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Air Canada’s Premium Economy Class Review


This post is a review of Air Canada’s Premium Economy Class.ย  I never mentioned it on the blog, but when I flew to Copenhagen in June, getting there I traveled in style-Air Canada’s Premium Economy Class style. And lest you think that theirs is like the meager United Airlines Economy Plus offerings, think again. Yes, it costs scores more than United’s, but honestly, if you have the money, I definitely think it’s worth it.

So I thought I would offer a post for anyone who’s considering it.

What it is

On Air Canada’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, certain routes offer Premium Economy seating (for the list of all the routes, click here). If you know anything about the aviation industry, you’ll know that the Boeing 787s are the newest and largest aircraft to hit the commercial flying skies, and so these aircraft are beautifully sleek and uber new everything (i.e. nothing like the horrendously outdated planes that travel between the United States mainland and Hawaii).

There are innumerable benefits one gets from booking a premium economy seat but here are the main ones in my opinion:

  • greater recline (17.8 cm/7 in) and a larger seat compared to economy class
  • a 96.5 cm/38 in seat pitch (i.e. plenty of room to truly stretch one’s legs)
  • an increased baggage allowance (you get two free checked bags; in economy only your first one is free)

To me it was like second class on ocean liners back in the day-scores better than third class (i.e. economy) but not to the degree of first class or business.

Air Canada's Premium Economy Class Review

What I liked

Unlike on United flights in which economy plus seats are still in the coach section, premium economy seats are in their own section (between business and economy). When we boarded and I stopped at our seats, D was incredulous that we were in the right section because in many ways they resemble a business class area since they are separate.

It’s also a small section-on the flight from Toronto to Copenhagen, they only sat about 30 people versus in regular economy where you board your flight and your eyes see nothing but endless rows. It definitely allows for a more intimate experience, one where you don’t feel surrounded for hours by copious numbers of strangers.

I loved the personal service feel-this included everything from the menu we were given of our dinner meal (if you fly economy, you know this is something that never happens) to the hot towel we were given to clean our hands to even having a small tablecloth draped over our tray table. It really made you feel as if you were not the human equivalent of cattle being shipped in a stock car. Everyone was also given an amenity kit which is something I had never received before when flying-it was lovely to have articles like a sleep mask, socks, and travel size hand lotion, lip balm and toothpaste.

What I didn’t like

Honestly nothing. My one big complaint had nothing to do with the premium economy service since it was the same for those traveling in economy and business. Flying over to Copenhagen, the on-demand entertainment service didn’t work…for the entire flight. Another one of the benefits touted is that the personal touch-screen TVs are bigger than the ones in the economy section-not that we got to use them…But as I said, this was just an unfortunate occurrence on the flight we were on, nothing to do with the premium economy level.

Air Canada Premium Economy

An idea on what type of meal you’ll get:

(This is what I had on my flight when I flew it in June of 2015)

After getting to our seats, we were given a choice of orange juice or spring water prior to take off. A selection of beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) were served and available throughout the flight.

Dinner service consisted of a green salad with balsamic olive oil dressing. There were two entree selections-the meat option was a grilled Alberta AAA beef tenderloin with a morel mushroom sauce, roasted garlic red skin mashed potatoes, broccolini, zucchini and carrots. The vegetarian option was a vegetable and cheese ravioli with Alfredo pasta sauce, tomatoes, basil, and Parmesan. Dessert was a chocolate pear cake.

I can truthfully say that the food was of a superior quality. I can honestly say this has not always been the case with other airlines when flying in their premium economy class.

The cost

As you get many more benefits than just extra legroom, it does cost a lot more. But this will obviously depend on where you’re flying to and in my case, where you’re starting from (we first flew from Pittsburgh to Toronto where we then connected for our flight to Denmark). We also were traveling in June, which if you’re a seasoned traveler you’ll know is the start of the summer travel season and prices are a lot higher than in more off-peak times.

At the time I booked our tickets, I only splurged on premium economy for our flight over to Europe. I figured the extra leg room would be more worth it since it was an overnight flight versus during the day when I really don’t sleep or attempt to sleep. However, months after I had long paid off the credit card bill for the tickets, I thought to myself, well, it might be nice to travel in luxury style both ways. When I called Air Canada to upgrade our return tickets, I was stunned when I was told how expensive it would be-I thought it would be comparable to the price I had paid earlier. No. It was basically the cost of a brand new ticket; to this day I don’t understand how that could be. So I would recommend that if you’re interested in booking premium economy seats, book both ways when you’re buying your ticket.

Is it worth it?

Any flight that is over 5 hours is tough, and the more hours you add on is even tougher. So if you have the money and want to treat yourself, yes, I definitely think it’s worth the extra money. I have no idea if I’ll ever fly first class in my lifetime so it certainly gave me a smattering of what the slightly more pampered experience is like.

As for doing it again in the future, I definitely would love to try something like premium economy on a flight to Asia.

Air Canada Economy Plus

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  • Reply
    AC: Erfahrungen mit Air Canada? - Seite 2
    April 5, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    […] den Bericht? Air Canada's Premium Economy Class Review – The Red Headed Traveler […]

  • Reply
    May 6, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    How much extra was it?? I am flying from Toronto to Madrid in June and it’s an option for us to upgrade!

    • Reply
      May 8, 2016 at 9:29 pm

      I don’t fully remember as it was over a year ago, but coming from Pittsburgh I want to say it was between $600-$800 USD extra. Keep in mind, since Pittsburgh is a smaller airport, airfares are often a lot more so I would think right from Toronto it would be less. If you have it and it’s available as an upgrade, I’d say go for it. It was infinitely better and had more to offer than just the extra legroom/a free drink etc than some of the American airlines offer.

  • Reply
    May 16, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks for the review, Julie. I’m traveling to Paris from Columbus, OH in September and debating this vs. regular economy ($900 to $450). It’s basically double the cost one-way, but man that extra room would be nice for a red-eye.

    • Reply
      May 16, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      My pleasure ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for commenting Angela and how exciting that you’ll be headed to Paris later this month!

      Honestly, if you have it I would totally say go for it. I’ve done the economy plus seating on United Airlines numerous times now, and with the Premium Economy it really is so much more than just the extra leg room (which obviously is one of the biggest pluses though). I’ve never flown first or business before but the premium economy definitely does a good job of making it feel it’s like that between the hot towel, special boarding, printed menus (this floored me ha ha), and just the nicer aircraft too all around.

      Air Canada though is a great airline overall though so enjoy!

  • Reply
    June 13, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Hi! I am a CDN travel agent and would like to add a couple of comments regarding Air Canada’s Premium Economy:

    1. Be careful when booking – make note of what air carrier you are booking. A lot of Tourist destinations have Air Canada Rouge now (!). Rouge is a cramped, poor service alternative to other carriers. Yes, they offer Premium Economy…but you may do better grabbing Air France or British Airways Premium Economy!

    2. I purchased PE on my Air Canada flight to Zurich on the new Dreamliner. At time of booking the flight there was $200 more if I upgraded to PE at time of booking. This was well worth it. Air Canada charges $100 for Economy Emergency Exit or Bulkhead seats so for another $100 it was a great upgrade!

    • Reply
      June 16, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks for commenting Catherine! Yes, I was actually considering Air Canada Rouge to fly to Europe in the fall but decided against them after reading the not so great reviews like you said.

      It’s definitely an upgrade worth splurging for I feel!

  • Reply
    July 9, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    I just upgraded last night for a flight to Paris next Friday and the total was 279$ Can

    • Reply
      August 8, 2016 at 8:28 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience Marc. The price definitely seems to vary!

  • Reply
    Paul Ainsworth
    August 9, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Thanks for your review! I am taking my son to Europe in September for a WW2 tour. We fly from Calgary,Canada to Frankfurt.

    I saw the premium economy seats with Air Canada and was immediately sold on booking those for our long trip there!

    Yes it was quite a bit more dollar wise than economy but I decided that this was the closest I could ever come to travelling first class,which in my opinion are redicously overpriced!

    Reading your review just galvanized my descion was the right one!!!
    Looking forward very much to my “first class” experience!!!

    • Reply
      August 10, 2016 at 11:48 am

      Hi Paul-thanks for commenting and glad to hear my post reaffirmed that you had made the right decision with your booking! Air Canada’s premium economy is something I wouldn’t hesitate in booking again on long haul flights. Have a wonderful time on your trip (a WWII tour sounds right up my alley) and more importantly, enjoy that flying experience!

      • Reply
        Paul Ainsworth
        August 10, 2016 at 4:53 pm

        Thanks Julie,without a doubt we will!!! I always said that next time I do a longer haul flight(over3 hours for me!) I would try to go for more room etc.so when I came across the premium economy by chance it just said book me!!!!! I can be a pretend snob for a while!!!!!

  • Reply
    August 12, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Hi there! I am considering paying for an upgrade to PE or even Business Class as sometimes there are deals on business class that are even better than PE (who knows why!). This is for a long flight- 10h- so likely it is worth it…. BUT… how has it been going back to economy on longer flights? I may only get the upgrade one way- not return and I wonder… is ignorance bliss?

    • Reply
      August 14, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Hi Tanya-thanks for commenting. Honestly, economy on Air Canada was still a pleasant enough of an experience. All of the seats had their own personal entertainment system and the legroom was still adequate (compared to the American carriers). I would recommend trying to get a seat in the two seat sections (for my flight the configuration was two, aisle, three, aisle, two). I always find that preferable! But if you have the means, I’d say splurge! I still regret not doing so ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    March 16, 2017 at 9:16 am

    Thanks for the review. My wife and I are flying premium economy on Air Canada (Toronto to Copenhagen) in August, returning on premium economy on Lufthansa. Your review really showed me what to expect. I’m 6’5″ tall and I was very uncomfortable last year flying to and from Frankfurt on United’s economy plus. Maybe 3 inches more legroom. It was awful. This time, I wanted to spend some more for comfort.

    • Reply
      March 17, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      Thanks for commenting Greg and I’m glad my post could be of benefit. It costs a bit more but Air Canada’s premium economy really puts the U.S. based airlines “economy plus” category to shame. Enjoy the service to Copenhagen and also enjoy Copenhagen, it’s a wonderful city!

  • Reply
    April 29, 2017 at 4:31 am

    Nice review on Air Canada Premium Economy. So intimate and cosy because PE have its own cabin. Other airlines should follow Air Canada style. 21 is a good number for PE on Boeing 787-8/9 .

    • Reply
      December 26, 2017 at 8:41 am

      Thanks Franklin. I look forward to flying it again (hopefully in 2018!). And I agree, I do wish other airlines would follow suit!

  • Reply
    July 17, 2017 at 6:12 am

    helpful review thank you – helping us to choose on the way over to vancouver in Feb

    • Reply
      July 22, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      Hi Michael! Thanks so much for commenting and glad my post helped in making your decision. Flying premium economy tops any of the “special economy” options on the US airlines any day. Enjoy Vancouver, it’s a wonderful city!

  • Reply
    January 19, 2019 at 8:40 am

    Thank you for the great article! My husband and I live in Costa Rica, and we are traveling to Europe later this year. I had been saving up miles on American for a long time, but I only had enough miles for a round trip for one of us. While looking into buying the other ticket, I discovered that we could purchase two round trip Premium Economy tickets from SJO to Amsterdam for less than the price on one basic Economy seat on American. I jumped on that opportunity, and I’m glad I did. I ended up having to call them to complete the booking, and a very helpful agent answered the phone without my having to push buttons or listen to music on hold or listen to repeated messages thanking me for my patience. Besides helping me complete my reservation, the agent informed me about Air Canada’s stopover program that provides free or greatly reduced hotel rooms in Toronto for layovers greater than 6 hours. We’ve taken advantage of that to book rooms right at the airport both going and coming back for a total of $26 for both nights! Two hotels were offered free of charge, but they would have required taking shuttles or taxis to reach them.

    We’ve never flown Air Canada, and we’ve never been in Premium Economy on any airline, so I just searched for pictures and came across your article. Now I’m even more excited about our trip to Europe!

    • Reply
      February 16, 2019 at 9:29 am

      I’m happy it helped Bonnie! It’s a super nice and deluxe level to fly in. Have a wonderful time on your trip!

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