For my outbound flights to London, I flew from Comox to Montreal via Vancouver, and then from Montreal to London. I was fortunate to have an eUpgrade confirmed to Air Canada Signature Class between Vancouver and Montreal.
Alas, my eUpgrade wasn’t confirmed between Montreal and London, as the Signature Class cabin was full. So, I was “stuck” in Air Canada premium economy for the six-and-a-half-hour flight across the Atlantic.
When I went to Europe last summer, I had to fly in economy, so I knew that I’d at least survive the voyage in premium economy.
As it turns out, it wasn’t so bad after all, and maybe it was even a refreshing reminder that lie-flat seats aren’t always absolutely necessary.
Air Canada 787 Premium Economy – Booking
I booked a round-trip premium economy cash ticket to Europe and back to take advantage of a few promotions. I managed to score a deal on my flights, paying only $1893.26 (CAD).
Because I booked a Premium Economy (Lowest) fare, I was eligible to earn 125% of the distance flown in Aeroplan points. For my outbound flights, I earned 6,902 Aeroplan points.
Since I paid with my American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card, I also earned 3 points per dollar with spend on Air Canada. Taking into consideration the points I’ll earn for my return flights from Paris to Comox via Montreal and Vancouver, I’ll have earned a total of around 19,750 points on the booking.
I booked cash flights to Europe to also take advantage of several promotions that Air Canada has put on this year. Mainly, I was interested in earning Priority Rewards through Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD).
With the “Accelerate Your Status” promotion, Status Qualifying Miles, Status Qualifying Segments, and Status Qualifying Dollars are doubled for flights to Europe until the end of September. Since I did a mileage run earlier this year, I stood to earn two Priority Rewards with my flight spend this year.
Furthermore, Air Canada announced that any Priority Rewards earned between July 1 and December 31 of 2022 would be doubled. I’m quite lucky to benefit from these many promotions, as I’ll get a total of four Priority Rewards by the end of the year.
Since I enjoy Aeroplan Super Elite status, my Priority Rewards knock 50% off the cost of any business class redemption with any Aeroplan partner airline, anywhere in the world. So, these four Priority Rewards will wind up saving me hundreds of thousands of Aeroplan points, if I use them judiciously.
Even though I didn’t get an eUpgrade confirmed on the flight to London, I was happy to still enjoy more comfort in the premium economy cabin.
Air Canada 787 Premium Economy – Ground Experience
After getting some work done at the domestic Maple Leaf Lounge in Vancouver earlier that day, I headed to the Maple Leaf Lounge (International) in Montreal. While my premium economy ticket didn’t give me access, I could enter the lounge on account of my Aeroplan Elite Status, as well as with my American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card.
I also considered visiting the Air France Lounge, which I could access with the lounge benefits on my American Express Gold Rewards Card. In the end, I wanted to see if the showers were operating at the Maple Leaf Lounge, so I decided to save that visit for next time.
The lounge was quite busy when I arrived, and there was a short line that stretched into the terminal. The lineup grew even longer when I left, so be prepared for a bit of a wait if you have an upcoming flight.
I helped myself to a delicious New England IPA from St-Ambroise, and nibbled on some hot food. I wasn’t terribly hungry, so I decided not to gorge too much this time.
One of the helpful lounge staff let me know that the shower rooms were operational again. One of my favourite things is showering at the airport, right before (or after) a flight.
I grabbed a key from the front desk on the bottom floor, and had a piping hot shower in the lounge. As I left for the gate, I felt refreshed and ready for the final flight of my outbound journey.
I boarded the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in Zone 1 boarding, and turned right instead of left for the first time in a while.
Air Canada 787 Premium Economy – Cabin
The premium economy cabin consists of 21 seats spread across three rows in a 2-3-2 formation. Premium economy is sandwiched in between the Signature Class cabin and economy.
Most seats in the cabin offer the same experience. The bulkhead seats don’t have entertainment screens on the wall, but rather have one that pops out of the armrest.
I selected seat 12G, an aisle seat in the middle section in the bulkhead row. The bulkhead row has a bit of extra legroom.
For solo travellers, any seat that isn’t the middle seat is a good choice. If you’re seated at a window, you shouldn’t have too much trouble accessing the aisle, as there is plenty of legroom.
For couples, choose any of the seat pairs on the sides of the aircraft, denoted with the letters “A” and ”C” or “H” and ”K”.
The cabin happened to be full, but I wasn’t too fussed about it.
Air Canada 787 Premium Economy – Seat
The premium economy seats on Air Canada are an improvement to the economy class seats. While you don’t have as much legroom, storage space, or lie-flat capability as in Signature Class, there’s still more space, a greater recline, and a few more perks compared to economy.
In fact, the premium economy seats aren’t that different from the narrowbody business class seats on Air Canada. Rather than awkwardly rubbing elbows with your seat mate, there’s enough room for both passengers to rest their elbows.
At the seat, I found a modest amenity kit, blanket, and pillow.
There is a small surface space shared with your neighbour. It’s big enough for a drink or a cell phone, but won’t be useful for much else.
At the recline button, there is a small indentation. I’m not really sure what it’s there for, as I couldn’t think of anything that would fit well there.
Each passenger has access to a power outlet, which is found on the leg of the seat, near to the floor. Above that is a control for your entertainment screen.
The entertainment screen, which I didn’t make use of on this flight, popped out of my right armrest and swivelled into place. On non-bulkhead seats, the screen is on the seatback.
There is a small storage pocket on the bulkhead wall. It’s big enough to stow a laptop, a book, or a magazine, and it’s nice to have a place to tuck things away during meal service.
The tray table pops out of the left armrest. It can be folded into a smaller table, or flipped open to its full size.
Lastly, the headrest has some extra padding, and can be manipulated for more comfort.
I’d be lying if I wasn’t envious of the folks with a lie-flat seat, but I was surprisingly comfortable for the duration of the flight. My body was set to Pacific time, so I actually stayed up for the whole flight and worked.
Air Canada 787 Premium Economy – Meal Service
Shortly after reaching cruising altitude, the flight attendants began the in-flight service. I began with a glass of sparkling wine, which may or may not have been given to me as a nice gesture on account of my Super Elite status.
The options for the flight were chicken tagine or braised beef. My in-laws had flown with Air Canada a few days prior to my flight, and mentioned that the chicken tagine was quite tasty, so I went for that option.
It was served on a single tray with a surprisingly tasty potato salad and a brownie. The chicken tagine came on a bed of green beans, olives, and pearl pasta.
I was pleasantly surprised with the meal, as was my seat mate. The portion size was also quite large, and I found myself well-satiated by the time I finished up the meal.
The flight crew were very attentive for topping up drinks and checking in with me throughout the flight. I enjoyed some great conversations with my neighbour, in between time spent working.
Air Canada 787 Premium Economy – Amenities
Compared to flying in Signature Class with Air Canada, or business class with other airlines, the amenities afforded to premium economy passengers are relatively few.
I appreciated the gesture of an amenity kit, though, as I’d seen a similar kit on Signature Class flights with Air Canada over the last few years.
The amenity kit is a simple zippered pouch, filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, an eyeshade, socks, and earplugs.
I used Air Canada Wi-Fi throughout the flight. The speed was sufficient for my needs, which included uploading some pictures, editing posts, social media, and messaging.
I have a Wi-Fi plan with Air Canada, but otherwise, it’s available for purchase with a credit card or Aeroplan points.
The restroom sits between the Signature Class and premium economy cabins. It’s rather small compared to other airline restrooms, but was kept relatively clean and tidy throughout the flight.
With around 90 minutes prior to landing, the flight attendants came through with a simple breakfast service. A plastic-wrapped croissant and a container of yogurt were served, alongside a choice of hot and cold beverages.
Before too long, we had begun our descent into London Heathrow. I was beginning to feel a little tired at this point, but I otherwise felt fine after the six-and-a-half-hour flight in premium economy.
I appreciated having extra legroom and better food and service than what I would have had in economy class on this transatlantic Air Canada flight in premium economy.
It goes without saying that I would have much preferred a lie-flat seat in Signature Class, but I took a gamble with my flights and it didn’t work out in the end. It wasn’t bad at all, which was likely aided by my body being set to Pacific Time, as I was awake for the entire flight.
In a pinch, I wouldn’t be opposed to flying in premium economy again on an international flight – and it’s also an entirely comfortable and cost-effective way to travel on domestic or transcontinental journeys, too.