Air Canada's new international business-class cabin
Air Canada will begin touting lie-flat business class seats as a regular selling point on its top coast-to-coast routes between the USA and Canada. The carrier will formally brand that option as "Signature Service" on its coast-to-coast lie-flat routes, some of which predated Tuesday's announcement.
Air Canada’s move is the latest in an airline industry looking to court high-end fliers with posh flat-bed seats, an amenity that until recent years had been reserved mostly for overseas flights.
Now, however, airlines have made lie-flat seats regular offerings on some domestic routes. Many flights between New York and L.A. and between New York and San Francisco now have lie-flat options, for example.
In the United States, several airlines – including JeBlue, Delta, American and United – have turned to lie-flat seats in recent years as a selling point on lucrative-but-competitive cross-country routes.
Now, Air Canada will do the same on its coast-to-coast U.S.-Canada routes.
Starting June 1, Air Canada says it will offer lie-flat suites to customers travelling on its wide-body aircraft between Newark and Vancouver and on widebody flights connecting Toronto to both Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“We know our premium customers travelling on longer flight itineraries, such as overnight transcontinental flights, place a high value on convenience and comfort when in airports or onboard an aircraft,” Air Canada president Ben Smith said in a statement. “We are the first North American airline designating aircraft with lie-flat seats to U.S. originating premium customers travelling select transborder routes on non-stop flights so that they can arrive fully rested in Canada.”
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No North American airlines have introduced regular lie-flat options as a selling point on coast-to-coast U.S.-Canada routes. However, Cathay Pacific offers an unusual “fifth freedom” route between Vancouver and New York JFK on which it offers lie-flat seating.
For Air Canada, it says it will begin offering lie-flat seats and its branded premium “Signature Service” to other intra-North American routes when they’re served with the carrier’s widebody jets configured for overseas routes.
Air Canada says its “Signature service will be available on select transborder and domestic Canadian transcontinental flights when operated with Boeing 787-8/9 Dreamliner, Boeing 777-300/200, Boeing 767-300ER and Airbus A330-300 aircraft.”
That, the carrier says, includes at least some flights on routes connecting Toronto to the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. It also will include at least some flights on routes connecting Vancouver and both Newark and Montreal.
Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are each major connecting hubs for the airline.
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Airlines have offered widebody flights on domestic or intra-North America routes for decades, though those were typically scheduling quirks to increase utilization of an aircraft or to position it from one hub to another. Now, however, airlines have made lie-flat seats regular offerings on some domestic routes. Many flights between New York and L.A. and between New York and San Francisco now have lie-flat options, for example.
Air Canada's move to add regular lie-flat seats on key U.S.-Canada routes comes as it has become more aggressive in courting American customers.
Air Canada has added dozens of new international destinations during the past three years. With that growing international footprint, Air Canada hopes to convince U.S. fliers to connect through its hubs in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver when flying overseas.
“To many of our customers in the United States, we’re this little secret that nobody knows about; this airline north of the border that actually flies internationally,” Air Canada’s Smith said to USA TODAY’s Today in the Sky blog in February 2017. “If you want to go to Europe or Asia, you’ve got to fly over Canada if you’re originating or ending in the U.S. That puts us in a very privileged position to offer connections.”
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