Review: Air Canada Business Class B737 – MAX 8, Calgary – Vancouver
Air Canada’ newest aircraft is the Boeing 737 Max 8, which arrived in the middle of a pandemic and questionable safety issues on the part of the Boeing manufacturer. How did the aircraft stand up on our short shuttle flight between cities on Canada’s West Coast?
Review: Air Canada Business Class B737 – Max 8, Calgary International Airport – Vancouver International Airport
“Air Canada’s newest business class product is a substantial improvement over its’ Airbus series business class product, featuring upgraded seating and in flight entertainment”
YYC-YVR (Calgary International Airport – Vancouver International Airport)
AC 221 Business Class (R)
5:30 PM – 6:00 PM
June 10, 2021
Booked: Boeing 737 Max 8
Flown: Boeing 737 Max 8
Air Canada has historically flown an Airbus fleet domestically within Canada, with the occasional entry into the Embraer market. As the Airbus series aircraft get older and closer to retirement, Air Canada elected to enter into the Boeing 737 Max aircraft product. Unfortunately, the timing of problems with the equipment types computer systems and a worldwide health pandemic stunted the growth and use of this equipment type. Today’s experience would be my first flight on this equipment type.
This ticket was purchased as a regular economy class category in Flex Fare economy class. I used e-upgrade credits achieved from flying with Air Canada’s Aeroplan frequent flier program as a top tier elite, in order to upgrade into business class. Thanks to lessened travel demand, there was ample availability. I submitted an upgrade request shortly after purchasing the ticket. My upgrade was cleared and confirmed into business class approximately eight days before my flight, resulting in four e-credits being deducted from my Aeroplan account.
I had checked in to the flight through the Air Canada App at twenty three hours before the flight. While the flight showed as almost full on the seat map, there was only 11 out of 16 seats occupied. Air Canada must block some seats or there much have been some mis connnects as I ended up with several empty seats around me.
After a visit to both the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Calgary Domestic, and the Westjet Elevation Lounge Calgary Domestic, I headed to Gate C52 to board today’s flight. The Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 family is now frequently used on shuttle service between Vancouver and Calgary, in addition to other domestic routes within Canada.
By the time I had arrived to Gate C52, priority boarding was in the process of concluding with the final call for Zone 2. As an Air Canada Business Class traveler, I was given Boarding Zone 1 designation on my boarding card; the best possible number available.
On Board Air Canada Business Class on the Boeing 737 Max 8:
Air Canada Business Class on the Boeing 737 Max 8 is set up with four rows of business class in a 2-2 configuration. Air Canada has gone for a darker color on its seats, compared to the glacial blue that was in its previous generation on the Airbus Series. The new look is much more contemporary and subdued in its elegance.
The seats themselves are slimline seats, which are lighter in weight. I typically don’t find these seats to be as comfortable. However, I’m happy to report on this version that I found that these seats are actually more comfortable than their Air Canada Airbus Series Business Class barcalounger style counterpart. I also found them more comfortable than the comparable puffy seat found in the Alaska Airlines First Class product.
I located my seat 2F, which was a window seat on the right hand side of the aircraft. I stowed my luggage in the overhead bin, which had ample storage space using large scale bins that can fit rolling suitcases vertically. I didn’t end up having a seat mate with me today in 2D, so I had both seats to myself to stretch out.
Settling into the seat, I had ample leg room. It didn’t matter whether I was seated straight or cross legged, there was enough space without dealing with knocking knees into the seat in front of you.
The seat also featured foot rests, that could be adjusted in a variety of ways.
Features of the Seat:
The Seat Featured a recline option and a foot rest option. These features were accessed through level buttons on the wall of the seat itself.
It’s a bit difficult to show how the seat base extends, but I tested it out on the seat next to me. It extends upwards, to help with a rest option.
Individual Air Nozzles:
The seating space featured individual air nozzles, along with a light feature. The light feature was activated from a button on the overhead luggage compartment.
The seat console of the seat ahead featured a storage space. It was suitable for a water bottle, but was sized such that laptops or phones would probably slip out of this space as it only had a fabric band keeping things in place.
Fortunately, the seats had a very convenient lap top space in the console in between the seats. The space was large enough to fit many of the largest laptops. There was also in seat Empower in the seats, along with USB ports and a double prong headphone slot.
In Flight Table:
The opposite side of the seat featured a split table. The table could be folded in half, or completely extended for meal service.
The front of the seat offered a magazine pouch. Given that we were in the health pandemic, the Air Canada Enroute in flight magazine had been removed, leaving the in flight safety card as the only thing occupying this spot.
The seat featured a video screen. Like most modern electronic upgrades, the screen is now a large inches. It featured a montage of aspirational shots of the destination being traveled to, which was a neat way to be introduced to a flight.
Pre Departure Services:
Unlike most American carriers, the Air Canada pre-departure services are pretty tame by comparison. Its customary for an open bar to be offered in the US, wheras Air Canada offers a bottle of Naya Still Water.
As all passengers boarded, we got underway two minutes early from our scheduled departure time. For some reason, we had a manual safety demonstration by the flight attendants. I’m not sure whether this is usual, but there was no apparent failed attempt to start a video demonstration; reverting to manual as a last resort. Rather, it was planned and put into their take off routine as we started to taxi to the runway.
We had the exceptionally long taxi over to runway 35, for our departure to Vancouver. I counted about 15 Westjet B737 aircraft parked around the airport, thanks to the downturn in air travel from the health pandemic.
As we proceeded down the runway, the take off noise was substantially quieter and less harsh than the loud throttle of their usual Airbus series aircraft. The engine noise sounded more subdued and refined, instead of the usual glare and noise of the Airbus CFM Dash 5’s.
In Flight Entertainment:
As we climbed to altitude, I played with the in flight entertainment system. The system has been modernized and features an easier user interface compared the last Enroute product found on the Air Canada Airbus Series.
The home page featured both a menu page, and an entertainment page. After playing with the system, it offered a picture in picture set up so you could watch a movie in addition to having the moving map set up in the order so you could watch both at the same time.
The Meal: A Snack
We only had a flight time of one hour as we travelled the 436 miles to Vancouver. As a result, the meal service was started promptly. The meal service was considered as “modified” as a result of the health pandemic.
The meal was a small salad presented in a box. It was offered with Albarino White Wine or French Beaujolais Red Wine. Since the day was over, I enjoyed a glass between putting the face mask on and off.
The snack meal was reasonable. Although the meal offered hummus in lieu of salad dressing. I was expecting the usual Air Canada Olive Oil and Balsamic combination but instead came up with hummus alone.
The service on board was the usual Air Canada politeness; pleasant but not super interactive. Staff were available for drink refills, although I didn’t partake in any as I was driving home.
After the meal, i stared out the window, missing travelling by air.
The windows of the aircraft offered the usual pull up / down window shade varieties. Unfortunately, they did not offer the digital electronic window shading that is also found on the current generation Boeing 787 products.
Landing at Vancouver International:
With the flight being really brief, it wasn’t long before we were navigating into Vancouver International Airport. I followed along on the next generation flight map, to plot our route.
We over flew the downtown core of Vancouver, with a heading out towards the Georgia Straight, before a left turn back to runway 26 L.
After landing, we taxied off the runway. I happened to catch my first glimpse at the Turkish Airlines Boeing 787 that starting its route Vancouver – Istanbul only 21 days ago, in front of a Phillipines Airlines Boeing 777 parked at the international gates.
We arrived to Gate C41 in the Domestic Terminal at Vancouver International Airport and deplaned without any issues. I hopped the shuttle bus to the park and fly and headed home for the evening.
The Bottom Line: Air Canada Business Class Short Haul on the Boeing 737 Max 8
The Air Canada Business Class on the Boeing 737 Max 8 represents the business class of the future. It is a substantial improvement on the old Air Canada Business Class Seat in the narrow body Airbus Series aircraft, featuring a more comfortable seat, along with a more functional space that surrounds it. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly this aircraft again, or hesitate about using e-upgrades to upgrade into business class as it would be money well spent. Well done Air Canada.