I don’t know if Air Canada hired a new PR firm or not but it looks like they are having a bit of an identity crisis. As you know, Air Canada’s business class product used to be called, “Executive First.” Because their lineup lacked a true first class product, they decided to market their business class product as a first/business class hybrid product.
Well, that name was apparently too confusing (or misleading) for their clients so they have since re-branded their Executive First product to be called “International Business Class.” Not as glamorous a title as “Executive First” but I think this was a good move for them. It’s simple and everyone knows what business class is (or at least, should be). And let’s be honest, Air Canada’s business class is a great product but not a first class product by any means.
But the identity crisis doesn’t end there. Depending on which aircraft you are flying, Air Canada now has four different business class seats to choose from. There are three different configurations for their wide-body, long haul aircraft and one configuration for their narrow-body North America/Caribbean flights.
The new “International Business Class” cabins will have three different layouts but there will be four different business class products flying internationally. Confused yet? Well, let me break them down for you. I’ll start with the most exciting product first.
Air Canada International Business Class: Executive Pods:
The Executive Pods will only be found on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Scheduled to be delivered in Spring 2014, the Boeing 787’s will initially be deployed on the Toronto – London, Toronto – Zurich, Toronto – Tel Aviv and Toronto – Tokyo (Haneda) routes.
- This is the newest configuration on the market and is used by other airlines such as American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and EVA Airways.
- It’s a reverse herringbone configuration featuring a 1 x 2 x 1 layout.
- These seats will be 21” wide, 6’7” long and will be true lie-flat.
- Every seat will have direct aisle access, lumbar support, massage function, large slide away tables and a massive 18” IFE monitor.
- These are the best business class seats on the market right now offering the most space, privacy and comfort. American Airlines also uses this seat as their first class seat on their new A321 transcon service from Los Angeles – New York route.
- There will only be 20 Executive Pod seats in the Boeing 787’s. This will offer a more intimate cabin but at the price of reduced award availability for those of us in the miles game.
Air Canada International Business Class: Studio Pods:
The Studio Pods are currently found on the five recently delivered Boeing 777-300ERs on the Montreal – Paris, Toronto – Vancouver, and Vancouver – Hong Kong routes.
- These seats are similar to the same business class seats found on Swiss, Finnair and Brussels Airlines. However, the Air Canada layout is a little different. On the other airlines, they fit four or five seats across in a staggered formation. Because the seats are slightly offset from each other, they offer a bit more privacy. On Air Canada, they fit four or six seats across and the seats are not staggered from the other seats in the same row making the rows of six feel very cramped.
- It’s a staggered configuration featuring a 2 x 2 x 2, 1 x 2 x 1 layout.
- Studio Pod seats are between 20.5” to 22.5” wide, 6’3” to 6’6” long and are true lie-flat.
- The even number rows are less dense with only four seats across and the single “throne” seats offer 2” of additional width.
- The seats are air controlled and can be adjusted for firmness.
- The single seats are great for solo travelers and the double seats are better for couples traveling together.
- Unlike the Classic Pod seats, you don’t have to get up or lean way forward to talk to your traveling companion.
- Taller folks WILL not like these seats. When the seats are fully reclined, your feet extend into a little “cubby hole” under your IFE monitor. Taller people have complained that the cubby hole restricts leg movement and positioning.
Air Canada International Business Class: Classic Pods:
The Classic Pods will be found on all other wide-body aircraft used for long haul international flights such as the remaining Boeing 777-300ER’s, 777-200, 767 and Airbus A330.
- These seats are not revolutionary anymore but can still be found on airlines such as Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic.
- It’s the same herringbone configuration that you know and love, featuring a 1 x 2 x 1 or 1 x 1 x 1 layout.
- These seats are 21” wide, 6’3” long and offer direct aisle access for everyone.
- These seats are very private but some have complained they are a little claustrophobic and couples traveling together are not able to converse or interact with each other.
Air Canada Business Class:
This product is found on their narrow-body aircraft such as the Airbus A321, A320 and A319.
- These jets are normally used on their domestic and North American/Caribbean routes but I’ve added them here because Air Canada does use them for seasonal service to/from select international destinations.
- These are the standard recliner seats in the 2 x 2 or a 1 x 2 layout.
- The seats are 20” to 21” wide and offer 37” to 38” of pitch and 120 to 124 degrees of recline.
- We Americans would call this domestic first class.
So as you can see, Air Canada has four different configurations for their international business class cabins and it definitely pays to check your flight/aircraft on a website such as Seat Guru before booking. Of course, last minute aircraft swaps can happen at any time but it’s worth it to plan your flight around the product you wish to experience.
Now I’m a big fan of the three International Business Class products but the one that I’m most confused about is the Studio Pod. I’m absolutely baffled as to why they would design and purchase a completely different product for such a limited number of jets.
My only guess is that the Studio Pods will only be outfitted in the new “high density” Boeing 777-300ERs (77W). The Studio Pods are the most cramped of all the pods and will allow Air Canada to fit in 36 Studio Pod seats in the same space normally allocated for 24 Classic Pod seats. Along with the 24 premium economy seats and the (gulp) 10 across, 398 economy class seats, the new Boeing 777-300ERs will fit in a whopping 458 passengers! Just for comparison, American Airlines Boeing 777-300ERs are outfitted for 304 passengers and Korean Airlines Airbus A380s is outfitted for 407 passengers.
If you want to avoid the new “high density” Boeing 777-300ER, you can tell them apart by the cabin layout. The high density 777s will be a three cabin layout (business, premium economy and economy) and the normal density 777s will be a two cabin layout (business and economy).
I recently had the opportunity to fly the new Studio Pods configuration from Paris to Montreal. You can read my Air Canada Business Class review here.