We’re seeing many new route announcements to Canada these days, and our very own flag carrier, Air Canada, has hopped in on the trend with new seasonal routes to Asia just in time for Winter 2023.
Of course, these will be bookable on Aeroplan points, so let’s take a look at the possibilities.
Air Canada’s New Asia Routes
Beginning December 1, 2022, Air Canada will be flying direct from Vancouver to Bangkok.
On Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, the flight will be flown in both directions, whereas it will fly outbound from Vancouver on Mondays and inbound from Bangkok on Tuesdays.
The planned schedule is as follows:
- AC65 Vancouver (YVR) to Bangkok (BKK), departing 11:00pm and arriving 5:55am two days later
- AC66 Bangkok (BKK) to Vancouver (YVR), departing 8:30am and arriving 6:35am
This is an exciting new route that represents the only direct flight from North America to Thailand, and is set to run seasonally from early December to mid-April.
Additionally, Air Canada will resume flying to Mumbai from Toronto beginning October 29, 2022 through March 24, 2022 as a seasonal flight. This will be a daily flight in both directions, with a technical stop in London Heathrow in both directions.
The planned schedule is as follows:
- AC856 Toronto (YYZ) to London (LHR), departing 9:30pm and arriving 8:30am the next day
- AC856 London (LHR) to Mumbai (BOM), departing 11:10am and arriving 1:25am the next day
- AC855 Mumbai (BOM) to London (LHR), departing 4:45am and arriving 9:20am
- AC855 London (LHR) to Toronto (YYZ), departing 12pm and arriving 3:55pm
(This is an extension of one of Air Canada’s existing Toronto–London non-stop services, and Air Canada has full fifth-freedom rights to fly passengers exclusively between London and Mumbai.)
Simultaneously, Air Canada will also be increasing capacity on all South Pacific routes departing from Vancouver, including Auckland, Brisbane, and Sydney.
Booking Air Canada’s New Asia Flights
Aeroplan is naturally the program of choice for booking these new routes, given the program’s access to every last seat on Air Canada flights.
From Vancouver, Bangkok falls within the second distance band of 5,001–7,500 miles on Aeroplan’s North America–Pacific reward chart.
Thus, a direct flight at the lowest dynamic level would cost 75,000 Aeroplan points in business class.
These flights are already loaded and bookable, so we’re able to get a sense of Air Canada’s dynamic pricing upon launch.
Unfortunately, in business class, the Vancouver–Bangkok flight appears to release no “saver” availability at the lower level, and all bookings are currently pricing at the dynamic level of 248,000 points one-way.
In economy class, prices are more reasonable at 44,000 points one-way in the Standard fare category and 65,000 points in Latitude. However, there is currently zero eUpgrade space available across the board, so those of hoping to use the “Latitude Attitude” strategy to upgrade into business class will have to hold off.
Looking at the Mumbai flight, we’d be looking at the North America–Atlantic Zone award chart.
The direct flight from Toronto to Mumbai falls in the 7,501–11,000 miles chart, which would cost 85,000 points one-way in business class.
Unfortunately, business class availability at the lower dynamic level is also non-existent on this flight, as it starts at 251,700 points one-way. Economy class award space starts at 80,000 points one-way, although there also appears to be zero eUpgrade (R) space available throughout the calendar.
The lack of appealing options for booking either of the new Air Canada flights in business class on Aeroplan points is no doubt quite disappointing, and presumably reflects Air Canada’s confidence in selling premium seats for cash on what should prove to be quite a popular route.
If these predictions don’t play out, I’m hopeful we’ll see some dynamic awards at the lower level or eUpgrade availability popping up as we move into the fall and winter.
Otherwise, Aeroplan’s 45+ partners continue to offer a variety of ways to travel to Thailand and India in style, albeit with a few connections along the way.
How Useful Are Air Canada’s New Flights?
Both new flights will be operated by Air Canada’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which are Air Canada’s newest and nicest planes with the best iteration of their business class “pod”.
All of Air Canada’s Dreamliners have a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration, in which window seats face the window and middle seats face the centre.
Single window seats are the best choice for solo travellers, while couples may choose to sit in the middle seats (note that the middle divider does not come down at all, so some couples may prefer two window seats instead).
In terms of the onboard service, Air Canada’s onboard catering on international flights can be hit-or-miss, but tends to be pretty good most of the time.
Comparing Air Canada to their Star Alliance partners who also fly to Bangkok, EVA Air would be their premier competitor, and I’d probably pick EVA Air for the elevated comfort and soft product.
Indeed, EVA Air would be the choice for many Canadians on the East Coast, who would be able to connect one-stop on from Toronto via Taipei to Bangkok, versus connecting one-stop on Air Canada via Vancouver.
But for those on the West Coast, the convenience of a direct flight to Bangkok is hard to beat, with no risk of missed connections – especially as travel is ramping up faster than ever and airports being overwhelmed are the norm around the world.
The same argument would apply to Mumbai, albeit with more of a caveat: Toronto-based travellers may not be quite as inclined towards this direct flight, since there will be a technical stop in London anyway.
There are a plethora of other one-stop options to choose from between Toronto and Mumbai, and at more favourable award rates should Air Canada continue to be tight-fisted with award space.
Air Canada has announced a set of two new direct flights to Asia for the Winter 2023 season, including a four-times-weekly Vancouver–Bangkok service and a daily Toronto–Mumbai service with a stop in London Heathrow.
With a strong onboard product in Signature Class on the Boeing 787, the new direct flight to Bangkok (North America’s only such service) should make it quite a popular option for Asia-bound travellers in the winter.
From Toronto, the new flight to Mumbai will still be the convenient option into India’s largest city, despite the short stop in London. Fingers crossed that we’ll see more award and upgrade space on both of these flights as we approach their launch dates.