Air Canada Premium Economy Review

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Air Canada premium economy is a step up from the airline’s basic fare class. What many people don’t realize is that the experience can vary quite a bit depending on the route and aircraft you’re flying.

Admittedly, flying premium economy will always be better than regular economy, but you’ll want to know every aspect of what you’re getting with Air Canada before booking.

Air Canada premium economy pre-departure benefits

While most people book premium economy almost exclusively for a better seat in the plane, premium economy also comes with a few more perks, including:

  • Priority check-in – Air Canada’s priority check-in counters are available to those with a premium economy ticket.
  • Free checked bags – Your first two checked baggage (up to 32kg each) are free.
  • Priority baggage handling – Your checked baggage will have priority tags and should be among the first off the carousel.
  • Purchase Maple Leaf Lounge access – You can purchase access to Maple Leaf Lounge for $49.
  • Extra points – When booking Premium Economy on cash fare, Aeroplan members earn 125% points and status qualifying miles

It’s worth highlighting that most of these pre-departure benefits can be experienced by holding one of the best Aeroplan credit cards in Canada.

Core co-branded credit cards like the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite give you your first checked bag free, regardless of travel class. This benefit is tied to your Aeroplan number, so you don’t even need to charge the cost of your flight to your card.

For those opting for more Air Canada benefits, premium cards, such as the American Express Aeroplan Reserve, offer even more pre-departure benefits. These include Air Canada Priority check-in, priority boarding, free first-checked baggage, and complimentary access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America for the cardholder, plus one guest when flying with Air Canada.

Air Canada Premium Economy cabin and seats

Air Canada only has Premium economy cabins on wide-body aircraft. That includes Boeing 777, Boeing 787, and Airbus 330 aircraft, which together represent about a little over 20% of Air Canada’s fleet.

On smaller Air Canada aircraft, such as Air Canada Rouge, the business class seats are similar to the seats offered in premium economy on wide body aircraft, as I wrote in my Air Canada Business Class review. Again, while premium economy gives you a better seat than regular economy, the cost difference may not be worth it when flying on a smaller aircraft.

Air Canada Premium Economy provides:

  • Dedicated cabin area with ambient mood lighting
  • Larger seats vs economy
  • Seats with greater recline
  • More legroom
  • Adjustable headrest
  • USB and in-seat power for charging
  • Free seat selection

Air Canada Premium Economy meals and beverages

Meals and drinks are complimentary when flying in Premium Economy on Air Canada. The menu varies on route and departure time.

Here is a sample of meals that can be offered with Air Canada on different routes (note that menus often change. You can see the menu offered on flights one week before flying here.

Menu for Montreal-Tokyo flight:

Menu for Toronto-Fort Lauderdale PM flight:

Note that flights under 2 hours will be served snack and beverages only.

Air Canada Premium Economy entertainment

Air Canada provides great entertainment options, including movies that are still in theatres or have recently ended their theatrical run and are often offered in various languages.

Premium economy seats have 10 to 11-inch screens that are larger than the ones in economy. Air Canada will also provide you with a complimentary earbud headset if you need it. Note that if you’re flying Air Canada Rouge, there may be no screens at all, so you’ll have to use your own device to access the entertainment options.

How to book Air Canada Premium Economy

In order to book a premium economy ticket with Air Canada, you need to go on and search a route. You will then see prices for each flight for economy, premium economy and business class.

Since premium economy is not available on every flight, a typical search may yield the following results:

In the example above, only the 8am flight has a premium economy cabin since it’s a widebody aircraft. However, 12pm flight is smaller, so it shows only economy and business class. Note that it is possible for premium economy options to not show up on a widebody flight if it’s already been sold out.

Fare options

When booking Air Canada premium economy, there are two fare options: Lowest and Flexible. Lowest isn’t refundable and changing your flight costs $100. With flexible fares, you can get a refund, same-day standby and no fee changes. Of course, you pay a premium for those extra perks.

While the cash fare difference can be significant between lowest and flexible fares, booking via Aeroplan can be reasonable. If you’re points rich, booking a flexible fare on points can be beneficial if you see a good price, as you can always make changes later.

How to book Air Canada Premium Economy with Aeroplan points

The process for booking an Air Canada Premium Economy class ticket with Aeroplan points is almost identical to booking it with cash. You just need to check the “book with Point AEROPLAN” box.

The search results will then be shown in points instead of dollars. Aeroplan uses dynamic pricing so the number of points required for a redemption could change within hours.

If you see a great price, booking it immediately is sometimes worth it. You always have a 24-hour window to cancel without incurring any fees, giving you time to decide whether to keep the ticket.

As you can see from the above example, premium economy is only 7.7K more Aeroplan points than economy. However, the cost difference from business is 41.8K points. Obviously, booking premium is the best value here. It also gives you a similar seat compared to the business seat on the 12pm flight that costs 42.8K points.

Note that when you book with Aeroplan points, the Lowest Reward fare can be refundable but will cost $150 per person and per way.

The value of Aeroplan points

Some people find the idea of paying for premium economy class to be not worth it since the cost is significantly more than economy, but it is possible to fly in premium economy for cheap with Aeroplan points. Generally, 1 Aeroplan point is worth about 1.5 to 2 cents. If you can get a value of 1.5 to 2 cents per point when redeeming your points, then you’re getting a good value. To calculate the cost per point of your redemption, you’d use the following formula:

(Cash price – taxes/fees) X 100 / Points required for redemption = CPP

Using the example from above, your formula would look like this:

($795 – $110) X 100 / 18,700 = 3.60 CPP

For this example, you get 3.6CPP which is a great value and more than the double the 1.5cpp value from booking in economy.

18,700 points is obviously more than 11,100 points, but it’s only a 7,600 points difference. Earning 7,600pts Aeroplan is quite easy with credit cards. For example, the American Express Cobalt card earns 5 points per dollar spent on groceries and restaurants, so spending $1,520 at grocery stores would earn enough points to pay for the difference to book in a premium economy. Note that you must transfer your points from American Express Membership Rewards to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio to make up the difference.

American Express Cobalt Card

Welcome bonus: 1,250 points per month, for 12 months when spenidng $750 each month

Monthly fee: $12.99


Signing up for a new Aeroplan credit card can also give welcome bonuses ranging from 30,000pts up to 100,000pts. This is the easiest way to earn Aeroplan points

Is Air Canada premium economy class worth it?

The final question is: Is Air Canada Premium Economy worth it? Air Canada Premium Economy is definitely better than economy, but it might not always be worth the additional cost. It can be a no-brainer decision, as sometimes it may be $50 more for a 5-hour flight, but sometimes the cost is much greater, and you may prefer spending that extra money on something you value more during your trip.

That said, if you have Aeroplan status and available eUpgrade credits, premium economy can be worth it as it gives you a much better chance of being upgraded to business class

How much each person values better seats and free food is very subjective. The decision should be based on personal preferences, value, and cost of options.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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