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Air Canada is set to join the Boeing 787 club this month, with the first of 37 Dreamliners making a short delivery flight from Boeing's Seattle plant to Air Canada's Toronto base ahead of domestic flights to Montreal and Vancouver through to April.
"There will be flights between Toronto and Montreal and some to Vancouver, and maybe a couple other places” confirms Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.
Those runs are intended to bed down the aircraft, train up the crew and deliver a wave of publicity for the Canadian flag-carrier.
Between May 1 and June 30 the Dreamliners will debut on flights from Toronto to London and Zurich before moving over to full-time routes from Toronto to Tel Aviv and Tokyo’s Haneda airport starting July 1.
Moving to a mixed fleet
Air Canada has six Boeing 787-8s due for delivery this year, but 2015 will split its Dreamliner deliveries between nine more of the original 787-8s and 22 of the larger longer-range 787-9s, at a rate of between six and nine new aircraft a year through to 2019.
“What happened with (our Boeing 787 order) is that it’s actually evolved” Air Canada President and CEO Calin Rovinescu told Australian Business Traveller.
“As the aircraft was completed and we saw its capabilities, we needed to shift more to 787-9”, Rovinescu explained, because the stretched Dreamliner had “the capabilities we expected in the 787-8.”
Air Canada’s Dreamliner heading down under
Among Air Canada’s 787-9’s routes will be Vancouver-Sydney, which is currently flown on a Boeing 777-200LR, and potentially a new Vancouver-Melbourne route.
“Vancouver to Sydney is the single longest route we have and the only way we want to do Australia is non-stop” Rovinescu said, and "Melbourne would be logical next destination for us in Australia."
“Our challenge is aircraft. We need the Boeing 777-200LR or the 787-9 to fly non-stop to Australia”.
“We have only a few of the 777-200LRs and if the opportunity comes up to take another 777 to deploy here we’d do it, but realistically until we get the 787-9 series we won't have the aircraft to make this route a non-stop basis.”
Inside Air Canada's first Boeing 787
Air Canada has opted for a three-class layout across 251 seats in the Boeing 787-8 with business, premium economy and economy.
The cabin has been designed for a “contemporary, sophisticated” look, the airline says, using warm natural textiles and fabrics, while the colour palette is based in slate grey “with hints of Canadian red and celeste blue”.
Air Canada Boeing 787 business class
The 20 business class seats, which Air Canada tags as ‘executive pods’, feature a similar mix of privacy and access as we’re seeing in other new international business products such as Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Qantas’ forthcoming Business Suite.
The 1-2-1 layout provides direct aisle access for every traveller, with the solo seats angled towards the window while the two centre seats are angled slightly towards each other.
Each of the middle seats sport a privacy screen which can be lowered if you’re travelling with a partner or colleague.
Seat pitch is 21 inches, while the seats extends to an 80 inch fully flat bed dressed with a 100% cotton duvet and, for that extra touch of indulgence, a new espresso and cappuccino service featuring Lavazza coffee.
Other creature comforts include an 18 inch touchscreen video panel and controller and an amenity kit featuring Canadian-made Escents aromatherapy products.
Air Canada Boeing 787 premium economy
If you’re more ‘budget’ than ‘business’, Air Canada’s premium economy cabin offers 21 seats in a 2-3-2 pattern.
Passengers get a 19.5 inch wide seat with 38 inch pitch and a 7 inch recline.
Each set has its own 11 inch touchscreen panel, USB and AC power socket.
Air Canada Boeing 787 economy
The rest of the 787 is given over to 210 economy seats ranked 3-3-3.
The 17.3 inch wide seats have a 5 inch recline and 31 inch pitch, although their slimine design should afford a bit of extra room around the knees.
To take your mind off the squeeze there’s a 9 inch touchscreen with a USB port and “universal power ports at arms’ reach”, which could mean one shared between 'triple' module of three seats.
For an extended sneak peak at Air Canada's new Boeing 787, watch the video below.
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