To wrap up a visit to Australia, I flew from Sydney to Vancouver in Air Canada Signature Class, the airline’s flagship product. Given the distance between the two countries, having a direct flight is the most ideal circumstance, as you’d otherwise have to route through the United States, New Zealand, the Middle East, or Asia to get to Canada.
At the time, Air Canada had just reintroduced its Signature Class product, as it brought back many aspects of its service that had been curtailed due to the pandemic. This included pre-departure drinks, a new amenity kit, warm towels, and garment-hanging service.
While I’d flown this product many times before, this would be my first time experiencing Air Canada’s long-haul Signature Class service in full after the product was restored. Naturally, I was keen to see how it compared to previous experiences with the airline, as well as to other airlines who had long since returned to business as usual.
As we’ve reviewed Air Canada Signature Class many times before, this review will focus more on the soft product rather than the hard product.
I booked flights for my niece and myself long before Australia had fully reopened its borders to tourism. At the time, there was excellent eUpgrade availability on direct flights from Sydney to Vancouver.
My wife, sister, and younger niece flew from Sydney to Vancouver via Brisbane on the same day, and we were scheduled to arrive within an hour of each other. With my sister as my Super Elite eUpgrade nominee and my wife booking my younger niece with her, this was the only way we could all enjoy Air Canada Signature Class for flights back to Canada.
In total, we paid 65,000 Aeroplan points each on an Economy (Latitude) fare, which also included a flight from Vancouver to Victoria. I also parted ways with 26 eUpgrades for this flight, using 13 for each of us to instantly confirm an upgrade.
While it’s now more difficult to find eUpgrade availability or Signature Class flights that fall within the reasonable range of Air Canada’s dynamic pricing, it’s still possible. Be sure to book far in advance, or keep an eye on prices and make a change accordingly.
Otherwise, you can look to route via Asia or the Middle East to get to Australia, or book in premium economy with Air Canada to secure a spot at the top of the waitlist for business class.
My niece and I arrived at the airport in Sydney well in advance of our flight. The rest of our party that was flying via Brisbane had left a bit earlier to allow for plenty of time to make their connection.
We approached the Super Elite check-in lane, where we were greeted by the Concierge on duty in Sydney. She made sure to make my niece feel special, as it was her first time flying at the front of the aircraft.
After checking our documents that we had prepared for me to fly with my niece, we ran into a bit of a hiccup with Canada’s Electronic Travel Authorizations not communicating with the airline. This issue affected many passengers, and it wasn’t something that was under the airline’s control.
We were showed to a nearby seat while the staff sorted out the problem, and eventually, we were welcomed back to finish up the check-in process.
After proceeding through security and customs, we spent some time in the Air New Zealand Lounge Sydney prior to our flight. While we also had access to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge next door, we opted to stay here, as it had great views, good food, and was nice and quiet.
As our flight began to board, we headed down the escalator to Gate 59, where we boarded through Zone 1.
The Concierge met us on the bridge and asked my niece about her favourite parts about the lounge. Once again, I appreciated how she made her feel special, and accompanied her all the way to her seat to point out all the bells and whistles.
Our aircraft was a Boeing 777-200LR, with a total of 40 seats spread out in a 1-2-1 configuration across 11 rows.
I arranged for our seats in the front cabin, choosing seats 2A and 3A so that we could both enjoy the views during our daytime flight to Vancouver.
We could have selected the middle seats, but since the partition doesn’t lower on the Boeing 777, I decided that it would be best for us to be seated on the window side of the aircraft rather than in the middle.
The seat is Air Canada’s flagship product, as every passenger enjoys direct aisle access. The cabin has a reverse-herringbone configuration, with window seats angled towards the window and the middle seats angled inwards towards each other.
Having been on this plane many times in the past, I knew what to expect. While the seat may not be as flashy as other airlines’s signature products, Air Canada offers a competitive business class seat, with plenty of storage space, a reasonable amount of room in lie-flat mode, and a modest amount of privacy.
One aspect of the flight that I was most interested in was the full return of Air Canada’s in-flight amenities. Until this point, the airline had been operating on a reduced service model, which I had experienced on a flight from Paris to Montreal just two months prior.
Upon boarding, we were offered a choice of welcome drinks. I opted for a glass of Champagne, while my niece chose a glass of sparkling water.
For what it’s worth, the crew didn’t offer any top-ups prior to the flight, and cleared glasses as soon as they were empty.
The cabin crew also came around with hot towels for everyone to freshen up with.
When we arrived at our seats, we found the usual blanket, mattress, pillow, and noise-cancelling headphones. This time, I also noticed the brand-new Acqua di Parma amenity kit placed at the seat, as well as a pair of slippers.
This amenity kit is an upgrade to Air Canada’s previous offering, and I appreciated the colour of the kit. Unfortunately, the contents inside are very standard, and include socks, a microfibre cloth, a dental kit, an eyeshade, earplugs, and some small bottles of Acqua di Parma products.
While the amenity kit is certainly an improvement to what was offered before, the contents leave much to be desired. It would be great to see the airline improve the contents, perhaps taking some inspiration from what’s offered in Emirates business class.
The cabin crew distributed menus soon after we boarded. As a Super Elite, the Service Director came by to personally welcome us to the flight and took our orders before other passengers.
I opted to try the spiced chicken with tamarind sauce, while my niece decided to order the red wine braised beef cheeks with garlic herb smashed potatoes.
Upon reaching cruising altitude, the crew came around to begin the meal service. We were offered our choice of beverages and some warm nuts to snack on.
The Service Director did some magic tricks for my niece, which I thought was a really nice touch.
For an appetizer, we enjoyed blackened smoked trout with shaved fennel and pink grapefruit, alongside a standard green salad. I had my Champagne topped up for this part of the meal service, which had been poured prior to our appetizers being delivered.
I enjoyed the appetizer, as it was light and refreshing, and paired well with the bubbles in my drink.
When the main course was delivered, I thought the chicken was good, but the sauce wasn’t quite up to par. Unfortunately, my meal hadn’t been heated through completely, which had the effect of suppressing my appetite.
After a big meal in the lounge, my niece wasn’t too hungry, and I decided to give her braised beef cheeks dish a try. It turned out to be delightful, with tender meat and enough sauce to help wash the rest of the dish down.
For dessert, I tried the lemon chia cake alongside a glass of port wine.
The dessert provided a good end to a mixed overall impression from the meal service.
After playing some video games with my niece and getting some work done, I decided to scroll through Air Canada’s entertainment system to zone out for a bit. I’ve always found that the selection is good, with a nice range of titles.
I wound up watching a couple of episodes from the HBO series Winning Time in between stints of work and naps.
The Wi-Fi onboard was good, and I was able to work without any issues for the duration of the flight. I enjoy a Wi-Fi plan as part of my Select Benefits, but access can otherwise be purchased by any passenger.
For the remainder of the flight, I tuned in to the airshow and followed along as we made our way across the Pacific.
When I became a bit peckish a few hours after the meal service, the Service Director suggested I try the Mexican pulled beef sandwich on a brioche bun. I’d ordered similar dishes with other airlines before, and to be honest, I was a bit skeptical after a few negative experiences.
Luckily, the dish was a hit, and I enjoyed every bite.
After reclining my seat for a while, it was soon time for us to have the second meal service. On this flight, we were served breakfast at around 90 minutes prior to arrival.
I wasn’t really in the mood for an egg dish at this point in the day, so I opted for the waffles this time to switch things up a bit. I’m actually a big fan of the cold breakfast option on Air Canada flights, so I was delighted to see the bircher muesli available as an accompaniment.
I was pleasantly surprised by the waffles, and it was a nice change to the otherwise typical choices of the parsley omelette or scrambled eggs.
I wanted to make a note about the service onboard this flight, as it’s something that often comes up in reviews of Air Canada Signature Class.
For this flight, we had a great crew, with both Service Directors clearly setting an example and going out of their way for everyone in the Signature Class cabin. Staff checked in on us frequently, and I enjoyed some nice conversations with the flight attendants in between meal services.
In particular, I appreciated how the Service Director made sure my niece was well-looked after and made her first experience in business class a memorable one. Aside from magic tricks and jokes, he even let us have a quick peek at the crew bunks on the upper level of the aircraft, and provided my niece with some Air Canada pins as a keepsake.
My wife worked as a flight attendant for a few years with Air Canada, and she mentions that the overall service culture on flights is set by the Service Director(s). On this flight, we had a great experience, but I also know that this isn’t always the case.
On my flight from Paris to Montreal a few months prior, I had excellent food, but the service on the plane was rather different. Following the meal service, staff didn’t come around with water or check in on passengers for at least a couple of hours, which required me to either use the call button or head into the galley for a glass of water.
I was happy to have an enthusiastic crew who looked after us well on this flight, and I hope to have similar encounters on flights with Air Canada in the future.
At over 14 hours, the flight from Sydney to Vancouver in Air Canada Signature Class is by no means a short one. Air Canada’s hard product is modern, and aside from having a sliding door for privacy, it provides a comfortable space to be in on the long-haul flight.
On this flight, I had a mixed experience with the meal service, as my initial meal hadn’t been heated through properly, which resulted in me losing my appetite somewhat. On the other hand, the rest of the food on the flight was good, so this was likely just a bit of a hiccup in the preparation.
We had a great crew on our flight from Sydney to Vancouver from start to finish, and I appreciate the efforts made by staff to make my niece feel extra special.
While Air Canada Signature Class might not be as competitive as, say, Qatar Airways Qsuites or ANA “The Room”, it’s an entirely comfortable way to get to your destination. You’ll enjoy a lie-flat seat with plenty of real estate and a great selection of entertainment, as well as the convenience of direct flights to and from Canada.
My experience with Air Canada Signature Class on this trip was consistent with many of my previous flights, with some aspects of the flight being great and others being less memorable. As the airline returns to its full service offering, it would be great to see some consistency throughout all aspects of the experience to bring it more in line with other top Star Alliance carriers.
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