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Is Air Canada premium economy worth it on the Boeing 777-300ER from Amsterdam to Toronto?

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Quick take: An underwhelming experience that doesn’t feel sufficiently premium compared to regular economy to justify the much higher price, nor to match competitors’ offerings across the Atlantic.


  • A well-organized and relaxing ground experience in Amsterdam despite a delay
  • The small and intimate cabin featured spacious seats with good width and legroom
  • A tasty appetizer served on real chinaware


  • Economy-level amenities
  • The second meal service was identical to what economy passengers received
  • Long lavatory lines and facilities that weren’t cleaned frequently enough

Introduced in 2013 on its Boeing 777 aircraft, Air Canada’s premium economy is now installed on all its Airbus A330, Boeing 777, and Boeing 787 aircraft alongside regular economy and the airline’s “Signature Class” business class.

With more than 80 wide-body aircraft, major hubs on both sides of North America, and an innovative and worthwhile loyalty program, I decided to try out Air Canada’s premium economy on a Boeing 777-300ER from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) to Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) to see if it was worth the extra cash or miles over economy.


How to book premium economy on Air Canada

Round-trip airfares in Air Canada premium economy usually average twice the cost of regular economy prices. Business class is usually around two to three times the price of premium economy.

Aeroplan’s dynamic pricing means rates for flights in economy class fluctuate significantly depending on demand. We booked a one-way flight from Amsterdam to Toronto for 86,100 Aeroplan points plus 91.50 Canadian Dollars (about $67), which fell in the middle of the mileage range this flight can be priced at.

Round-trip prices Economy Premium economy Business class
Cash $440-$1,760. $1,142-$2,050. $2,398-$6,020.
Aeroplan points + taxes/fees 63,600-257,000  $117. 97,000-220,000 + $117. 198,000-318,400 + $117.

Earning Aeroplan points is easy, thanks to the Chase Aeroplan® Credit Card.

This card includes Air Canada-specific benefits like a free checked bag and preferred award pricing. Additionally, you’ll receive complimentary Aeroplan 25K elite status through the next status year upon opening the card. You can extend this by spending $15,000 on your card each calendar year.

New applicants can earn up to 100,000 Aeroplan points: 75,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening, plus an additional 25,000 Aeroplan points after spending $20,000 total in the first 12 months. There are also 3 points per $1 earned on groceries, restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and purchases made directly with Air Canada.

Air Canada is also a transfer partner of the following credit card points programs:

That makes Aeroplan points one of the easiest frequent-flyer currencies to earn.

Checking in to premium economy on Air Canada

A premium economy ticket on Air Canada (whether booked with cash or Aeroplan points) includes the following benefits:

  • Free seat selection
  • Two checked bags of 50 pounds in weight each
  • Priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling

Premium economy passengers do not receive priority security or lounge access. However, after the nightmare Schiphol Airport suffered last summer, I’m pleased to report security was a breeze, taking just three minutes to pass through (rather than the three hours I had to wait in line a year ago).

My flight was delayed about one hour due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft, but passengers at the spacious gate area were kept up to date with flight announcements.

A dedicated priority boarding lane was set up for Groups 1 and 2, with premium economy passengers invited to board in Group 2 after business class and ahead of the general boarding of Groups 3 to 5.


How comfortable was premium economy on Air Canada?

My Boeing 777-300ER aircraft had 400 seats across three cabins as follows:


Economy Premium  Business class
Layout 3-4-3 2-4-2 1-2-1
Seat pitch 31-34 inches 37 inches 70 inches
Seat recline 6 inches 8 inches Fully flat
Seat width 17 inches 20 inches 21 inches
Screen size 9 inches 11 inches 18 inches

The premium economy was pleasantly small, located behind the two business class cabins, with just 24 seats across three rows.

For my daytime flight, I chose 13H, an aisle seat on the right side of the middle row of the cabin so I could stretch my legs. While the flight was full, including premium economy, the cabin still felt intimate, a distinct plus over the hundreds of economy passengers behind me.


The seat was noticeably wider and had more legroom than a standard economy seat though it didn’t feel very fresh or modern on this 15-year-old aircraft, with my seat cushion sliding around as I shifted my body. I especially liked the adjustable headrest with its strong fixed side wings, which did not droop down as I rested my head on them.

I was disappointed to see there was no padded leg rest and only a fold-down footrest that extended from the previous seat, which, if you have large feet, can take up valuable foot space rather than adding additional comfort. The legroom was otherwise generous and much better than in economy.

I recommend aiming for the premium economy cabin’s front row if you want a little extra leg and foot space, as there is no need to fit your feet under the seat in front, though there are no footrests.


The seat could be reclined via a manual button in the center armrest below the drinks console.

Each passenger had an AC charging point next to the leg rests (mine was badly scuffed) and a USB-A charging port under the inflight entertainment screen (no USB-C, however).


A 16-inch by 11-inch bi-fold tray table could be pulled out of the center armrest, which was large and sturdy enough for a full-size Macbook or a meal tray.


Amenities in Air Canada premium economy

Waiting on my seat were an economy-size pillow and blanket, both of which felt rather scratchy, a half-liter bottle of water and inexpensive earbud headphones, which provided poor, tinny sound quality.

Premium economy passengers were given an amenity kit containing a plastic toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, eye mask and sleep socks. The reusable tote bag, once unfolded, resembled a black trash bag, and I left it on the aircraft.

Despite the poor sound quality from the provided headphones, the seatback inflight entertainment touchscreen was packed with entertainment options. At 11 inches diagonally, it wasn’t huge, and the sluggish handheld remote pulled out from underneath it showed its age. Still, there was plenty to pass the time with new release movies, including: “65”, “Avatar: The Way Of Water,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” and the ludicrous “Cocaine Bear.”

Wi-Fi was available on this flight, with a full-flight streaming pass costing 34.50 Canadian Dollars ($25.60). I registered speeds of just 5.51 Mbps down and 0.21 Mbps up, which, for my money, didn’t justify the fairly hefty cost of the package.

Seven lavatories were shared with the huge economy cabins toward the aircraft’s rear. There were regular lines to use them, and they were not kept regularly clean, to the point where a fellow passenger had to hurriedly fetch crew to clean one after facing a scene from a horror movie when they opened the door. 

How was the food in Air Canada premium economy?

After boarding, the crew hurriedly offered orange juice or water in plastic cups and distributed printed menus before takeoff. No Champagne or sparkling wine was offered to premium economy passengers, either, at any point during the flight.


Around 45 minutes after departure, the lunch service began with drinks served in glassware and Air Canada-branded pretzels. All drinks were complimentary, and it was nice to see Canadian Molson beer available.


Lunch included a mixed green salad starter with sun-dried tomato and Parmesan cheese, a plain white bread roll with butter and a pear cake dessert with two entree choices:

  • Ricotta and spinach-filled pasta, basil oil and bechamel sauce
  • Mushroom-filled chicken breast, jus, wild rice mix and vegetable batons

Despite sitting in the second row, I was advised only the chicken was available by the time flight attendants got to me. While attractively presented on real china with metal cutlery and a cloth napkin, the chicken was tasteless, with the advertised jus nowhere to be found. The salad appetizer was tasty, the Parmesan cheese provided some bite, and the pear muffin was a sweet finish to an otherwise forgettable meal.


The low point of my Air Canada premium economy experience was the second meal. This was basically a hot pocket — a savory, sandwich-like brick with a choice of either chicken or vegetable filling. Drinks were only served in plasticware this time.

This was not an acceptable meal for premium economy — a selection of sandwiches and small desserts served on chinaware would have been more appropriate for passengers in this class of service.


The service was another low point, unfortunately. Given the premium economy cabin only had 24 seats, you might figure that passengers would get individualized care. However, no crew was dedicated to the premium economy cabin, and they often felt rushed on their way to get meals and drinks out in the larger coach cabin behind us. My main meal order was taken using only the words “We only have the chicken left,” and I was not offered a drink refill at any point.

While two white and two red wines were available, without a drinks menu, the crew only explained the wines using their countries of origin rather than the style or grape variety. An “Australian red” could be as light as a pinot noir or as heavy as a shiraz, for instance. This is night and day compared with the wine-tasting notes provided in Emirates premium economy as a counterpoint.

The crew passed through the cabin only once to offer water in the five hours between meal services before quickly moving on to serve the packed economy cabin behind.


Was Air Canada premium economy worth it?

The seats were spacious, with additional width, pitch and recline over economy, and I did appreciate the small and intimate cabin and well-organized ground experience. However, I’m not in a hurry to book Air Canada premium economy again, and I’d have to consider the upsell over coach very seriously before booking.

Little about the onboard soft product made for a noticeably better experience than the economy class passengers in the cabin could enjoy. Shared bathrooms that seemed constantly dirty, aloof service, basic pillows and blankets, rudimentary earbud headphones and the same second meal service as in coach all detracted from the experience.

For a small upcharge in cash or miles, I would consider booking Air Canada premium economy again, primarily for the larger seat and smaller cabin. However, if it were double the price of regular economy, as it often is, I would look to another carrier, such as KLM’s terrific premium economy from Amsterdam, for my next transatlantic flight instead.

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