I’d been following the development and troubled roll-out of the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” for more than a decade, but only recently had my first chance to fly this aircraft on a trip to India. One of the appealing things about the Dreamliner is that its size and fuel efficiency open new travel routes, partially bypassing the usual “hub-and-spoke” model. I was among the first to fly the newly established Toronto to Delhi route (nonstop), a more than 14 hour journey. That’s a long time to spend in an aircraft and the quality of your aircraft seat can add or take away from your flight experience.
I can’t bring myself to pay for a business class seat because I don’t believe the extra value I get for my money is worth a four or five fold increase in the seat fare, despite the obvious comfort of the business cabin — that money will generally more than cover the costs of the land part of my vacation. When I booked my flight to India months earlier, I’d the option of flying Air Canada’s Premium Economy cabin for an extra $500 CDN round-trip. That did grab my attention and was certainly within my budget. What did this extra $250 per leg of the flight buy me? A significantly wider seat (cabin is configured 2-3-2), lots of extra legroom, priority check-in and earlier boarding, more seat recline, a wider entertainment monitor, a free 2nd checked bag (handy to have on the return flight for all the gifts and souvenirs I bought), and a somewhat better meal. You can read the full description of their services at this link. All in all, it was good value for the added space and comfort and I had one of the best flights I’ve had in years, sleeping at least half of each of the long flights from Toronto to and from Delhi.
The entertainment system was especially notable for its fine graphics and clarity. The extra humidity in the air was appreciated and I definitely noticed I wasn’t as dry as I usually am when flying across an ocean. Can’t say I noticed the extra oxygen in the plane (Dreamliner has higher cabin oxygen levels and pressure). But it was a great flight and a recommended way to travel.
I also flew a 787 within India, on the short flight from Delhi to Amritsar (about a 1 hour trip). Here I sat in the regular economy cabin, near the rear of the plane. This cabin is configured 3-3-3, but seemed to have a comfortable pitch and even though the flight was completely full, I had a nice flight and played games on the nice entertainment system as there was no time for a movie. But it was definitely not as nice as the Air Canada Premium Economy experience.
I’m already looking forward to my next Dreamliner flight in a few months, nonstop Calgary to Frankfurt. Again I’m willing to pay the slight premium for the extra comfort of the Premium Economy Cabin Air Canada. Is it right for you? It all depends on what’s important to you when you travel.