Review: Air Canada Signature Class (787-9)

Having flown many times domestically in Air Canada’s Signature Class and a few times to various sun destinations, I’m quite familiar with the experience at this point. However, this would be my first Signature Class long haul international flight with Air Canada, so I was genuinely curious as to whether there were, if any, differences in the services throughout.

How does our flag carrier stack up against the competition? Read on to find out.

Booking Air Canada Signature Class

Business ClassAircraftRouteFlight Duration
Air Canada 883Boeing 787-9Zürich to Vancouver 10 Hours 25 Minutes

Booking Air Canada Signature Class can be tricky, as you’re often faced with Aeroplan’s punishing dynamic pricing model. This is especially the case on direct flights between Canada and Europe, seeing 6-digit prices on nearly every route is extremely common. One of the best tools in our arsenal to combat these prices are eUpgrades, which are awarded to Aeroplan elite status holders. 

Knowing this, I figured my best shot at securing a Signature Class seat for this flight would be to find a favorably priced Economy Latitude fare and use eUpgrades to bump us up to Business Class. 

Air Canada eUpgrades can be a complicated topic, especially for newcomers. If you want to learn more, check out the following two in-depth articles we have:

I began searching for this flight nearly a year in advance and was able to find an acceptably priced Economy Latitude fare. Wanting to secure this flight while prices were still low, even though there was no eUpgrade space at the time, I went ahead and made the booking since Latitude fares can be canceled for free at any time. I then set up an ExpertFlyer alert to notify me if eUpgrade space became available.

About six months prior to the flight, I received an email notifying me of eUpgrade availability. Latitude fares are not subject to an eUpgrade clearance window, so they can be upgraded at any time provided there is space. Now that there was eUpgrade space available, I was able to immediately upgrade our Economy Latitude fare directly into Signature Class.

With all that said, I booked this flight through Air Canada Aeroplan as a direct flight to Vancouver International Airport with no stopovers or connections. The total cost for two people came to 139,600 Aeroplan Points in addition to $103 CAD + 26 eUpgrades.

If you are interested in making a flight redemption like this, consider adding a premium Aeroplan credit card to your wallet, such as the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege card, to further increase your Aeroplan points balance.

TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege Card

The TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* card earns Aeroplan points and offers cardholders a variety of Air Canada benefits including priority boarding, free checked baggage, and Maple Leaf lounge access.

Check out our TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege card review for more details.

BONUS
75,000 Aeroplan
MINSPEND
$24,000
NET VALUE
$976+
ANNUAL FEE
$599
FOREX FEES
Yes
EXPIRY
Sep 3, 2024

Cabin Arrangement

The Air Canada 787-9 Signature Class cabin has a total of 30 seats arranged in a standard reverse herringbone 1-2-1 configuration. All seats have direct aisle access, and the entire business class cabin is between the first and second doors of the airplane.

air canada boeing 787-9 signature class seat map

There is one lavatory located at the front of the plane and two located directly behind the business class cabin. However, on my flight, the forward lavatory was out of service for the entire journey.

Seat

My wife and I prefer to always have both a window and aisle seat, so we chose seats 3A and 4A on the left side of the plane.

Air Canada uses the very popular Collins Aerospace Super Diamond for their Signature business class seats. These seats are very recognizable as they’re used by many different airlines, including WestJet, British Airways, and Etihad.

Awaiting me at my seat was a pillow, blanket, mattress pad, amenity kit, headphones, and a bottle of water.

air canada signature class seat

Directly in front of the seat is a large high-resolution touchscreen display. Tucked in below the display is the tray table.

air canada signature class touchscreen display

The tray table slides out and folds over to create a fairly large surface and is quite sturdy once locked into its fully extended position.

air canada signature class tray table extended

Shortly after boarding, pre-departure drinks were handed out. There was a choice of sparkling wine, orange juice or sparkling water.

air canada signature class pre-departure beverages and nuts

The Air Canada Business Class seat has a decent amount of storage space. There was a large flat surface on the left, which also housed a small storage compartment useful for placing a few personal items.

Inside the compartment is the touchscreen remote control for the entertainment system, as well as a universal power outlet, USB type-A charging port, and an audio jack for the supplied headphones.

air canada signature class entertainment remote control and storage

Directly below the storage compartment is a small touchscreen control panel for adjusting all the seat functions. From this, you can recline and raise the seat, control the lights and since this is a Dreamliner, adjust the window dimmer.

To the right and below the armrest is another small storage bin. This armrest can be raised and lowered depending on your preference.

air canada signature class small storage area

Underneath the footrest there is enough space for a small bag. Also, along the side of the footwell is a literature pocket, a very small storage tray, and a hook to hang your headphones on.

Each Signature Class seat also has two overhead reading lights as well as two adjustable air vents.

air canada signature class air nozzles and lights

Bed

As this was a westbound daytime flight, I wasn’t planning on sleeping at any point. However, after the meal service, I did convert the seat into bed mode so I could stretch out and relax while I watched a few movies.

air canada signature class lie flat seat with blanket and pillow

The mattress pad really helps the seat feel more “bed-like”, and the provided blanket is quite light and not too warm.

Even though the footwell might look a little cramped, I still had plenty of room for my feet to find a comfortable lying position.

air canada signature class footrest with legs extended

Nearly 10 years after its introduction, the Signature Class seat has obviously started to lag behind with respect to privacy and wireless technology. Missing several of the popular new features found on other airlines nowadays, including fully enclosed suites, Bluetooth connectivity, and wireless charging.

However, the cabin still holds up quite well despite this. Once seated, it still feels remarkably private, the most you’ll see of other signature class passengers is just the top of their head. The seats are also staggered in a way so you won’t really ever see your neighbor across the aisle.

air canada signature class view of cabin from seat

You won’t find any bold and dramatic colors here. There’s no snazzy mood lighting. In a way, it does feel a little sterile, though all-in-all, it still remains a solid product.

air canada signature class overview of cabin from seat

Amenity Kit

The Amenity Kit is from Acqua di Parma and contains all the standard fare of an international business class flight: hand lotion, dental kit, earplugs, eye mask, socks, and an eyeglass cleaning cloth.

air canada signature class amenity kit

Dining

Somewhat confusingly, Air Canada will be serving us “dinner” shortly after our 10:15am local time takeoff, with a lighter meal served about an hour and half prior to landing.

If you’re wondering why, only flights scheduled to depart before 10:00am are served breakfast. As a result, our flight will be receiving the evening service.

Very shortly after takeoff, orders for drinks were taken. Although many people consider free-flowing champagne, wines, and spirits to be a crucial part of the business class flying experience, I usually choose not to indulge in alcoholic beverages while flying. Instead, I started with a Coke Zero. My wife, on the other hand, went with a gin and tonic. Accompanying the drinks was a small bowl of mixed nuts.

I’ll give a quick shout-out here to my brother and his wife, as they were also on this same flight. We all selected a few different choices from the menu, therefore several of the pictures of our meals are courtesy of them.

Dinner

The appetizer was poached veal and a mixed salad. This was the highlight of the entire meal as far as I’m concerned. It was absolutely delicious, and a really nice change from the smoked salmon appetizer that always seems to be on the Signature Class menu. All four of us gave this dish very high marks.

air canada signature class appetizer poached veal and salad with garlic bread

Also, the warm garlic bread was another standout. The attendant noticed that I was enjoying it, so he just kept bringing me more. Additionally, not having to struggle with trying to spread rock-hard butter on a bread roll made this a win-win.

I usually try to avoid steak dishes on an airplane, as they almost always come out way overdone. Therefore, I decided on the chicken breast dish for this flight. 

air canada signature class chicken breast entree

The chicken breast was really well prepared, tender, juicy, and flavorful. The vegetables in the ratatouille, however, had become mushy with their texture almost completely gone.

The others in our party ordered the tenderloin and pumpkin tortellini.

As predicted, the steak was of course overdone, but all the main courses received a thumbs-up from the four of us.

For dessert, I had the mascarpone cake. Tasty and a perfectly fine way to end the meal, but entirely forgettable the moment it was finished.

After meal service was completed, the cabin was dimmed and I settled in to watch a few movies for the next seven or so hours. The crew made a few passes through the cabin to refill any drinks during this time.

Snack baskets were placed at the front of the cabin and we were invited to help ourselves throughout the flight.

air canada signature class snack basket

Second Meal

About an hour and a half prior to landing the crew began the second meal service, which was a cold meat and cheese plate. After more than one visit to the snack basket throughout the flight I wasn’t particularly hungry at this point, so this lighter meal was a perfect portion.

air canada signature class meat and cheese plate meal

Suffice to say, you won’t be going hungry on an Air Canada flight in Signature Class. With four different options to choose from on long-haul flights, there should be something that catches your eye when looking over the menu. 

Service

We were fortunate enough to have the service director attend to our section throughout the flight. He was easily one of the best inflight crew members I’ve ever encountered on any airline. His experience and enthusiasm were very noticeable, and he genuinely understood what it meant to provide fantastic service.

His enthusiasm unfortunately didn’t spill over to the other members of the crew though, with the rest of them just mostly going through the motions.

This is unfortunately just a reality of flying on a North American carrier, the service standards just aren’t the same as a Middle Eastern or Asian carrier. Though this flight was a great reminder that you’ll still come across some outstanding crew members at Air Canada, just remember to temper your expectations.

Entertainment

Entertainment Console

Air Canada’s entertainment system is one of the best in the entire industry. While certainly not the largest or most advanced, the touchscreen is large and responsive and hosts an enormous library of movies, TV shows, music, and games.

air canada signature class entertainment console home screen

I counted nearly 500 movies ranging from new releases to classics and everything in between. I also noted that their foreign language selection was quite extensive as well. 

Equally as impressive was their TV show selection. With over 350 different programs available, including an extensive catalog of HBO series.

During meal time I would switch to the interactive map to check in on our progress during the flight.

air canada signature class entertainment console flight map

In-Flight WiFi

Wi-Fi is available for purchase on nearly the entire Air Canada fleet. More and more airlines have been including free Wi-Fi as a perk for passengers in premium cabins, however, this isn’t yet the case for Air Canada.

In a welcome change though, Air Canada has eliminated their Browse Pass as a purchase option and now offers free inflight messaging for all Aeroplan members.

air canada free texting for aeroplan members

I didn’t purchase any Wi-Fi on this particular flight, however, when I have previously, the Wi-Fi speeds have been more than sufficient. I did use the free messaging a few times and it worked as advertised. 

While free messaging is a nice perk, I’d like to see Air Canada follow in the footsteps of other airlines and offer free Wi-Fi to premium cabin passengers.

Conclusion

Air Canada offers a consistent business class experience both on domestic and long-haul international flights, with the service and amenities provided nearly identical. While not on the level of Qatar Airways QSuites or ANA’s “The Room”, it’s still an entirely acceptable way to fly.

The hard product is most definitely due for a refresh soon, but it’s still a spacious lie-flat seat to keep you comfortable on long journeys. The crews on Air Canada can be a bit hit-or-miss, but on this fight, we fortunately had the outstanding service director taking care of us.

Lastly, the convenience factor of a non-stop direct flight back home after over two weeks and five countries in Europe was very appealing. If you can find a reasonably priced flight or have some eUpgrades to burn, the many direct flights to and from Canada can be reason enough to opt for Air Canada over one of their partner airlines.  

Jeff Jamieson

Jeff Jamieson

Contributor at Frugal Flyer
Jeff stepped into the ring of points and miles in 2018, this was during his first trip to Italy where he had only just dipped his toe into what was possible with loyalty programs. After eating pizza twice a day for two weeks straight and taking in all that Tuscany of Rome had to offer he knew he was hooked on “la dolce vita” of points and miles. Always fascinated with aviation, Jeff obtained his Private Pilot’s License in 2006. Now he fuels his affection for travel and aviation by seeking out new strategies while building upon existing opportunities along with the help of his close circle of fellow travel enthusiasts.

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