January 19, 2024
Air Canada offers Premium Economy class of service between selected pairs of cities in the United States and Canada, such as the flight that my wife and I recently took from Montreal (YUL) to Los Angeles (LAX) on a Boeing 787-800 aircraft. Since this was a relatively short trip that spent only about 5 hours in the air, there were some differences in the level of service and amenities between the North America routes and the transpacific and transatlantic long hauls – for example, no amenity kit was provided for this segment.
However, the spacious and comfortable seats as well as elevated dining experience which set Premium Economy apart from the main cabin were still enjoyable and comparable to that of the longer journeys across the oceans. Overall, I found this a nice upgrade from the back of the plane without spending an arm and a leg, and I am happy to share my entire experience with you on this review.
Table of Contents
- The Seat
- Beverage Service
- Dinner Service
- In-Flight Entertainment
- Pre-Arrival Snack
While I was really looking forward to a comfy space and a delicious meal on board my Premium Economy flight on Air Canada, some of the benefits that I enjoyed actually started at the airport. First of all, I had access to the airline’s priority check-in desk. This is a major time saver, especially during the peak tourist travel season in summer when the economy line can be worse than some of the rides in Disneyland. I also had a free checked baggage allowance of two pieces, each weighing up to 23 kg (50 lb.) It’s also good to know that the handling of my luggage will be expedited at my destination in Los Angeles, and they should be among the first bags to arrive at the carousel.
My wife and I were both Star Alliance Gold members so we would have been able to board in Zone Two regardless of our class of service. But just to let you know, PE passengers without any airline elite status also get to board in Zone Two, after Business Class customers and the airline’s top-tier frequent flyers. This is great if you have a large carryon bag and need to grab that overhead bin space right above your seat. This perk is even more significant on a completely full load when the overhead storage space becomes precious real estates.
Upon boarding, bottles of water were already placed in the seat pockets for all the PE passengers. I am seeing more and more airlines doing this for their PE customers as this is a great convenience.
Air Canada treats Premium Economy completely separate from the back of the plane as far as service is concerned and assigns one dedicated flight attendant to this cabin. This is the same arrangement on the transatlantic trip that I took recently. In a way, the service is almost like domestic first class.
One significant difference, though, is that there were no paper menus. However, the menu is available on the airline’s website and I have already downloaded it ahead of time. Our FA circulated the cabin and took our dinner orders, while describing the entrees in great details. I was impressed by her attention to details as she explained our choices and patiently answered our questions.
This Air Canada Boeing 787-800 has a much wider Premium Economy seat than the Airbus A330-300 that I flew earlier. The width measures 19.5” and it also features double armrests between seats so that you and a stranger neighbor don’t have to rub elbows. The ends of the armrests extend into a square plate for holding drinks, which I find rather small, and there is just barely enough space for two beverages.
With 38” of pitch, there is plenty of space for you to stretch your legs. To make your journey even more comfortable, the seat comes equipped with an adjustable footrest. With my seat at maximum recline and the footrest completely lowered, I found myself in a really comfy position to lay back and watch a movie. I also managed to take a short nap during the few hours that we were up in the air.
There is one misconception that I hear a lot from passengers and also see it posted on many online travel forums. Many people think that the footrest is blocking access to the space under the seat in front of them, hence reducing their legroom and obstructing their storage space. That is not true. The fact is that the footrest is adjustable, and when not in use, it can be flipped completely up and free up access to the space in front of you. Please refer to the picture above.
This is one of the significant differences between this experience on a relatively short North American route and the longer haul international journeys across the oceans. There is no amenity kit – which I sort of understand since we were spending only a little over five hours in the air. We probably didn’t need any toothpaste or toothbrushes. But something like earplugs, eyeshades, Kleenex, and lotions would really be appreciated.
Since this was not an overnight flight, there were no blankets or pillows either. But this was an almost 6-hour trip at night arriving LAX around 9pm, which is midnight eastern time. It would be nice to provide blankets and pillows for those who would like to take a nap. (Let me note that blankets or pillows were not placed on the seats by default. If we needed them, we could probably request them from an FA.)
Another subtle first-class touch that Air Canada places on their Premium Economy product is a hot towel service before beverages are served. This mirrors the same service in most of the North American first or business class cabins.
My wife loves red wines, and she was very satisfied with the French Bordeaux that was served. I was craving for a good beer and was delighted to know that they served the country’s iconic Molson. Plenty of other alcoholic beverages and cocktails were available and they were all complimentary in the PE cabin.
The Premium Economy dinner menu had two choices for main course — chicken or pasta. I ordered the cheese ravioli which was served in a rich, creamy, and somewhat thick mushroom sauce that was delicious. It had a strong flavor of parmesan and maybe a hint of white wine, which complemented the ravioli well.
The dinner tray is accompanied by a green salad served with a mini bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette and a warm roll with butter. Dessert was a small slice of cappuccino cheesecake that was moderately sweet and rich in coffee flavors.
My wife enjoyed her selection of honey ginger chicken composed of cubed thigh meat served in an Asian sauce that was moderately sweet and slightly tangy. The meat was tender and the sauce was flavorful. The dish was accompanied by a rendition of fresh Chinese noodles that loosely resemble spaghetti. A garnish of edamame completed the presentation.
After every passenger had their dinner served, the FA circulated the cabin to see if anyone needed another drink. This was my favorite part – proactively offering a second drink. My wife ordered another glass of red wine and I asked for another Molson, both of which were promptly delivered.
You’ll enjoy literally hundreds of programs on a larger 11” TV screen (versus 9” in the back of the plane). Your selections include movies, TV shows, music programs, podcasts, as well as audio books. I counted over 400 movies on the menu which included recent blockbusters as well as classical all-time favorites. Many international movies from over a dozen countries were also available.
The screen is a touchscreen but if you don’t want to lean forward to make your selections – especially if you have already reclined all the way to the back – there is a remote control for your comfort and convenience. Press the button to release the remote control and gently pull it towards you. To return it to the bracket, pull the wire all the way out first, then gently release it as the remote control latches itself back into its place.
Unlike some of its competition, Air Canada does not offer good quality headphones in its Premium Economy class – and it was the same way even in the longer haul international flights. We were given the regular cheap earbuds which were mediocre at best. I brought my own noise-reduction headsets, so I did not need those earbuds anyways. I was hoping that there would be Bluetooth pairing capabilities, but no, that was not possible.
This is another significant difference between this flight and its longer haul international counterparts. There was not really a snack service, as in a meal. We were given a bag of chips and a kit kat, which was followed by a beverage service. Again, for a trip that lasted between five or six hours, I was fine with this and had no complaints.
I was really impressed by the service on board my Air Canada Premium Economy flight from Montreal to Los Angeles, especially the fact that we were assigned a flight attendant dedicated to this cabin. My wife and I were also very happy with the dinner service and we both enjoyed our meals. There were a few minor shortfalls – such as the lack of an amenity kit, blankets, and pillows – but these are not deal breakers. From my perspectives, as long as the price differential is within 30 – 40% of a standard main cabin fare, I would consider this a good value. This is also a reasonable middle ground to splurge just a little for a slight touch of luxury without spending more than a thousand dollars for a Business Class ticket.