Airlines

Air Canada Premium Economy Review

March 9, 2016

It was hard to ignore the enticing photos on the Air Canada website and the proposition to “pamper yourself with Premium Economy” promising superior comfort in a dedicated cabin, premium meal service, enhanced amenities, and priority airport services. But, after a recent flight in Air Canada Premium Economy from Shanghai to Vancouver, I wish I had. Learn more about my experience in this Air Canada Premium Economy Review.

Air Canada Premium Economy Review 787 Dreamliner

Air Canada Premium Economy Pre-Flight Beverage Service

The Air Canada website states that Premium Economy passengers “will enjoy a welcome beverage as you settle into your seat”. In my experience, the pre-flight beverage service is typically personal, allowing the flight crew to connect with premium class passengers and often celebratory i.e. a glass of something sparkling.

Unfortunately, this was not the case in Air Canada’s Premium Economy cabin, where the welcome drink was an afterthought. At least thirty minutes past before a crew member walked through the fully boarded Premium Economy cabin and offered passengers a plastic glass of water or orange juice.

Air Canada Premium Economy In-Flight Food and Beverage Service

Food Quality

The menu listed a choice between meals as promised, but the food was tragic, and miles from the “premium cuisine” promoted on the Air Canada website.

Air Canada Premium Economy Dinner

My recent flight from Shanghai to Vancouver was at the end of a vacation in Asia where I flew fourteen times and tasted meals in all classes of service including Business Class on United and Economy Class on Bangkok Airways and Dragon Air. The meals served in Air Canada Premium Economy were the worst.

China and Glassware

The Air Canada website states that Premium Economy passengers will be offered, “delicious hot meals served in a china casserole with glassware and cutlery”. The meals may have been hot, but they weren’t delicious, and the use of china and glassware was limited. One of the meals was in a plastic container and with one exception, the beverages were in plastic or Styrofoam cups.

Air Canada Premium Economy Review Breakfast

Air Canada Premium Economy Cabin 

Premium Economy passengers can select a seat when booking their ticket, and I did. At check-in, I received a different seat in an undesirable location – aisle, centre row, at the bulkhead, and across from the lavatory. Although airlines advise that seat availability may differ at check-in, I have never been moved to an inferior seat before this Air Canada flight.

I spoke with a Gate Agent and the Purser about the situation, and they offered me an aisle seat in Economy located further away from the lavatory.

Air Canada Premium Economy Review – Summary

Is it worth flying Air Canada Premium Economy? Not from my perspective. Although I appreciated the priority check-in and boarding, the rest of the Premium Economy experience was inconsistent with what Air Canada promoted on their website and not worth the premium price I paid.

At the time of booking, a one-way ticket was $800 in Economy, $2550 in Premium Economy, and $3500+ in Business Class. While I didn’t expect Business Class service and amenities in the Premium Economy cabin, I expected Air Canada to offer the premium experience described on their website. I paid for delicious hot meals served on china with proper glassware and superior comfort in a dedicated cabin. Instead, I received lousy food in a plastic container, tea in a Styrofoam cup, and an uncomfortable seat.

Follow-up

It was a long, uncomfortable flight, and I did not feel “pampered in Premium Economy” as promised. I followed up with Air Canada and outlined the inconsistencies between the Premium Economy product they advertise and the quality and service I experienced. Air Canada offered a $100 voucher for use on a future flight. Do you think this is fair? What are your thoughts on this Air Canada Premium Economy Review?

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6 Comments

  • Reply Eve March 9, 2016 at 8:29 am

    Thanks for this review Nancy. Knowing you have traveled all over the world and many times, your review has cred!
    There are a couple of things that strike me. First, the difference in price between economy and Premium economy. Spending close to $2K more for Premium is a heck of a lot so you are absolutely right in expecting way more. I wouldn’t expect Business class level with the alcoholic sparkle, but, like you, I would expect the comfort and attention.
    Just wondering if the seats are bigger, and were they actually in their own compartment/section separate from economy?
    Sorry for your lousy experience, but appreciate your doing it on our behalf!

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily March 9, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Thank you for the comments, Eve.
      Yes, the Premium Economy seats are slightly larger than Economy and they are in a separate compartment. There were three rows of Premium Economy seats in the 787. The bulkhead row is the worst because the TV’s extend from the armrest and there aren’t any foot rests.

  • Reply Bob February 9, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    I’ve flown AC PE several times now to / from China … Each of my trips were polar opposite to what you described. It was a more than worth it investment.
    I’ll be flying to Amsterdam, this may … PE all the way.

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily February 9, 2017 at 9:14 pm

      Bob, Great to hear! Have you flown Cathay Pacific Premium Economy? I recently flew Vancouver to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific Premium Economy and was very impressed.

  • Reply Deborah Thompson July 12, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Hey Nancy – great review and a real eye-opener. I have to agree with Bob, above. We’ve flown Premium Economy on the Dreamliner only, though – so perhaps that makes a difference? It is unfortunate that although Air Canada seems to be trying very hard to “rebrand” and gain a better reputation as Canada’s National Airline, that they don’t seem to have any consistency with their service. We’ve done about six return flights with them in the last year, some in Business Class (great) and Premium Economy (mostly good but variable). I hate to say it but SO much of the experience depends on who is working your section. They can make all the difference by making sure you don’t get substandard service and would (should) make sure their clients are offered in the way of dinner service (cutlery, china, proper cups etc) is what is advertised and if it is not, they should be taking this up with Air Canada officials who manage these things – including the quality (or lack of in this case) the food. We recently returned from Germany in Business Class and although we were quite happy with the whole experience, the trip TO Germany was VASTLY superior than the flight back to Vancouver, with some of the best service we’ve ever experienced, and excellent food. On the way back, service was just so-so – no connection with the flight attendants like we had on the way there, and by the time they reached my seat (last row, middle) there was NO beef and NO chicken left – only pasta – and I’d just spend two weeks eating pasta every day in Italy, LOL. I didn’t think that we very good. I’m surprised they only offered you a $100.00 voucher for your dissatisfaction. That’s just not good enough. Thanks for sharing your review.

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily July 27, 2017 at 5:15 pm

      Hi Deborah,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences flying Air Canada. I’ve flown Premium Economy on the Dreamliner as well as the Boeing 777 – unfortunately, both Air Canada Premium Economy flights were disappointing. I’ve flown Cathay Pacific Premium Economy since my flights on Air Canada and Cathay is miles better. I find the Air Canada Business Class experience to be variable as well. As you mentioned, it can depend so much on the crew. Yesterday, we flew in Business Class from Montreal to Vancouver and the crew were excellent, although they were out of menu items by row 3. I often fly to Europe in SWISS or Lufthansa and I can’t recall either carrier running out of an entree. I hope you are having a great summer!

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