The airline launched its B787-8 Dreamliner on the Toronto-London route in 2014, for the winter season, rostering it again for the winter schedule on October 25, 2015, until April 30, 2016. (The route is also served by A330-300, B777-300ER and B767-300ER aircraft.)
Dreamliner flight AC849 departs London at 1500 and lands in Toronto at 1800 (it’s an eight-hour journey). Return flight AC858 departs Toronto at 2355 and lands at 1150 the following day (journey time is six hours 55 minutes).
The larger capacity B787-9 will ply a second service (AC869) from London to Toronto between 24 March and 30 April 2015.
I was set to travel on flight AC849 from London Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 to Toronto Pearson International at 1500, so arrived at the airport via Underground just after 1300.
I had already checked in online and had my boarding pass sent to my phone, but I needed to drop my suitcase off. (Premium economy passengers can take two suitcases weighing 23kg each.)
Air Canada’s check-in area is in Zone A – you need to use one if the self-service kiosks to print out a luggage tag and then go to one of the staffed desks to drop your luggage off. There were about six open between A1 and A10. I was also given a paper boarding pass.
There were no queues so all this was achieved in about five minutes, and I was able to head straight to security. (Premium economy passenger get priority check-in and baggage handling.)
Here, a staff member was handing out clear plastic bags for liquids – once dealt with, passengers could then pass through the automatic gates by scanning the barcode on their boarding passes.
Security was well organised and swift, with just a few minutes to wait until I was able to go through (laptops had to come out and jackets off). Staff were polite and efficient.
Once airside in the new Terminal 2 at 1320, I went to Heston Blumenthal’s Perfectionist’s Cafe for a quick bite to eat – the food was excellent and came out quickly, although the service could have been more attentive. To read a review, click here.
There were plenty of departure screens dotted around so I could keep an eye on the status of my flight from where I was sitting. I was instructed to “Go to gate” at 1355, but didn’t head down there until it said “Boarding” at 1410.
It was quite a long walk up and down escalators and along corridors to Gate B38 so allow a good 15 minutes. There is a buggy service, though, for those who need it. When I got to the gate at 1425, I was able to board straight away via an airbridge.
Business and premium economy passengers were given priority, while those in economy were called according to zones (with One being at the back and Five being at the front). Once on board, those in premium economy were offered a choice of newspapers, in-ear headphones, and a choice of water or orange juice.
I was immediately impressed by the look of the cabin – premium economy is configured across three rows between business and economy, in a 2-3-2 layout across rows 12-14 (economy is 3-3-3). I was in seat 13A and, luckily, no one was sitting next to me so I had a bit more space. The Dreamliner also has fully-flat business class seats arrange 1-2-1.
The B787-8 Dreamliner is a beautiful plane and Air Canada has done a great job of fitting it out. Premium economy feels spacious with a good amount of legroom (38 inches – seven more inches than economy), and looks stylish, with dark navy upholstery and leather headrests in black and red.
Seat-back screens (measuring 11 inches – two inches more than in economy) and universal power sockets are available to everybody. Amenity kits contained socks, an eyemask, toothbrush, toothpaste and ear plugs. Blankets, pillows and bottles of water were also left on seats. There was no wifi.
The seats felt wide at 19.5 inches (economy seats are 17.3 inches wide) and well-built, with bi-fold tray tables lifting out of the central armrests. Footrests also made it more comfortable. Recline (seven inches) is also greater than in economy, at five inches.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
Seats at the front, in row 12, face the bulkhead and galley, as well as the washrooms, so there may be some disturbance. I would go for row 13. The back row, 14, is directly ahead of the economy bulkhead so there could be babies in bassinets here. All was quiet on my flight though. I would avoid centre seats E, but other than that, they are all good.
The aircraft pushed back from the stand at 1505 and, after taxiing to the runway, waited for a few minutes until a take-off slot became available. We were airborne by 1515, after a safety video was played and menus handed around. The IFE system could be used throughout.
Once cruising at about 1530, the seat-belt signs came back on and hot towels were offered. After, meal orders were noted down.
For lunch, there was green salad with Parmesan, a bread roll and a choice of two mains – red Thai chicken curry with basmati rice, mushroom, carrots and bok choi, or penne pasta with mushroom cream sauce, herbs and cheese. (I had the latter, which was flavoursome.) Dessert was apple tart.
The quality was very good – fresh, generous portions served on real china and with proper metal cutlery. There was also a choice of free wine, beer and spirits, followed by tea and coffee (or another alcoholic beverage).
I spent the early portion of the flight watching a film – the picture quality was excellent and there was a good selection of recent release movies, as well as a food menu, online shop, moving map, audio books, music, TV and podcasts.
Mood lighting on the aircraft was set to blue or pale peach, and made the cabin feel homely and relaxed. Another nice feature was the fact that the washroom to the front had a window looking out on to the engine. Despite it being sunny outside, I was able to tint the signature B787 windows to dark blue, removing the glare completely, and yet still see the clouds.
Another drink and snack (nuts and pretzels) were served at 2000 and, at 2045, crew came around with more drinks and also hot pastry wraps filled either with feta and roasted vegetables or Italian meatballs. Well fed, comfortable and entertained, the only thing that bothered me during this flight was trying to type while having to listen to the annoying sound of someone behind me playing Candy Crush Saga.
After the cabin was tidied up and seats put in the upright position according to crew instructions, the plane made its descent into a very ominous-looking Toronto, beneath dark grey storms clouds.
We landed just before our scheduled time of 1900 (the clocks hadn’t gone back in Canada when I flew), and disembarked promptly once at the gate. I was impressed by how quick immigration was, but had to wait about 20 minutes for my case to appear in the reclaim hall. I was outside catching a taxi by 1945.
It was hard to fault this flight – Air Canada’s premium economy product is excellent, and the Dreamliner a pleasure to fly on.
I thought the food was particularly good for this cabin class, as was the quality of the IFE system and the movies offered.
There is a significant difference in the experience you get in economy, with a different seat and a smart-looking environment, but you can end up paying a considerable amount extra (when economy is about £430, while premium economy is over £2,000 – this is on a par with BA). That said, if you are lucky, you can get a premium economy seat for £1,112.
The crew were professional, warm and attentive.
- SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-3-2 (A-C, D-E-G, H-K)
- SEAT RECLINE 7in/17.7cm
- SEAT WIDTH 19.5in/49.5cm
- SEAT PITCH 38in/96.5cm
- PRICE Internet rates for a return premium economy flight from London to Toronto in December started from £1,112.
- CONTACT aircanada.com