Saturday, December 3, 2022

Air Canada announces improvements to in-flight, airport experiences

In a move to remain competitive as the world opens back up to travel, Canada’s largest airline has announced major changes and restoration to in-airport and in-cabin services going into 2023.

Montreal-based Air Canada announced Thursday significant improvements that will see both economy and premium services see updates that include end-to-end enhancements, new food options, and even access to complimentary Wi-Fi for select customers.

“Air Canada is committed to elevating the customer experience and offering the kind of world-class services Canadians can be proud of from their flag carrier,” said Mark Nasr, Senior Vice President, Products, Marketing and eCommerce at Air Canada, in a statement. “Accordingly, we are investing in all aspects of the journey to make travel even better for customers, including in our Economy and Premium cabins.”

As a frequent traveller, I am excited to see many of these improvements roll out, with Air Canada leading the way among the North American carriers, including the ones in the U.S.

Restored services coming, new elevated experience for all cabins

Restored services include permanent food options at Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounges, bringing in local wines, elevated food offerings in both Maple Leaf Lounge and Air Canada Café at Toronto Pearson, while new services like a priority lane for Super Elite and Business Class passengers will be rolled out at busiest airports and times, as well as a new chauffeur service in Vancouver will be powered by Porsche.

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For Business Class passengers, you will see a welcome return of pre-departure beverages, hot towels, and warm nuts, while new services will launch like a new Economy Class dining service featuring celebrity chef entree internationally plus fresh, new Bistro choices in North America, dessert service, and in a first for a Canadian airline, complimentary, high-speed Wi-Fi when travelling Premium Rouge.

Air Canada Unveils Comprehensive Product Experience Improvements from Airport Lounges to Onboard Dining and Entertainment (CNW Group/Air Canada)

Air Canada says starting in 2023, Air Canada will increase its onboard entertainment content by over 25 per cent, and introduce Live TV, Bluetooth audio connectivity and other new features.

Finally, a new partnership with Acqua Di Parma will launch for international Signature Class amenity kits. This features a new reusable tote bag and amenity kit for North American Air Canada Signature class and International Premium Economy customers.

Air Canada Unveils Comprehensive Product Experience Improvements from Airport Lounges to Onboard Dining and Entertainment (CNW Group/Air Canada)

What I would love to see

These changes are really encouraging to see as Air Canada faces increased global competition as well as new players in the domestic space. I would love to see more improvements in the loyalty space, including offering more confirmed eUpgrades earlier for the most loyal of customers. The lounge access is great, and it’s nice seeing Air Canada maintain access to Star Alliance Gold and above as well as Business Class passengers, however, I’d like to see it become easier and less of a “Hunger Games” trying to confirm a Business Class upgrade before arriving at the airport.

Final thoughts

It is really encouraging to see these changes. Air Canada has clearly spent a lot of time reflecting and building service improvements, and I think it will really set the Montreal-based airline apart from its competitors in North America.

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The improvements are expected to roll out in November and will continue to be phased in through 2023.

More specific details are below, courtesy of Air Canada:

In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity

Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge offer the fastest inflight internet in Canada, with inflight Wi-Fi available across the entire Air Canada Rouge fleet of 39 aircraft, across all Air Canada wide-body aircraft and on nearly 90 per cent of the overall Air Canada mainline fleet. Wi-Fi installation will be complete across the remainder of narrow-body aircraft in 2023.

Starting Nov. 1, Air Canada becomes the first Canadian airline to begin offering complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi onboard. Customers flying in Premium Rouge will enjoy this benefit, giving them the ability to stream their own entertainment, TV shows and movies, listen to their own music or remain connected, replacing the previous tablets offered with pre-loaded in-flight entertainment choices. All Rouge customers can continue to access a large selection of complimentary movies and TV shows through the ‘Entertainment on Demand’ section of the onboard portal.

Beginning 2023, Air Canada will expand its onboard entertainment content by more than 25 per cent, and the airline will introduce new options including Live TV to enable customers to watch sports events and news live. Details for Live TV, as well as additional new features such as Bluetooth audio connectivity and an outside camera feature, will be unveiled soon.

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International Economy Class Dining

Starting Nov. 1, Air Canada will be elevating its International Economy Class dining experience to reflect Canada’s culinary talent and tastes from our global network of destinations. Economy Class dining on all international flights departing Canada is being revamped to feature a hot entree created for Air Canada by renowned Montreal Chef Jérôme Ferrer, a member of Air Canada’s culinary panel. An additional appetizer reflecting destination cuisine is also being presented with all meals, and a separate dessert service will follow.

North America Economy Class Dining

To offer a broader range of fresh and healthy dining choices for Economy Class on North America and Sun destination flights, starting Nov. 1, the Air Canada Bistro menu will be refreshed and expanded to include a brioche bagel smoked salmon sandwich, vegan options such as Farro Salad or Spiced chickpea wrap, Canadian snacks such as Good To Go Blondies and Nomz energy bites, in addition to all-time favourite choices such as Montreal smoked meat sandwiches and Air Canada’s popular Fruit & Cheese board.

Premium Cabin Services

Starting Nov. 1, Air Canada is fully restoring its premium cabin services both pre-departure and in-flight, with the return of offers to hang coats and jackets, presentation of pre-departure beverages on international flights and hot towels prior to meal services.

Premium Cabin Amenities

Air Canada will be introducing new amenity kits to premium cabin customers later in November. The new line of amenity kits and totes have been purposefully designed to significantly minimize single-use plastics including the elimination of plastic wrap.

Air Canada Signature Class customers on all international flights will be presented with amenity kits in partnership with Acqua di Parma featuring stylish amenity bags containing Acqua di Parma luxury skincare products plus an oversized eye mask, socks, dental products and 3M earplugs for additional comfort and personal care.

Customers in International Premium Economy and North America Signature Class overnight flights will enjoy reusable amenity totes containing an eye mask, socks and dental products providing for a more refreshed journey.

Airport Lounges

  • Many Maple Leaf Lounges in North America now feature elevated food and beverage offerings. Air Canada works with local wine producers and importers to offer a selection that appeals to a wide, global audience, and varietal selections in each Lounge will be expanded to six wines plus a bubbly and rose (seasonally).

    Air Canada proudly celebrates Canadian wines and the current rotation in select Lounges includes Charles Baker Riesling and Malivoire Farmstead Gamay from the Niagara Region, Ontario, Lake Breeze Pinot Gris and Narrative Red from the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, and L’Orpailleur from the Eastern Townships, Quebec.

    At all hub airports, Air Canada has resumed its full buffet service, with an increased range of salads and the addition of international delectable dishes such as stir-fry and curries in a contemporary presentation. Montreal Maple Leaf Lounges also feature local legendary classics, including Montreal Fairmount Bagels, Montreal’s famous smoked meat sandwiches, and poutine. 

    New priority access lanes have been added to select Maple Leaf Lounges during peak times to offer Super Elite and Business Class customers priority entry.
  • The Air Canada Café at Toronto Pearson now offers a selection of Ontario craft beers, ciders, wine and hot appetizers such as empanadas, arancini and sliders, in addition to the current range of grab-and-go artisanal sandwiches, salads, cold-pressed fresh juices and specialty coffees. The Air Canada Café is located in the domestic terminal at Toronto Pearson and is available to eligible customers.
  • Starting in November, Air Canada Chauffeur Service will be introduced at Vancouver International Airport. Eligible connecting International Air Canada Signature Class customers arriving from within Canada will be met by a Concierge before being whisked away on the tarmac in a plug-in hybrid or fully electric Porsche vehicle to the distinctive Air Canada Signature Suite. Chauffeur Service offers an unsurpassed airport Premium experience in Canada for International Air Canada Signature Class customers connecting through Toronto Pearson and Vancouver International Airports.

Updates to 2023 Aeroplan members

Air Canada has also released an update for Aeroplan members going into 2023. Among changes, Aeroplan 35K members will no longer have unlimited access to Maple Leaf Lounges, signaling the airline trying to protect the premium nature of the spaces. However, Aeroplan 35K members will retain two guest passes that come with the status and gain priority baggage handling, additional eUpgrade credits, and Priority Rewards to include North America and Sun Destinations. This is also why I’m hoping to see Aeroplan make confirmed eUpgrades easier to access.

Other updates, as sent out by Air Canada:

2023 Membership Kits: After not sending membership kits in 2022, we will restart mailing kits to members holding the same or a lower status in January. Elite Status members who have tiered up in 2022 should have already received their 2023 kits or will soon receive it if the change in Status was recent.

New Virgin Australia lounge access for Aeroplan 50K and above: Members with Aeroplan 50K, 75K and Super Elite Status, and one guest, can now enjoy access to Virgin Australia lounges when departing on a Virgin Australia or Air Canada® flight from that airport. (This one is not new news, but we hadn’t yet communicated it to our Status members)

Reminders for 2022 Program Year

As part of these communications, we’ll also be including the following reminders to our members 

  • Updates on 2022 promotion fulfillment timings
    • A reminder that with our limited time offer to maintain current Elite Status by earning 30,000 points through spending on an Aeroplan credit card, to allow up to 8 weeks after reaching the eligible earn for the Aeroplan Elite Status extension to be processed
    • With our Doubling of every Priority Reward earned between July 1st and December 31st, 202, these bonus Priority Rewards deposits will commence in November 
  • Elite Status Rollover Benefits: A reminder for Aeroplan premium credit cardholders (Aeroplan Amex Reserve or Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege) that roll-over of eligible Status Qualifying Miles and eUpgrade credits to 2023 will be automatic and will post to accounts by the second week of February. To be eligible for the 2023 rollover benefits, Status members who are not already cardholders must apply and be approved for a new Aeroplan premium credit card no later than December 15, 2022
  • Using up Elite Status Benefits Before Year-end: A reminder to review and use benefits, such as Priority Rewards or Status Passes, that may be expiring by the end of this year. Members who haven’t already completed their selection of 2022 Select Benefits may continue to do so until December 30, 2022. Members who requalify for Status will receive an invitation to choose 2023 Select Benefits by the end of January
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Winston Sih
Winston Sih
Winston is currently a freelance technology and travel broadcast journalist, consultant, and is the creator and founder of Master Travellr—Canada’s destination for travel news, guides, and budget recommendations.

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