Airline review: Air Canada Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, economy class, Melbourne to Vancouver

THE PLANE

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

THE ROUTE

Melbourne to Vancouver

CLASS

Economy, seat 41H

LOYALTY SCHEME

Aeroplan (Star Alliance). Air Canada created, then sold off, its loyalty program, reacquiring it last year. It has announced plans to launch a new version of the scheme in 2020.

DURATION

14 hours, 18 minutes. The captain gives the travel time for both the flight and "gate to gate" (an additional 30 minutes).

FREQUENCY

Three flights a week. Air Canada will increase this to four flights a week from June 2019.

THE SEAT

The economy cabin has 247 seats in a 3-3-3 layout. Seats offer 30 inches (76cm) of pitch and are 17 inches (43cm) wide, making them among the smallest you will find on an international full-service carrier from Australia.

BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE

In economy class, passengers are allowed a generous two bags of up to 23 kilograms each. One standard carry-on bag, plus one personal item. Air Canada doesn't cite a weight limit for the carry-on bag, other than that it must be light enough for you to place in the overhead locker unassisted.

COMFORT

Legroom is limited and I can, unfortunately, feel the passenger behind me digging his knees into the seat. This is a daytime flight so I'm glad I'm not attempting to sleep. A pillow and blanket are provided. Row 41 is a good spot – not too close to the toilets but close enough that it's easy to pop down throughout the flight or to head to the rear galley to grab a bag of pretzels, a biscuit or just stretch your legs in the space. On the return leg I decide to stump up $C140 to secure an exit row.

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ENTERTAINMENT

The touchscreen is small but sharp and responsive. There are more than 100 movies to choose from, ranging from recent releases including several of this year's best picture nominees, modern classics like Die Hard and Caddyshack, and family favourites. There's a decent selection of full TV seasons including a section dedicated to HBO (no Game of Thrones though, but we are between seasons). The only downside is you can't get a description of the episode before watching, which makes it difficult to know where you're up to. Wi-Fi is available starting from $C8.50 for one hour.

SERVICE

Efficient – pretzels and drinks are being delivered as soon as the seatbelt sign is off and lunch is served while we're still close to Australian lunchtime. Service is speedy, almost too speedy – the crew forgets to offer me a drink with my meal, and they're collecting the trays before I've started on the dessert. Cheers to the flight attendant who went to an extra effort to make my partner a cheese sandwich (using business class cheeses) after she was unable to eat one of the ingredients in the standard mid-flight sandwich. Jeers to the other flight attendant who served the main meal (see below).

FOOD

It's best to check what's on the menu via the in-flight entertainment screen as the flight attendant who serves me can't tell me anything beyond "chicken or beef, that's all I know." The menu features a red curry chicken with jasmine rice and choy sum which sounds delicious, but when I peel back the foil the dish turns out to be noodles with chicken – which is not on the menu. Nevertheless, the food is pretty good by economy class standards and there are snacks available at the rear of the plane throughout the flight.

ONE MORE THING

Like many airlines these days, while Air Canada operates like a full service carrier on this international long haul, domestically it operates more like a budget airline – food, drinks and headphones must be purchased.

THE VERDICT

Being able to fly direct from Melbourne to Vancouver, bypassing a transit in Sydney or a US airport, makes the drawbacks of this flight – mainly the tight seats – worth putting up with. If you're willing to spend a bit more, try to secure an exit row or bulkhead seat.

OUR RATING

★★★

Reviewed by Craig Platt, who travelled as a guest of Banff and Lake Louise Tourism, Tourism Jasper, Via Rail, Destination British Columbia, Northwest Territories Tourism and Destination Canada.

See also: Airline review: Dreamliner's business class good, but about to get better

​See also: Airline review: Air Canada business class, Vancouver to Sydney

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