Background Air Canada has rolled out its new business (Executive First) and economy product over the past year. It has opted for a herringbone layout in business class, and the A330 I was on had a 1-1-1 configuration in this cabin. Air Canada flies daily from Heathrow to Montreal at 1425, arriving the same day at 1700.
Check-in I arrived at Terminal 3 at 1145 for my flight AC865 and went to check in at Zone D. The terminal was busy and there were two people ahead of me at the business desks, so I went to the third one and was dealt with immediately. I was allocated seat 2A and proceeded to security, where there was a queue at fast-track. I was airside by midday and headed straight to the lounge.
The lounge Air Canada shares the SAS lounge with other Star Alliance members. It is on two levels – the first has seating areas, food and drink, magazines and computers, while upstairs is more peaceful, with faint jazz music, long tables to work at, comfy chairs and a business centre with ten Mac computers. It also served snacks including crisps, instant noodles, chopped vegetables and dips, cheese and a variety of drinks.
Boarding Screens in the lounge showed flight information, and Gate 34 was due to open at 1320. I looked at the screen at 1330 and it said the flight was already boarding so I made the ten-minute walk to the gate, right at the end of the terminal building. When I arrived, the flight was not boarding, so I found a seat and waited. About 15 minutes later boarding began, with priority for business class passengers.
The seat There are two business class cabins on the A330-300 and I was in the larger one at the front. It had 27 seats arranged in nine rows of three (A, G, K). The second cabin had three rows (11-13) with an extra seat, 10A (see seat plan, right). I was in 2A – it faced at an angle inwards and was a self-contained unit, giving a lot of privacy. It feels a bit narrow when you are working, but when the bed extends to fully-flat it is more spacious. I was disappointed to find crumbs and bits of crisps on the shelf area. The touchscreen in-flight entertainment (IFE) system pulled out from the left-hand side of the seat. There were pre-set seat positions as well as buttons to tweak certain parts of it – I liked the headrest function. A bottle of water, headphones, an amenity kit and a thin duvet and pillow were provided. There was a socket but it did not fit my UK laptop plug – luckily I had an adapter.
Which seat to choose? Seats in column A are more private and have greater overhead locker space. Rows two to seven are away from the galley and the bathrooms. In the second cabin, avoid 10A as it is right by the galley. It’s also probably best to avoid the last row (13) as it is in front of economy so may be noisier.
The flight On boarding, my coat was taken and I was offered orange juice or champagne. We were on time pushing back but were held on the runway for at least half an hour, although this did not affect our arrival time, which was delayed by only ten minutes. After take-off, menus were given out and the head flight attendant introduced herself to each passenger. Drinks and nuts were served while orders were taken. The choices were smoked salmon and salad or roasted tomato and mozzarella with pesto to start, followed by lamb, sea bass or mushroom and Parmesan risotto, and cheese and biscuits, tart or fruit salad. I had a big portion of salmon, the sea bass (delicious), and a glass of Canadian Colio Estate Proprietors’ Reserve, North Shore, Lake Erie, VQA, which was crisp and fruity.
The IFE system was audio-video on-demand and the menu was easy to follow. I watched a film and reclined my bed to fully-flat when the lights were dimmed, about four hours into the flight. A little later we were given warm cookies and ice cream, and an hour and a half before landing, sandwiches and drinks were served. We touched down at 1800 local time.
Arrival I went through passport control quickly and while my bag was not one of the first on the conveyor belt, I was out of the airport half an hour after landing.
Verdict A very comfortable seat, with the herringbone configuration offering a more private experience. The service was helpful and the food great.
CONFIGURATION 1-1-1 in business, 2-4-2 in economy
SEAT WIDTH 20.5in/52cm
SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees, fully flat
PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight in February from London to Montreal started from £1,497.