In March 2022, Air Canada announced its plans to add a number of Airbus A321XLR aircraft to its fleet in the coming years. In the media release, the airline stated that lie-flat seats are to be part of the experience, amongst a number of other inclusions.
Through an interview posted on Executive Traveller, Air Canada has revealed some more details about the order, and also alluded to a refresh of the business class cabins on other aircraft in its fleet.
New Business Class Cabin on Air Canada Airbus A321XLRs
In the initial announcement of Air Canada’s plan to acquire Airbus A321XLR aircraft, it was simply stated that there would be capacity for 182 passengers, with 14 lie-flat Signature Class seats in the business class cabin, and 168 seats in economy. At the time, it wasn’t clear what the configuration for the business class cabin would be, which we now know will be 1-1.
In the interview, Mark Nasr revealed that Air Canada’s in-house design team is working together with Acumen to design the seats.
Some of Acumen’s other projects include Mint business class on the JetBlue Airbus A321LR aircraft, the Etihad Airways First Class Apartment and Residence suites, ANA “The Suite” First Class, and the Hawaiian Airlines 787 Dreamliner business class products.
Interestingly, there isn’t any confirmation about the inclusion of a door with the suites; however, Nasr described the suites as “private”, which suggests that it’s entirely possible.
Given that sliding doors are all the rage in new business class products these days, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to find them on the A321XLR business class product once more details are released.
As we knew before, a premium economy cabin is not going to be included on these aircraft. Recall that Air Canada operates narrowbody aircraft on some transatlantic routes, such as between Halifax and London or Toronto and Reykjavik, as well as on a number of routes within North America.
Currently, the business class cabin Air Canada’s Boeing 737 MAX 8 and Airbus A220-300 aircraft is being sold as premium economy on transatlantic routes, but as business class on flights within North America.
If the Airbus A321XLR aircraft are used on similar routes, we’d expect the product to be consistently marketed and sold as business class, since it will offer a fully lie-flat seat.
It’s worth noting that there’s not a lot of distinction between the North American-style business class product that’s available on some of Air Canada’s narrowbody aircraft and premium economy. While there are some clear differences, there are also many similarities.
The addition of a lie-flat product to a narrowbody aircraft would do away with these similarities, and would clearly make transcontinental and transatlantic narrowbody flights much more comfortable.
Furthermore, the Executive Traveller interview also hinted that the introduction of the A321XLR to Air Canada’s fleet will come with “a new design standard for our cabins, our interiors, our lounges, really for all facets of our customer-facing experience”, according to Nasr.
This suggests that we might expect to see a refresh to the entire Air Canada Signature Class experience, both on the ground and in the air.
A Sign of What’s to Come?
While Air Canada is expecting to take delivery of the Airbus A321XLR starting in 2025, it will be unveiling a “new-look business class product” on its Air Canada Express regional aircraft sometime next year.
The current versions of the Embraer E175 and Bombardier CRJ900 have 12 business class seats in a 1-2 configuration. The rollout of a new business class cabin on these aircraft will give us the first taste of what’s to come, even if the full rollout of the revamped Signature Class will come a bit farther down the line with the delivery of the Airbus A321XLRs.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview is that Nasr alluded to an upcoming revamp of the Signature Class cabin on Air Canada’s Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft “soon”.
Air Canada took delivery of its first Dreamliners almost a decade ago, and in the future, Nasr mentioned that “they’ll be due for heavy maintenance and a retrofit…so that provides us the opportunity, whether it’s on those aircraft or potentially at some point on new wide-bodies, to introduce a new long-haul product as well”.
As it stands, Air Canada’s Signature Class product is quite consistent through its wide-body aircraft. While there are some minor differences, you can largely expect to find a similar hard and soft product on the Airbus A330-300, Boeing 777, and the Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 aircraft.
Therefore, it will be very interesting to see what the new Signature Class cabin on the Airbus A321XLR looks like, since it could set the precedent for any future retrofits of Air Canada’s existing wide-body fleet, as well as what we might expect to see on any new wide-body aircraft orders.
Through an interview with Executive Traveller, Air Canada executives offered a bit of insight into what we can expect for its acquisition of Airbus A321XLR aircraft. The business class cabin will feature a 1-1 configuration of 14 lie-flat seats, and the airline’s design team is collaborating with Acumen for work on the suites.
In 2024, Air Canada will begin to roll out a “new-look business class product” on its fleet of regional Air Canada Express aircraft, which will give the first hints of what Air Canada’s new business class products might look like.
Further down the line, it expects to begin a retrofit of its wide-body Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft, which will potentially come with a new long-haul product.