Air Canada A321XLR: “private flatbed suites” in business class

The long-range single-aisle jets will be crowned by 14 private suites which transform into lie-flat beds.

By David Flynn, May 26 2023
Air Canada A321XLR: “private flatbed suites” in business class
Executive Traveller exclusive

Air Canada’s forthcoming fleet of Airbus A321XLR jets will coddle North American and trans-Atlantic passengers in 14 private lie-flat business class suites, which will also reflect a fresh, warmer and even more Canadian take on the airline’s ‘look and feel’.

“We’ve ordered 30 A321XLRs and those aircraft will allow us to serve destinations across the Atlantic as well as within North and Central America,” Mark Nasr, Air Canada’s Executive Vice President Marketing and Digital, tells Executive Traveller.

“We're currently expecting our A321XLRs starting in 2025 so we’re working right now on a brand new Signature Class product for the XLRs.”

Air Canada’s A321XLR Signature Class

“Those aircraft will feature 14 Signature Class suites in a 1-1 layout – so that’s all-aisle access, obviously – and these will be private flatbed suites,” although Nasr declined to specify if that privacy will include a sliding door.

“We’re not ready to comment on all the details yet, but they will certainly be a private suite flatbed.”

Air Canada's A321XLR will come with private lie-flat business class suites.
Air Canada's A321XLR will come with private lie-flat business class suites.

Air Canada has enlisted London-based studio Acumen to work on the A321XLR business class suites, Nasr also revealed.

Some of Acumen’s many previous hits include

Acumen will work with Air Canada’s own design team on shaping not only the single-aisle Signature Class suites but the rest of the A321XLR cabin.

“It doesn’t get deeper in terms of Acumen's knowledge of a cabin,” Nasr says, “but then we have the breadth of the knowledge and expertise of our brand from our in-house design studio.”

Acumen's design portfolio includes JetBlue's A321LR Mint business class.
Acumen's design portfolio includes JetBlue's A321LR Mint business class.

However, the A321XLRs won’t have premium economy, with the business class cabin being followed by Air Canada’s conventional mix of economy and extra-legroom economy seating.

“The major reason they won’t have premium economy is that we’re going to fly those aircraft on our longer transcontinental routes within Canada and the US, and also on the Atlantic.”

“The market for premium economy is very strong across the Atlantic but it’s still a developing market within North America, so we figured the business/economy split was ideal for this aircraft.”

A warmer look and feel

Nasr also confirmed the A321XLR fleet “will introduce a new design standard for our cabins, our interiors, our lounges, really for all facets of our customer-facing experience.” 

The aim is to deliver a consistent look and feel “across our whole fleet and across our whole ground experience, even embedding itself in our food and beverage programme” explains Andy Shibata, Air Canada’s Vice President Brand, who hints that a touchstone of this will be “warmth”.

Air Canada wants to bring more warmth to its brand: in the air, on the ground and at every touchpoint between.
Air Canada wants to bring more warmth to its brand: in the air, on the ground and at every touchpoint between.

“Obviously we're going to lean into the Canadian brand: we have the maple leaf on our tails and we have the name of the country in our (airline) name,” Shibata tells Executive Traveller.

“Whenever people think of the imagery of Air Canada, they think about Canada as well. So there’s a warmth there that’s going to manifest itself in the colours, the textures, and all those design decisions that we make.”

Nasr cites a line from Canada’s national anthem: ‘with glowing hearts we see thee rise’.

“So we have this notion of glowing-hearted hospitality, something that is still professional and polite and diplomatic like we are today, but hopefully in the future also warmer.”

New-look cabins for Air Canada Express 

While that design language will also find its way into Air Canada’s new twin-aisle Boeing 777 and 787 business class seats, early hints of it will been seen next year on the humbler Air Canada Express regional fleet. 

“We expect to introduce new cabins on our Express aircraft, on the 76-seater Embraer 175s and Bombardier CRJ900s,” Nasr says, confirming these will also carry a “new-look business class.”

Regional aircraft are “typically where many of our competitors don't necessarily put quite as much thought and attention to.”

“We see an opportunity to have a strong brand expression… even though the spaces and spacial constraints are different and the flights are shorter, there’s just as big of an opportunity there on the product and the amenities provided on our regional fleet.’

“So the first aircraft we expect that actually have this new design standard will be our 76-seat aircraft that fly in our North American regional network starting sometime next year.”

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 94

No Premium Economy across the Atlantic? Ridiculous! Given that J to most destinations in Europe costs almost as much as J to Australia, I buy Premium Economy and apply for an upgrade, which to Heathrow is very hit and miss, but at least I know that if I miss, I'll still be in in PY. The last thing I want is to miss and be in Y (and almost all flights to Europe are overnight). What is AC thinking?

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jun 2017

Total posts 42

I'm pretty sure these will be for really thin routes mostly based out of Montreal like Bordeaux, Lyon, Geneva, Porto, Reykjavik and some others like Toronto-Dublin Toronto-Manchester, Halifax-Paris etc. I'm sure the current 3-4x daily to LHR from Toronto will be unaffected.  calm down. 

Curious if they will also be updating the interiors on their A321CEO fleet as well? They appear to be staying in the fleet for several more years given their relatively young age. LOVE the news about the other retrofits coming, especially the Express fleet. Really just need to replace the aging IFEs that barely work to begin with. Curious to what they intend to do with Rouge's 319 fleet too. Ripe for retirement right now. 

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