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All Jet, No Lag: The Ultimate Guide to Flying Business Class on Air Canada's Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Where: Toronto, Canada
August 7, 2014 at 2:35 PM | by | Comments (0)

[Also check out Part 2, Premium Economy and Economy]

"Whoever said man wasn't meant to fly didn't see this coming."

These were the words printed on a banner welcoming passengers to gate 172 at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on July 15, 2014.

Outside the windows was one of Air Canada's airplanes, sitting chill in her ice blue livery and scarlet maple leaf logo while a flurry of ground vehicles prepared her for a 12-hour flight to Tokyo. Passengers waiting to board forwent selfies and instead pointed their cameras outside, at this aircraft which stars in the celebration of a new era for Canadian aviation.

But, um, hasn't Air Canada been flying from Toronto to Tokyo for, like, decades? Yes, yes they have, but never before to the Japanese capital's other, very recently updated and better located airport of Haneda, and never before with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Flight AC005 is non-stop from YYZ to HND, a lengthy trip which gives the benefits of the 787—the greater cabin humidity, lower altitude level, improved personal space, and fuel efficiency—a chance to strut their stuff. It was, in fact, the longest flight we've ever done in a 787, and absolutely one of the best in our own travel log.

Now, let's delve into the delicious details:

The Seat

The seats are private, comfortable, enhanced where it counts with the latest technology, and blissfully free of a fancy name; simply call them "International Business Class" on the Air Canada 787.

Had we the option to pick one current business class design for all our future travel, it'd be this. Not only was it comfortable with a desirable level of privacy, but dare we admit it was actually fun to sit in the seat? It's true; thanks to a touchscreen control panel, everything from seat softness to window darkness can be controlled with a tap-tap. The panel is fixed, located just slightly above where your wrist rests.

There's no fumbling with a remote or feeling around for a recline button in the darkness; the panel requires only a slight brush (thank you, capacitive sensing) and it's ready to turn on the headrest massage(!!), beef up lumbar support, or slip into fully flat bed position. It is far and away the one thing we interacted with most throughout the flight.

Beyond the fancy tech, the seat itself is ample (21" wide, with 6'7" fully flat bed length, 4" longer than Air Canada's Business Class on other aircraft) and styled in a "palette of slate grey and neutral tones with accents of Canadian red and celeste blue." The 1-2-1 configuration ensures aisle access for all, and the cabin of only 20 Business Class adds privacy and quiet to the equation.

Best seat? 1K, because it's on the aisle without a lavatory and therefore has the least traffic. Worst seat? None are actually bad, since all have windows and aisle access, but we'd go with 5 D&C since they're just in front of a galley and the lavatories for Premium Economy.

The In-Flight Entertainment

This may have been our first Air Canada flight, but it sure wasn't a first trip to Tokyo. We've made the long journey from the US many times and with all sorts of in-flight entertainment, from the drop-down screens that require squinting over tops of heads, to personal screens requesting extra money for the only movies worth watching.

Air Canada's extensive offerings on every personal, touchscreen TV mean the 12-hour journey need not be a tear-your-hair-out ordeal, and you may even discover a new favorite film hidden in the "Canadian" category. We have only the best things to say about the 18" touchscreens in Business Class, which are the largest offered by any North American airline and boast an intuitive interface.

Lift the lid on the side storage cubby at your seat to find your personal power outlet, USB plug, and headphone jack, but also a touchscreen entertainment remote. Its function goes beyond saving you a lean forward to pause the movie; it allows independent browsing of more movie/TV options or viewing the moving flight maps while the content on your main screen continues uninterrupted. This is a huge perk for travelers like ourselves, who enjoy keeping an eye on our flight's progress but hate having to pause "Weekend at Bernie's" to do so.

To be honest, the awesomeness of the system shouldn't be so surprising, considering it's the latest and greatest: Panasonic Avionics' eX3.

The Food

A 1pm departure from Toronto hopefully means you've enjoyed the hot food lunch offerings in the Maple Leaf Lounge enough to stave off hunger until the 787 is cutting through the clouds. The Business Class menu offers lunch and breakfast with optional in-between snacking, but the lunch is actually large and filling enough to be a true dinner. Keep in mind that the menu does change, but ours offered these options:

Appetizer:
Poached Nova Scotia Lobster, marinated shrimp and sauteed scallop on tapenade with cucumber, mango salsa and yellow pepper sauce

Salad:
Mixed greens, grape tomatoes and parmesan served with balsamic vinaigrette

Main courses:
· Chicken Piccata with lemon herb sauce, complimented by angel hair pasta, broccolini and grape tomatoes
· Roasted Black Cod with cilantro chutney sauce accompanied by whole grain medley, bok choy and carrot
· Grilled Alberta AAA Beef Tenderloin with Cabernet peppercorn sauce, served with lobster and Yukon Gold mashed potato and sauteed asparagus
· Japanese Meal offered with Sake. Composed of an assortment of appetizers, side dishes, pickles, noodles and miso soup, accompanied by a hot main course of Beef Fillet, steamed rice and mixed vegetables.

Selection of cheese:
Cantonnier, Camembert and Medium Cheddar served with crackers

Choice of desserts:
· Peach cherry upside-down cake
· Fresh seasonal fruit

Naturally if you're super tired or simply want to maximize sleep time, there's a flexible meal option which condenses the multi-course meal service into one large tray, at any time.

Light snack options are almost whole meals in themselves (noodle soup with pork wontons, chicken fajita wrap, tomato broccolini salad, dim sum selection, ice cream, packaged chips, fresh fruit) and the pre-arrival breakfast hot and robust (the usual fruit, fresh juice, yogurt and baked goods, plus parsley omelette with chicken sausage, herbed Yukon potato and salsa OR Japanese-style rice congee with yu choy and trefoil stems).

Espresso machines on airplanes have recently become something of a trend, and Air Canada's 787s aren't to be left out; the planes feature a "coffee service" of Lavazza cappuccino and espresso drinks. Since we ordered the Japanese dinner and late-night snack of dim sum, our beverage progression went from the pre-departure champagne to post-departure wine, to tea with dinner, tea with dim sum, then water and orange juice to rehydrate during breakfast.

One of the first pages we find in a menu is the booze, and it's a lengthy list over two pages on Air Canada. Ken Chase is the airline's sommelier, and he has chosen two whites (a California Chardonnay and French Grenache Blanc), three reds (a Malbec from Mendoza, Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon, and a California Petite Syrah), plus Champagne Drappier Carte d'Or Brut from Reims, France and Dow's Port, a silky and plummy Portuguese port wine. Beers are three: Heinekin, Coors Lights, and Molson Canadian. Harder liquors are the usual suspects of Smirnoff, Bombay Sapphire, Johnnie Walker (Black), Crown Royal, Jim Beam, Bacardi and so on and so forth, but with the addition of three digestifs, Courvoisier VSOP, Grand Marnier, and Baileys Irish Cream.

Curious as to what we ordered? Check out the full meals and beverages in our photo gallery above.

The Extras

As you'd expect from a Business Class ticket, pre-flight relaxation at Toronto-Pearson Airport takes place in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. On the Tokyo-Haneda side, you'll be directed to the swank and spacious ANA lounge.

The crew on our inaugural flight was extra smiley, owing to their excitement at finally flying the 787. That wasn't all; before landing at Haneda, one FA peeked out our window and, full of awe at the sweeping views of Tokyo Bay below, admitted that he'd been flying to the city's Narita Airport for a decade, but this fresh Haneda route had renewed his giddy enthusiasm for the metropolis.

Even though this inaugural is over and done, there are still opportunities to celebrate the 787 with Air Canada. As the airline receives more of the 37 they've ordered, there'll be future route announcements and future first flights. For such occasions, Air Canada encouraging social media sharing via the hashtag #FlyingAC787.

The Cost

Roundtrip airfares for Business Class between Toronto and Tokyo-Haneda on the 787 begin at $4400. Do know that redeeming miles from Air Canada's Star Alliance partner airlines for these seats is totally possible, and varies depending on airline program.

[Also check out Part 2, Premium Economy and Economy]


Above: ground staff at Tokyo-Haneda bow to welcome the plane to the gate

We flew to Tokyo and back as a guest of Air Canada but received no special treatment on the flights, and all photos and opinions are completely our own.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]

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