Flight Review: Air Canada (777-300ER) Business Class From London to Toronto
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For my return flight following the Paris Air Show, I had planned to fly Air Canada's new 777-300ER "Executive Pod" business class from Paris (CDG) to Toronto (YYZ) and on to New York (LGA). But, well, that's not how things panned out. The reason? Qatar Airways was set to launch its brand-new Qsuite business class just a few days after my original departure from Paris, so I adjusted my plans to accommodate that new flight.
As I mentioned in my Qatar Qsuite review, my new route home looked like this:
I ended up flying from Paris to Muscat (MCT) to Colombo (CMB) on Oman Air, then on to Doha (DOH) on SriLankan, to London (LHR) on Qatar Airways, and finally to Toronto (YYZ) and home to New York (LGA) on Air Canada.
When I booked my Paris Air Show flight back in October of 2016, United was offering round-trip business-class fares for $2,500. I flew a United 767 on the outbound and was set to fly an Air Canada 777-300ER on the return, both in paid business class.
Normally we'd prefer to redeem miles, but given that these flights were scheduled around a huge international event in Paris, there wasn't award availability for the flights I needed. Considering that I would have needed to redeem 127,500 United miles for the round-trip (57,500 for the United segment and 70,000 for Air Canada), and we value United miles at 1.5 cents each, we would have needed to redeem $1,912.50 "worth" of miles for the flight. Since you can't purchase United miles at such a low rate, spending the $2,500 seemed like a reasonable choice here. But it gets better!
At the time, I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card to earn 3x points per dollar on the flight, for a total of 7,500 Ultimate Rewards points, worth $165, but if booking today, I'd use The Platinum Card from American Express, to earn 5x Membership Rewards points for a grand total of 12,500 (worth $237.50), instead. As a Premier 1K member, I also earned about 26,000 MileagePlus miles for the round-trip flight, worth $390, in addition to more than 15,000 Premier-Qualifying Miles. In the end, paying $2,500 for this round-trip made much more sense than redeeming 127,500 miles, had that been a possibility, even before factoring in the sky-high fees for premium-cabin awards departing the UK.
As I had mentioned, I needed to change the flight, which was originally booked to depart from Paris. I was traveling on a United ticket so UA had to handle the change, but since the flight had made several significant schedule changes since I had booked it back in October (and my new itinerary barely resembled the original), an agent was able to reissue the ticket to depart from London (LHR) without any additional taxes or fees.
After my ticket was reissued — a process which, shockingly, required just 10 minutes on the phone — I was able to call Air Canada for seat assignments. I opted for a window seat in the rear mini-cabin, which, at the time, appeared to be nearly empty.
With that out of the way, I was ready to continue my journey "home" from the Paris Air Show.
Airport and Lounge
I was a bit nervous about connecting at Heathrow (LHR), considering I'd have "just" two hours to make my way from my Qatar Qsuite flight, arriving in Terminal 4, to my Air Canada flight, departing from Terminal 2. That ended up being a non-issue — LHR's airside bus got me between terminals in just 10 minutes, and a non-existent security queue at T2 meant I was on my way to the lounge 20 or so minutes after walking off the Qatar flight.
One thing to consider, though, is that many of the T2 flights depart from a satellite terminal, and walking between the two can take 15 minutes or so. Fortunately, the Air Canada, Singapore and United lounges are located in this satellite terminal as well, but if you're connecting at LHR, be sure to allow adequate time for the bus, security screening and the walk between gate areas at T2.
Soon enough, I arrived at the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge on the second floor of the satellite gate area.
The lounge was fairly empty — United actually operates a fantastic lounge at LHR, so passengers in the know were probably hanging out there, instead. I made myself comfy in the Air Canada lounge, though, since I wanted to spend some time there for this review.
My first priority was finding somewhere comfortable to set up shop and write my first Qatar Airways Qsuite post before heading over to the Air Canada 777.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to connect to the Wi-Fi, so I decided to check out the rest of the lounge quickly and find another place to work instead.
The Air Canada lounge had a selection of snacks, including fresh fruit, muffins, cheese and crackers.
There was also a hot pasta entree.
And a panini station, that I really wish I had had some time to try out.
Since time was quickly running out until departure, I headed across the hall to try out the Wi-Fi at Singapore's SilverKris Lounge, which I also had access to as a business-class passenger and/or Star Alliance Gold member via my United 1K status.
Fortunately, the Wi-Fi was working well in the Singapore lounge.
I also found the seating to be a bit more private there, with standalone pods like the one below.
The Singapore lounge was fairly large, with a mix of dining and general "hangout" areas.
The food selection was entirely different from Air Canada's offering, so if you aren't feeling the Maple Leaf spread, you might as well head across the hall to see what's available there.
The hot items didn't look terribly appealing, though.
After 45 minutes or so in the Singapore Lounge, it was time to board my Air Canada 777-300ER "home."
Cabin and Seat
By the time I made it on board, the forward business-class cabin was already quite full, so I wasn't able to snap any pictures there. The mini-cabin behind door 2 was still empty, however.
The much smaller mini-cabin consists of just three rows of seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, and one more row of center seats at the front, with a total of 40 business-class seats between the two cabins. Note that Air Canada operates a second 777-300ER configuration with just 28 seats, all in one cabin, with premium economy located just behind door 2.
I'm a big fan of Air Canada's reverse-herringbone seats. These are similar to the seats on the airline's 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliners, but note that those are a bit narrower since the 787 cabin isn't nearly as wide as the 777's. I was perfectly happy with my selection, 11K, located in the very last row of business class.
There are a total of three lavatories for the 40 business-class seats — two in the center and one just behind the cockpit. All of the lavatories were on the smaller side, and, unfortunately, "mine" didn't have any running water, leaving passengers with just two lavs. There was never much of a wait, though.
I also managed to get a look at the small premium-economy cabin located just behind business class, with three rows of seats in a 2-4-2 configuration — they looked perfectly fine, similar to what you'd find in a regional first/business-class cabin.
But back to biz...
I've flown in a handful of reverse-herringbone seats, including on American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Delta, EVA Air and SriLankan. Of all these carriers, I've found Air Canada's refreshed seat to be the most comfortable and spacious — it's a bit more open than what you'll find on, say, American Airlines' 777-300ER.
There's a fair amount of privacy, too — the rest of row 11 was empty, but I'd have to go out of my way to make eye contact with someone sitting across the aisle, had there been anyone there.
I really liked the seat overall, though I wasn't a fan of some of the design choices, such as the touchscreen recline control. While a digital control may seem more "high-tech," I much prefer physical buttons, which more or less seem to perform as expected. There were a few occasions where I struggled to get the seat to respond, here.
I found the seat to be comfortable both in the upright and lie-flat modes — I ended up sleeping just fine for a couple of hours, which I usually find fairly challenging on daytime flights.
I really disliked the seatbelt airbag, though — I understand it's there for our safety, but boy did it make the seatbelt uncomfortable at times!
Each seat also has a universal power outlet and a USB port for charging smartphones, tablets and other gear.
There was an amenity kit already waiting at each seat when I boarded. Air Canada's kits have a soft, felt-like construction — they're not the best for post-flight use, in my opinion, but they get the job done while you're onboard. You'll find the usual goodies, such as a dental kit, eye mask, ear plugs, socks and moisturizers.
Business-class passengers also receive noise-canceling headphones — they're perfectly serviceable, but not great.
And, finally, each passenger got a water bottle, which really came in handy later in the flight (more on that later).
Air Canada's new seats offer a large, 18-inch touchscreen HD display — it's a huge step up from the 12-inch panel that's installed on planes with the older interior.
You can select content directly on the main screen or use the included wired touchscreen remote. I find these touchscreen remotes to be fairly buggy in general, and that was no exception here, so I just made my selections on the main panel, instead.
As you'd expect for a North American carrier, Air Canada offers a large content selection with a mix of new releases, older films and TV shows.
I watched a bit of The Founder — the picture quality looked great.
I also really appreciated the "progress bar," which lets you very easily skip ahead to a specific point in a film. I found it especially helpful on this trip since I tend to start a film on one flight and finish it on another.
I also spent a fair amount of time watching the moving map, which was actually much more high-res than the one I'd just experienced on Qatar.
While digging through the IFE, I came across a section titled Food & Drink, which listed out the full beverage selection.
Even more exciting, however, is the fact that you can (in theory, at least) place an order for drinks using your monitor or remote.
I gave this a try once it became available, but my drinks never arrived. Considering this was my fifth flight over the span of a couple days, all I really needed was water at that point, though.
Food and Beverage
I was offered my choice of welcome beverage just after boarding and I opted for a glass of Champagne — Air Canada serves Drappier Champagne Carte d'Or Brut, which retails for about $45 a bottle.
Other wine options included:
- Vineland Estates Select ($18)
- Jurtschitsch Grüner Veltliner Terrassen ($14)
- Vini Be Good Les Athlètes du Vin Pinot Noir (Price N/A)
- Volpaia Citto Toscana ($15)
- Masroig Rojalet Selecció ($9)
- Dow's Port ($14)
There are also a variety of spirits, including Smirnoff vodka, Johnnie Walker Black Label and Bacardi rum, along with a selection of beers, including Heineken, Molson and Coors Light.
After departure, I requested a sparkling water and a Bloody Mary. Unfortunately, Air Canada had only boarded Clamato, which is a mix of tomato juice and clam broth, so this ended up being a Caesar, instead. It was alright, but I would have much preferred regular Bloody Mary mix.
Shortly after, it was time to begin the lunch service.
My appetizer arrived a few minutes later, consisting of shrimp and smoked halibut with mango salsa. It tasted fine.
I also had a small rocket salad, with sun-dried tomatoes, olives and parmesan cheese, which was flavorful, even without the balsamic vinaigrette (which I didn't spot right away).
For my main course, I selected the rack of lamb, which was served with tomato confit, mashed potatoes and mushrooms. I ended up enjoying it, but shortly after placing my order I requested the salmon instead, since I figured it wouldn't hurt to try something a bit healthier. They were fresh out, though.
Next, it was time for the cheese plate, which included smoked cheddar, brie and Red Leicester. That was served with grapes, crackers and a small glass of Port wine.
I also had the ice cream trio. (I do it all for you!)
Then, just before landing, it was time for the "light meal," which consisted of mixed sandwiches, a scone and fresh fruit. I really only enjoyed the fresh fruit — the bread was a bit stale by that point in the flight.
I really enjoyed my flight on Air Canada's 777-300ER. Would I connect in Canada just to fly the airline again? Probably not, unless I happened upon premium-cabin award space or an extra-cheap business-class fare.
I also wouldn't consider this to be an "aspirational" redemption — like, say, Etihad's A380 Apartment or even the new Qatar Airways Qsuite — but if the price is right, I'm game for another long-haul hop on AC.
Have you flown Air Canada's new business class? Tell us about your experience, below.