friend from Melbourne always complained about the service on QF - until she flew AC to Toronto last summer.  Now the Red Roo doesn't seem so bad!

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

CA is Air China.  Air Canada is AC (or Eh C if you prefer).

In true Canadian style: sorry! ;) That one crept in during our post-publication editing.

"Air Canada really embodies the Canadian spirit of mediocrity - no need to be world class so long as you're ahead of the Americans.  Yes, their product (hard and soft) is unimpressive compared to Asian or Middle Eastern carriers, but it's still marginally better than the US and EU carriers they compete with across the pond, and that's where most of their business is.  Is it a coincidence the new product is so similar to the LH group, their TATL joint venture partners?"

LOL :) that made me chuckle.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

I missed that, you are quite right that we see the 200LR here. I certainly hope that economy seat doesn't come to Australia, especially Melbourne when the Dreamliner comes. That's just too far for that configuration.

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 15

How sad! My brother lives in YHZ (Halifax, NS). For years my family have been flying AC on AC33/AC34 to visit him. We'd always choose this route to avoid transiting through the USA and because the AC product wasn't that bad. I always found the service friendly, the food okay, and above all the Y seating comfortable and spacious. 

I'll be advising my family to find alternate routes if these new Y seats are introduced on this long route. 

Not sure if anyone saw this, but on AC's website they have a picture of their new business class, and the seats are brown. So I guess they did release images of it in their own colours ... not sure if I'm wrong though :P
https://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/onboard/comfort_intexec.html
 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 46

I'm a window seater who usually travels solo...this new layout doesn't cut it for me.   Nothing worse for a woman to be climbing over a sleeping male unknown seatmate during a flight. 


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