Review: Air Canada Business Class E190, Vancouver – Winnipeg

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With a population spread out across wide distances in Canada, there is usually a lot of travel time between Canada’s cities. With only two major air carriers in Canada, the options for full business class are pretty lean, without a lot of competition as compared to our neighbours to the south. Air Canada has had a monopoly on business travel in Canada for quite a number of years and is the leading choice for regular business travelers. We used upgrade credits to land ourselves into Business Class for today’s flight into Middle Canada.


This post is one chapter on our trip to Kenora, Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Canada. This trip allowed us to earn through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy). For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Air Canada Business Class E190, Vancouver – Winnipeg

“Air Canada Business Class Embraer 190, offers a more comfortable, if not sterile, way of travelling the long distances within Canada

Our round trip flights were purchased in an economy class “Flex” Fare and upgraded using E-Upgrades earned through the Air Canada Aeroplan program. The upgrades were cleared and confirmed in advance at the 10 day window thanks to the Air Canada Top Tier summer promotion, which allowed for a more immediate upgrade than the usual 4 day window. Flying around Canada is a great way to use E-Upgrades since it often involves long distances and the domestic business class fares are often much more expensive than in the United States thanks to lessened competition . 

At about T-30 minutes, we left the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Vancouver Domestic and headed immediately across the concourse to Gate C29. Most of the older gates at Vancouver have minimal seating areas, constrained by a building design from the seventies. The boarding had already started on arrival, and we snuck on board thanks to the Priority Boarding lane. 

YVR – Gate C29
Air Canada 
YVR-YWG (Vancouver International Airport – Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport)
AC 298 – Business Class (R).
6:25 PM – 11:06 PM
August 7, 2014
Booked: Embraer 190
Flown: Embraer 190.
Seat 1F

On board Air Canada Embraer Business Class:

On board, we settled into the Embraer 190 Air Canada Business Class Product. We were in the bulkhead today, seats 1D/1F.  There are three rows of Business Class in the Embraer 190, in a 1-2 configuration up front, and a 2-2 configuration in the back in economy class.

Air Canada Embraer 190 Bulkhead Seats
Air Canada Business Class Cabin
Air Canada Embraer 190 Cabin
A Pillow at Each Seat

The space had a small monitor screen in the bulkhead wall for in flight entertainment, which makes for a more spacious seat since the monitor isn’t stored in the seat walls.

In Flight Entertainment Monitors (Bulkhead)

MrsWT73, as usual, had her opinions. “Oh my gawd, this is like flying cargo.”

Indeed, the space and hard product was nothing like our last trans-contiental flight on Cathay Pacific First Class. The size and space between the two can not be compared in any form, other than it was plainly obvious that the Embraer had a much MUCH smaller footprint. Our flight load today was fully occupied at 9/9 over the 3 rows in the Business Class Cabin.

A Pre-Departure Beverage:

A pretty standard pre-departure beverage was offered of orange juice or water. It’s nothing like the open bar pre-departure beverage on American carriers but it’s still much better than nothing.

Pre-Departure Orange Juice

Air Canada offers printed menus in domestic business class. It’s a classy touch which I personally really like that the verbal “Chicken or beef” question. On today’s flight, the menu was dropped off. The menu offered food information only, with no corresponding wine list.

Air Canada Business Class Menu
Business Class Supper Menu YVR-YWG

Regulars will likely agree that Air Canada offers the same menu items over and over again with the sides rotating on a semi monthly basis. For example, chicken will be served with rice, then next rotation the fish will have the rice. At least it makes for a predictable eating experience but it’s probably not appealing for the Super Elites 100K’s that are always on the go. 

The In Flight Entertainment Service:

Air Canada was among the first to offer an advanced video on demand system. This was class leading at the time and was before everyone switched to carrying content on their own devices. The AVOD system was offering a very limited selection of movies, slimmed down from their wide body aircraft. Either they are saving money on movie licences, or they are attempting to speed up the performance of the system that was initially plagued with issues when it was installed in 2008. At any rate, the AVOD was working much faster than when it was first introduced. The system only featured about 11 hollywood movies- just enough to get through a three hour flight. 

Air Canada Advanced Video on Demand System

Air Canada still puts some effort into it’s in flight magazine labelled “En Route”. Enroute has taken to featuring an airport code on the cover for the past few years. I think it’s a neat feature as you can see familiar places and new ones that you might not have been to. Unfortunately, as with all airline magazines, most of the articles are limited to places served by the Air Canada network.

En Route Magazine featuring Santiago
Air Canada Global Route Map

I also played around with the usual Moving Map. The moving map had it in its mind that we were headed towards Calgary today.

Calgary Set as the Inadvertent Destination

As we got underway, a cocktail beverage and heated almond service was offered. I stuck with Australian Chardonnay of an unidentified variety.

Pre-Supper Beverage Service
Views over the Wing en route to Winnipeg

The Meal Service: Dinner

As it came time to menu ordering, orders were taken by status. We were last even though MrsWT73 at the time was an Air Canada Aeroplan E50k (Mid Year Star Alliance Gold level), and I was a Air Canada Aeroplan E25K (bottom level). Being a dinner flight, demand was high and both the salmon and the chicken were out of stock by the time they got around to us. I ended up with the last choice cannelloni. It was okay, but not even as good as Boston Pizza’s which is saying something about the tastiness of the catering. 

This flight’s supper started with the usual Air Canada Mesculin Greens with Balsamic Dressing. It’s a staple on almost every Air Canada Domestic flight for lunch and dinner.

Mesculin Salad with Mixed Pepper Julienne with Balsamic Dressing

The main course was presented separately as cheese and spinach filled cannelloni with creamy tomato sauce and spinach ricotta.

Cheese and Spinach filled cannelloni, with creamy tomato sauce and spinach ricotta

I settled into the movie “District 9” for the remainder of the flight.

Arriving to Winnipeg John Richardson International Airport:

As always, when headed east, we approached and landed in Winnipeg in darkness. 

A Flight Track Straight along the Canada / USA Border

We eventually landed at the new Winnipeg John Richardson International Airport. While it can be a little busier during the day, it’s pretty dead at 9 PM at night when we had arrived. Despite being almost midway between Vancouver and Toronto, there isn’t any connecting traffic here late at night since most jets fly straight over without stopping.

Arriving to Winnipeg

Getting off the plane, we entered the new Winnipeg John Richardson International Airport. The baggage hall is pretty cool, and has some bluey circles on the ceiling.

Blue Circles!
A Blue Ceiling

Our bags came out somewhere mid stream along with the other bags, despite them being tagged with Star Alliance Priority Tags on them. 

The Bottom Line: Our Experience on Air Canada Embraer Medium Haul Business Class

Air Canada really aims to position itself as the best business class in North America. Its passengers are constantly reminded that Air Canada have won Best North American airline by Skytrax 5 years in a row. The problem is that many of the other North American carriers don’t offer a great domestic business class product. The catering was pretty plain and not very exciting. The service on Air Canada, while sometimes outstanding, is usually pretty casual. It still doesn’t compare to many other international business classes. As a result, it’s hard to get super excited about my flights with Air Canada.

If you’ve flown Air Canada Embraer Business Class, what was your experience like?

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