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Some Thoughts on Air Canada Coach Class

I am currently in Istanbul, having gotten here on Air Canada via Toronto in coach (I know, the horrors of coach).

I’d never flown Air Canada before, and I was excited to try them out as they’re supposedly the highest-rated North American airline, at least according to the oh-so-reliable Skytrax. But at the very least, they provide in-seat power and on-demand entertainment, even in coach, so those were both promising.

The flight from SFO to Toronto was quite pleasant. The seats were comfortable, the in-flight entertainment had a decent selection and was started on the ground (which I always appreciate), and the in-seat power meant that I could get some work down without worrying about my laptop battery. All good points in my book.

The flight from Toronto to Istanbul was one of the most disappointing flights that I’ve taken, largely because the service and food were both terrible. I never thought that I’d say that I missed United for its food, but eating Air Canada’s meals made me feel that way. Granted, I did order a vegetarian meal (AVML, which was not Asian at all but just a VGML), but the non-vegetarian food did not look appetizing either.

Dinner of very bland quinoa, cold vegetable salad, and a gluten-free vegan cookie (always a dangerous combination)
Dinner of very bland quinoa, cold vegetable salad, and a gluten-free vegan cookie (always a dangerous combination)
Breakfast of rubbery tofu scramble, potatoes, dry bagel, and fruit cup made in China
Breakfast of rubbery tofu scramble, potatoes, dry bagel, and fruit cup made in China

The real problem throughout the flight was the service. This was the first flight I’ve taken where I felt that the flight attendants actively disliked passengers. There was never any courtesy extended, never any outreaches of helpfulness, and there were several times where I was surprised by their behavior. For example, rather than moving the service cart a couple of rows back to let people into their seats, the flight attendants would just leave passengers stranded in the back of the plane until that part of service ended, which was often up to 15 minutes later. Or when people were waiting for the bathrooms near the galley, I saw flight attendants physically push people out of the way without saying “excuse me” or asking if they could move first. And to add insult to injury, the service was extremely slow, even with these behaviors. I can understand being brusque in the interest of finishing service quickly on a red-eye, but it took about 4 hours for the lights to be completely dimmed in the main cabin.

(As an aside, I would avoid the middle seats in row 19 on the 767-300. Although it’s a bulkhead, it’s a bulkhead where it’s a solid wall in front, but the pitch is only very marginally bigger on these seats, so there’s not enough space to stretch out your legs in front of you. This means that there are only 8 seats in the exit rows with additional leg room, those being the pairs of seats on the sides of the two exit rows.)

Overall, while the hard product itself was decent for coach, I would probably have a slight preference to avoid flying Air Canada in the future. Their premium cabin product isn’t particularly aspirational, and the bad service and food I experienced are enough to outweigh the good hard product.


  1. Seemed like the flight attendants regarded their job as a “chore” than a “service”. Last time when I traveled with Air Canada, I was also dissatisfied with their service. The flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver was half filled with Asians, but I was amazed that none of the flight attendants could communicate in Chinese/Cantonese. Our neighbor was an old man, who couldn’t speak any English and was looking for help. My bf tried to help him by calling the attendant. But the flight attendant was incredibly rude and impatient while we tried to explain to him the issue in English. My impression of Canadians had always been polite and helpful. He just proved to me that it was merely a stereotype.

    1. Yeah, it definitely seems like Air Canada’s service is more in line with that of American carriers (that is to say, very inconsistent and generally not that great). I’ve flown American carriers to Asia a number of times and don’t understand how they can justify having so few flight attendants speak the language of the country they’re flying to.

      1. What’s interesting is, that when you fly to Asia, you usually get bad service by flight attendants but coming back to Canada is a totally different experience. They’re nice and decent. I flew with Air Canada and Cathay Pacific one time.

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