Air Canada Introduces New Signature Service (Including On Some Transcon Flights)

I’m a fan of Air Canada, especially as far as North American airlines go. They’ve done a great job improving some of their premium services to a degree we haven’t seen from another North American airline.

A majority of their longhaul fleet, including all 777s and 787s, feature comfortable reverse herringbone seats. Soon all of these planes will have Gogo 2Ku inflight wifi.

They have an excellent lounge in Toronto, the Air Canada Signature Suite, which I’d argue offers the best pre-flight dining of any business class lounge in the world.

Select premium passengers even get driven between concourses in a BMW 7-Series.

Air Canada also has a team of airport concierges that take care of select longhaul international business class passengers, and Super Elite members.

While I think their product is already excellent, Air Canada has just announced some improvements to their business class experience. These changes aren’t huge, though are worth noting, in my opinion:

Air Canada’s new Signature Service

Air Canada is rebranding their international premium business class service as “Signature Service.” This makes sense, given that their new lounge in Toronto is called the “Signature Suite,” so I figured this was part of a larger rebranding. This new service will be available starting today on longhaul international flights, and will be available starting on June 1 on select flights within North America (it’s pretty cool to see this expanded to non-longhaul flights).

So, what should we expect from the new Signature Service?

For those traveling on eligible transcon flights, you can expect:

  • Updated onboard menu items from chef David Hawksworth, and catering that’s on par with what you get on longhaul flights
  • Enhanced wine and spirits
  • The addition of espresso and cappuccino, which was previously only available on longhaul flights
  • Mattress pads

Meanwhile for those traveling on longhaul international flights, you can expect the following changes:

  • Laurent-Perrier champagne
  • A new signature cocktail, consisting of bourbon, Sprite, ginger ale, maple syrup, and lemon
  • The addition of garlic bread to the bread basket (as a lover of garlic bread, I really appreciate this)
  • Mattress pads
  • Starting later in 2018, you can expect a BMW transfer between terminals when connecting from a domestic to international flight on a paid business class ticket

Like I said, these aren’t changes that make or break a product, but I do consider these to be very nice improvements, as it’s nice to seen an airline investing in their premium cabin product.

While all longhaul international flights will feature the new service, you can expect select flights operating the following routes within North America to feature the new experience:

  • Toronto to/from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver
  • Vancouver to/from Montreal and Newark

Well done, Air Canada!

(Tip of the hat to @tweetermaven)

Comments

  1. There’s no doubt Air Canada is a superior product to US carriers, except maybe the lounges, which are pretty awful.

    But the value proposition is pretty imbalanced. Air Canada fares are extortionately expensive due to lack of competition. YVR-YYZ will cost 3-4x more than LAX-JFK across dates and all fare classes.

  2. If you compare Air Canada´s international business class to what the US legacy carriers fly and what most European airlines will do for you, it´s a no brainer to fly Air Canada if the routing (and pricing) works out. Walking into the Signature Suites in YYZ makes you think there has to be a mistake and you cannot possible get this with a fairly reasonably priced business class ticket… The onboard product on the 787 and 777 is more than decent anyways. In business class that is.

    Feel they could do a lot more for those travelling in their Economy, especially for frequent flyers… Something like a comfort economy, economy plus or something that will open up with status… Something that their premium economy, which is fairly decent as well by the way, doesnt do. I thinkthey lack behind legacy US carriers here when it comes to making economy a bit more bearable for their elites other than a few limited bulkhead seats.

  3. is the updated transcon service available on all flights YVR to/from SF/LA or just the ones with intl configured aircraft?

  4. Good news and great move of AC to improve more for transcon flights. @Lucky could you verify exactly about the BMW transfers between Dom to Inter. flights:
    – is it vice versa or only as you have reported
    – is it for all business class fares or only full fare types

  5. I used to hate AC with a passion, but they have really improved in the last years. Nice to see the YVR routes getting better soft product.

  6. I don’t know about you, but mattress pad is pretty important for me since most business seats don’t have enough padding for me. I specifically go out to select certain carriers over another since I know one offers good mattress pad (like JAL) in business or first. Here’s hoping AC use something that is actually comfortable with good padding as opposed to something thin and flimsy.

  7. @Cedric I remember in the late 90’s, early 00’s when AC was horrible – especially when it came to customer service.

    It’s nice to see how much they have improved.

  8. I’m shocked they’re doing this on domestic transcons where they have virtually no competition at all. The fine print, though, is that this only applies to the flights they were already operating with a superior configuration. So they seem to just be making sure that their lie-flat product comes with the same soft product whether flying longhaul or transcon.

    @PC these are just YYZ to LAX/SFO, not YVR. And specifically the flights operated by 787s, 777s, 767s, and a330s. So for YYZ-LAX, this appears to only be 2 out of 6 flights.

  9. Ooooh that’s exciting. I need to schedule a meeting sometime in Toronto. @ keitherson is right though…when I price paid business fares between LAX and Toronto, they’re regularly double everyone else. Granted Delta isn’t direct, but I’m a Delta flyer, so I don’t mind the connection if I’m getting MQMs and bonus miles.

  10. You might want to clarify that the Air Canada service is very different from Air Canada Rouge, the latter of which has several international/overseas routes and is a terrible way to fly! Uncomfortable, old, dirty, and late. Rouge flights are often among the search results for regular Air Canada flights, and not always easy to distinguish depending on your search engine, so traveler beware.

  11. The car service is interesting, though I can’t think of an airport where you would connect between terminals for Air Canada flights. Only YYZ has multiple terminals, and AC is all in T-1. Perhaps they will ferry you between the domestic pier and the international pier – same with YVR too I suppose.

  12. The word “signature” is used so often here that it now sounds odd.

    Still, given that a company as low-rent as McDonalds has been plastering adverts everywhere boasting of their “signature” this and that, my guess is the word is now so wildly over-used that it has no cachet left.

  13. I am based out of YXU. When I fly international, I fly AC through YYZ to Japan and Europe. However, if I am flying in the US, I drive to DTW because it is way cheaper. Also, unfortunately my company won’t pay for business class even on 13hr flights to HND 🙁

  14. Maybe we can look forward to ‘signature enhancements’ once the inevitable cut backs return ;-|

  15. @Lucky,

    After almost a week, still no comment or post on United’s leaked seat maps for Polaris, Premium Plus, Economy Plus and Econ on the 77W, 787-10, 777, and 767-300s. Especially United 767-300 44 seat Polaris cabin.

    Why?

  16. The BMW transfer will only apply in YYZ, and only from domestic to international. The reason for no international to domestic transfer is the need to go through immigration and security. It’s only available to paid business pax, as with the Signature Suite. Fare buckets J,C,D,Z,P, but not upgraded (R) or reward (I) tickets.

    The spirit in the cocktail is indeed bourbon and not rye whiskey.

    I was on CPH-YYZ on Saturday and the Service Director told me that an announcement was coming. She commented that AC realizes its competition isn’t just the other North American Airlines, so they’re trying to up their game. We’ll see how it looks in practice. Looking forward to a review here.

  17. I fly AC 2-3x a year in paid J from the east coast US to Asia via YYZ. They have typically offered the lowest fares, I think because they need American travelers also to fill their planes, and Americans may be hesitant about a connection in Canada.

    Anyway, looking for flights to Beijing and Tokyo for this Fall, like I usually do, and AC has _not_ been price competitive at all. For example, on a WAS-NRT routing in September, UA is cheaper on their direct IAD-NRT flight than AC on DCA-YYZ-NRT. Is AC raising their prices because of this new premium service?

    Generally I think AC service is pretty good in J, so all these changes are a welcome improvement.

  18. Also will be nice to see if they don’t downgrade the meal service, as has been feared since they launched the Signature lounge.

  19. heads-up to international travellers on AC, their WIFI is already in use, even though it’s not advertised yet

  20. Last weekend I noticed 3 Air Canada BMWs in the terminal 1 parking garage where there has only been 1 the past few years. Perhaps this is related to the announcement and they’re expecting to do more transfers.

  21. Very nice. Next *A biz sale to Europe I will consider booking AC again.

    Now, the YYZ US MLL – upgrade please? Same decor and drinks for 8 years now…

  22. You say “……Select premium passengers even get driven between concourses.”
    So what’s today’s definition of “Select?”

  23. AC is a Jekyll and Hyde business. Reasonably ok internationally but domestically absolutely lousy. Their smug customer service is just the pits and the A320 fleet is tired and worn.

  24. Definite caveat to watch out that this is only on the few transcon frequencies they do on widebodies, which were already a huge step up to the recliners on the narrowbodies. These flight times are always geared to the business traveler, so generally make the most sense to anyone on a normal travel schedule anyways.

    @majik Once the new 737MAX are all in the fleet, the A310/320s will all be gone.

  25. Bully for the ‘select’ ‘Signature’ class passengers. Down the back of the bus, AC is the worst airline I have ever flown. ‘Uncomfortable, old, dirty and late’ ascribed to Rouge above describes perfectly an AC A330 flight from Montreal to Frankfurt I endured a while back. In huge contrast, a middle seat AA between DFW and LAS a few months ago was a delight, due mostly to a cheerful and amusing cabin crew. Why are you always so down on US airlines?

  26. @Jim can I ask why you even look for flights on American carriers? I’m generally curious. I only fly AC domestically, but internationally I would only ever fly AC to Europe since I honestly don’t think European carriers are very good (in business). But going to Asia is a no brainer, ANA and AC are priced very similarly and I don’t know why anyone would fly on AC. Forget UA, I wouldn’t fly them regardless of the price difference.

  27. @Fred M

    I find American carriers are overpriced. I fly out of YVR so there are many Asian options that are at the same price point but are superior in every way. I understand that some passengers are based in the middle of nowhere and have to fly on American carriers, but I just can’t understand why anyone would fly in those horrible business class configurations on American carriers. Obviously if you’re chasing status I can’t comment on that, but what other reason can you have? You only eat McDonalds?

  28. According to my own experiences AC’s intern. C class is constantly great. Untill today I have not got a bad flight. Soft and hard products are very good. Unfortunately I cannot say it to the US3..AC might be more expensive on some routes but I will choose them before any US3. The Signsture Suite in YYZ is just great for a business class product, just love having a great meal before a short red eye flight to GB.

  29. @Eth I usually fly out of IAD, so going to Europe, there’s a decent chance UA offers a direct flight. As long as it’s not the dreaded 2-4-2 C config, I’ll go with that in the interests of reducing travel time.

    For the longer flights to Asia, AC has in the past been quite price competitive. I’d usually get R/T fares of $2500-3500 on WAS-YYZ-PEK and WAS-YYZ-TYO. The hard product is good — I like the 1-2-1 all aisle access config and each seat is quite private too. I always travel alone on such trips, so I like my privacy.

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