It’s quite an exciting time for Canadian premium travellers, as it seems that more and more airlines who have recently introduced brand-new business class cabins are bringing them to their Canadian ports of call. If you plan to fly in business class (whether it’s on points or cash) anytime in the next year or so, keep an eye out for any of these opportunities to try out a swanky new product.
1. EVA Air 787 Business Class – Vancouver
This is the one I’m most excited about. As of February 17, 2020, EVA Air will operate their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner between Taipei and Vancouver on a daily basis, replacing the current Boeing 777 service.
EVA Air provides possibly the best business class experience within all of Star Alliance. I have nothing but positive things to say from the two flights I’ve taken with EVA on their Boeing 777: from the impeccable service to the gourmet onboard dining (including the ability to pre-select a specialty meal from a wider menu), the Taiwanese airline left me impressed in almost every regard.
EVA Air’s new 787 business class launched in late 2018, and has mostly been rotating through EVA’s regional Asia-Pacific network in the time since then. However, it’ll also debut on the airline’s flagship Vienna and Amsterdam routes this upcoming summer. That’s another chance to try it out, perhaps as part of an Aeroplan Mini-RTW redemption, if you don’t want to wait until February 2020.
The new 787 business class features staggered seating instead of the old reverse herringbone formation, and also includes Xiao Long Bao (soupy steamed buns) by Din Tai Fung, a famous Taiwanese dim sum house, as part of the onboard catering. Yum! It’s definitely one of the business class products that I’m most excited to try at the moment.
EVA Air’s award availability is a funny old beast. It seems that many years ago EVA was one of the easiest airlines to find award availability through Aeroplan, but then all of a sudden people started “waking up” to how good EVA Air business class was, and now the availability is pretty tough to find unless you’re searching well in advance.
I see a few scattered dates of business class space on the Vancouver–Taipei route in March and April of next year, with much more limited space on the reverse route. But if you’re planning to travel to Asia next year, it may well be worth shifting your schedule around to get on one of these EVA Air 787 flights. I know I would!
2. Turkish Airlines 787 Business Class – Montreal
Here’s another new business class product that I’m very much looking forward to trying. As of March 29, 2020, Turkish Airlines will operate their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner between Istanbul and Montreal three times a week, replacing the current Airbus A330 service.
I’ve already flown Turkish Airlines business class on four segments this year, and you can read my review of the A330 flight from Istanbul to Hanoi. Across most of these flights, I’ve been generally impressed by the food and service onboard Turkish Airlines (with a few exceptions), although the hard product has always been the part that’s lagging behind.
The airline’s forward-facing business class seats, in either a 2-2-2 configuration on the Airbus A330 or a 2-3-2 configuration on the Boeing 777 (the horror!), simply isn’t competitive in this day and age. But that all changes on Turkish’s new 787s, which are set to launch this summer.
Business class on the Turkish Airlines Boeing 787 will feature staggered seating in a 1-2-1 configuration with direct aisle access from every seat and a refreshed cabin design.
If you don’t want to wait until next March to try it out of Montreal, you can hop on these planes on several routes, including Istanbul–Denpasar, Istanbul–Atlanta, and Istanbul–Bogotá–Panama City, in the meantime.
Availability with Turkish Airlines is a bit of a crapshoot. It seems like the airline likes to “play games” with its business class availability, often pulling and releasing huge amounts of the space on their North American routes for no apparent reason. While I’m currently struggling to find much space on the Montreal route, I’m sure it won’t be long before it shows up again – after all, I just recently flew this very route on my way to Istanbul!
3. Egyptair 787 Business Class – Toronto
Egyptair’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliners will be launching on the Cairo–Toronto route as of October 1, 2019, replacing the current Boeing 777 service. I see this as a very positive development, because while Egyptair’s 777 product seemed rather subpar compared to the competition (the cabin was dated and the seats don’t fully recline into a flat bed), the new reverse herringbone seats on the 787 look very nice indeed.
(It doesn’t seem like many pictures of the new cabin have been released yet, so I took this one from Egyptair’s Instagram story of all places.)
The product actually debuted just a few days ago on the Cairo–Washington route, so that’s your other option if you’re itching to try it out before the Toronto launch.
Egyptair has very good business class availability, so you should have no trouble finding space within a few days of your desired date of travel. While I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to try this product, it definitely opens up another comfortable transatlantic routing for redeeming my Aeroplan miles, and I wouldn’t hesitate to jump on Egyptair’s new 787 if it was the most reasonable option.
If you’re based in the eastern Canadian cities and are struggling to find business class flights to Europe, it’s worth keeping the Cairo solution in mind as a backdoor channel across the pond – remember, if you simply have a layover in Cairo and continue on to a European destination, you’ll still be charged the mileage for Europe, not North Africa.
4. TAP Air Portugal A330-900neo Business Class – Toronto
TAP Air Portugal has actually already launched its Airbus A330-900neo business class on the Lisbon–Toronto route, and will be continuing to use it throughout the summer and perhaps beyond.
The new A330-900neo planes are merely a different variant of the A330-200s that TAP has already been flying to Toronto for quite some time now, and you can read my review of that product here. However, the A330-900neo does feature a brand-new 1-2-1 business class product, which I’d love to try when I get the chance.
Ever since they abolished fuel surcharges on Aeroplan rewards, TAP Air Portugal has become one of the most popular ways to redeem Aeroplan miles to Europe, thanks to their relatively plentiful award availability and convenient connections out of Lisbon to the rest of the continent (not to mention how well the Portuguese capital is suited to a 24-hour layover).
Besides the slightly varied seating configuration, the business class experience on the A330-900neo doesn’t look all too different from the regular A330. If you can’t find the flight out of Toronto on your desired travel date, the new planes are also in use on many of TAP’s US routes, like Boston, Miami, Newark, and New York JFK.
5. British Airways A350 Club Suite – Toronto
Moving away from Star Alliance, one of the new airline products to make the biggest splash in recent times was British Airways’s Club Suite on their new Airbus A350-1000s. Seriously, how sleek do those cabin finishes look?
In many ways this product reminds me of Air Canada’s reverse herringbone seats, with a stunning jet-black colour palette and the addition of a sliding door to form an enclosed suite. And the best part? It’ll be debuting on the London Heathrow–Toronto route as of October 1, 2019.
Unfortunately, the problem with using any type of mileage currency to fly British Airways is that you’ll end up having to pay some pretty hefty fuel surcharges. Indeed, using British Airways Avios to book this route would cost you 50,000–60,000 Avios one-way, which is not too bad in itself, but you’d also have to pay ~$500 in surcharges in the eastbound direction…
…as well as the westbound direction (where there’d also be the draconian UK Air Passenger Duty to pay as well).
Since I travel to London quite often, I could see myself maybe ponying up the cash just to try out this brand-new product, but I definitely wouldn’t feel good about it. However, if you’re the type of traveller who does value the convenience of a direct flight, then you should definitely look out for the British Airways A350 Club Suite if you plan to visit the UK sometime later this year.
6. Air France A350 Business Class – Toronto
As of November 25, 2019, Air France will be using their brand-new Airbus A350-900 on the Paris–Toronto route. While the Boeing 777-200s that Air France currently flies to Toronto is already quite good, the A350s will hopefully represent even more of an upgrade.
The Air France A350s feature Zodiac Optima business class seats, which are slightly different from the reverse herringbone seats that you’d currently find when flying Toronto–Paris, and the cabin also receives some dramatic darker finishes.
It’s a little tricky for Canadians to redeem miles for this flight, since there aren’t many easy ways to earn points in SkyTeam programs here in Canada. One option would be to book via Delta SkyMiles, where you can score a one-way flight in Air France business class on certain dates for 75,000 miles.
You can also book via Air France/KLM Flying Blue, where you might pay a lower amount of 60,000 miles, but there’d be higher surcharges to contend with.
You can earn miles in both programs by transferring points from Marriott Bonvoy or by dabbling with US credit cards, while Delta SkyMiles can also be earned by converting Amex MR points at a 1:0.75 ratio. Either way, though, it’ll cost you significantly more miles to try out Air France A350 business class than simply going through Aeroplan on a Star Alliance carrier.
7. WestJet 787 Business Class – Calgary / Toronto
Lastly, let’s check in on WestJet, who took the big step of launching their first batch of Boeing 787 Dreamliners this year. The new aircraft flew for a few months between Toronto and Calgary this spring, before debuting on the European routes from Calgary to Paris, Dublin, and London Gatwick.
When these routes were originally announced, many observers were surprised that the new widebodies would be limited to flying long-haul routes out of Calgary, and that the possibility to open up more capacity out of a larger market like Toronto was overlooked.
Well, that’ll be changing as of October 23, 2019, when the Dreamliner will be used on the daily service between Toronto and London Gatwick, as well as an additional twice-weekly route between Calgary and Maui.
Unfortunately, there’s no good way to redeem miles for WestJet business class yet, so your best bet to get on one of these flights will likely be searching for cheap premium fares. There are a few dates in late November when you can fly from London to Canada for around $1,500, which isn’t unreasonable for a paid one-way transatlantic fare. You’ll have enough WestJet Dollars to cover that with only six rounds of the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard…
I’m impressed by how many airlines are choosing to launch their new business class products out of Canada, and I’m very excited to hopefully try out some of these new products in the near future.
For Aeroplan members, the Star Alliance carriers in particular will open up new possibilities to travel in comfort. Meanwhile, the British Airways, Air France, and WestJet products are a little tougher to book with miles, but are probably going to be excellent options for those of you who fly transatlantic for work and get to choose which airline to fly with!