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All Jet, No Lag: Inside Premium Economy and Economy on Air Canada's New Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Where: Toronto, Canada
August 8, 2014 at 11:41 AM | by | ()

[Also check out Part 1, Business Class]

Premium Economy is so hot right now.

Or, rather, the class between Economy and Business has been a popular addition to aircraft for many years now, every since Virgin Atlantic introduced it way, way back in 1992(!!), but some airlines have held off and, in turn, benefitted from the wait by introducing Premium Economy classes with all the latest bells and whistles.

One such airline is Air Canada, who put their first Premium Economy cabin in the air with the arrival to their fleet of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Flying AC006—11 hours back from Tokyo-Haneda to Toronto-Pearson—we settled into a window seat and experienced what this new class for Air Canada was all about.

The Seat

Shocker: we slept for 6 whole hours in this seat, almost to the point of drooling. Of course it's no full-flat Business Bed, but the combination of a wide seat, 7" recline, 38" legroom with adjustable legrest, a cradling headrest, and coming off a very long day running around Tokyo was enough to see us zonk out after dinner.

Make use of the pillow and blanket which are larger than those in Economy; some lumbar support and propping your feet up on the legrest makes it easier to imagine you're leaning back into a La-Z-Boy, rather than an airplane seat.

Our only complaint is a nit-picky one. In the middle divider between seats, just under the cocktail table, is a nook for holding small personal effects. It's too small for a smartphone! If you've brought along your own earbud head phones, or like to keep a tiny bottle of face moisturizer and lip balm close, then you'll find it useful (so long as you remember to clear it out before disembarking).

The In-Flight Entertainment

Just as in the rest of the AC 787, the in-flight system is Panasonic Avionics' eX3, but Premium Economy improves on Economy with an 11" (versus Economy's 9") touchscreen. In addition, each seat is equipped with its own USB port and universal power outlet.

The content available is simply staggering; there's over 600 hours of films and the selection is updated with the newest of newish releases (we watched The Grand Budapest Hotel before nodding off). Be sure to cycle through the full menu of live map options; watching your plane's progress is no longer akin to watching paint dry.

The Food

Flight AC6 departs Tokyo just before 6pm, making it one of the only evening flights out of Haneda. The timing is ideal for wrapping up shopping and sightseeing around Tokyo all morning, and then tucking in for a dinner and a movie once onboard. In Premium Economy, passengers are offered a pre-departure beverage (including champagne), a few packaged snacks, and a hot towel before the hot food arrives. Keep in mind that the menu does change, but ours offered these options:

Green salad with balsamic oil dressing

· Beef tenderloin with Japanese radish sauce, rice, braised burdock julienne, carrot, mushroom and pumping
· Chicken breast with grape mustard sauce, paprika rice, mixed zucchini and red pepper

Bread with butter

Pear tart

Mid-Flight Snack:
sandwiches and cookies

Pre-Arrival Breakfast:
Fruit salad

· Japanese rice congee with salmon, snow peas and white sesame
· Scrambled egg with ratatouille, hash browns and broccoli

Bread with butter

The Extras

Aside from the additional privacy and quiet of a smaller cabin, Premium Economy enjoys access to the lavatories behind Business Class. The blankets and pillows are better and larger than in Economy, as are the meals and drinks (which include a pre-departure beverage, full water bottle, and mid-flight snack service). Finally, Premium Economy is also treated to a small amenity kit, which we detailed earlier.

Just to review, here are the facts on Premium Economy:
Seats: 21 in a 2-3-2 configuration
Legroom: 38"
Width: 19.5"
Recline: 7"
In-Flight entertainment: 11" touchscreen with USB port and individual power outlet

The Cost

Premium Economy for upcoming months on the Toronto-Tokyo route is from $2400 roundtrip, half the price of Business Class but double Economy.

Air Canada plans to introduce Premium Economy onto more routes, and more aircraft (like their 777-300s). Thus far, they're an option to book on flights between Montreal and Paris, Toronto and Vancouver, Vancouver and Hong Kong, Vancouver and London-Heathrow, Montreal and London-Heathrow (until Sept 30, 2014), and of course this Toronto to Tokyo-Haneda.

Economy Class:

Although we didn't travel in Economy, we had plenty of time to explore on the lengthy flight and managed some time in one of the seats. For the 12-hour non-stop to Tokyo, we'd still recommend Premium Economy or Business, but Economy is doable and seats for this autumn are averaging $1140 roundtrip. Here are the facts:
Seats: 210 in a 3-3-3 configuration
Legroom: 31"
Width: 17.3"
Recline: 5"
In-Flight entertainment: 9" touchscreen with USB port. Universal power outlets are 2 for every 3 seats.

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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