In this week’s weirder news, Routesonline broke a story on Twitter in the early hours of Saturday morning, and we initially did a bit of a double take. The surprising part of the deal wasn’t that Air Canada is set to pick up 4 older Singapore Airlines A330s, these are being progressively returned to their leasing companies and so it’s pretty normal for them to switch into service with another carrier.
The surprise came in the revelation that the Montreal-based Star Alliance airline will fly these aircraft for several months using the Singapore Airlines seats, and that they will sell flights in the 30-seat Business Class cabin at the front of the aircraft as Premium Economy for the 6 months it will take them to refit the aircraft.
Air Canada’s plans
These A330-300 aircraft will be used to fly a number of Air Canada flights, initially its 3-weekly seasonal flight between Montreal and Algiers, which recommences on 6th June 2019 according to GDS schedules (previously operated by its low cost subsidiary Air Canada Rouge).
That’s a 7 hour 45 minute overnight stretch, which then takes up to 8 hours 35 minutes on the westbound sector on the way back.
Air Canada is clearly uncomfortable with the concept of selling the angle-flat 2009 RJ seat used on Singapore Airlines flights of a similar duration in many cases, as Business Class.
The 30 seats in the first five rows of the cabin in a 2-2-2 configuration will be marketed and sold as Premium Economy on these flights, with no Business Class cabin offered.
Later of course Air Canada will fit these four aircraft with its latest reverse herringbone Business Class seats, which will then be sold as such, and that plan includes these 4 ex-SIA aircraft according to One Mile at a Time.
Why does it keep SIA’s seats?
A reasonable question often asked is “why doesn’t Singapore Airlines strip its planes of their interior fittings before they leave the fleet?”
Actually SIA does not own the interior fittings on its leased aircraft, they belong to the aircraft owner (usually a leasing company based in Ireland). The aircraft is delivered with interiors fully installed and they must be restored to original condition at the end of the lease period prior to return.
Many of you will recall that Hifly is flying an ex-SIA A380 (formerly 9V-SKC) with the 2006 Suites and 2006 Business Class seats installed. The same concept applies here, SIA had to return the aircraft interior to delivered condition, which in that case also involved removing the retrofitted Premium Economy cabin.
That’s why these Air Canada A330s are arriving with the older Singapore Airlines seats still fitted.
We have a full review of this Singapore Airlines Business Class seat from a Bangkok to Singapore flight in late 2017.
The internal layout of these aircraft will remain as it currently operates with Singapore Airlines, 30 seats in the forward cabin (2-2-2, now sold as Premium Economy) and 255 Economy Class seats in the second two sections (2-4-2 layout). The external livery will apparently be changed to the latest Air Canada scheme from delivery.
Premium Economy is relabelled rows 1 to 5 (SIA called these rows 11 to 16). Economy Class then starts at row 6 (formerly row 31 under SIA).
Let’s put this into perspective for a moment – for the period it will operate in this configuration this is probably the best Premium Economy Class seat in the world. Passengers flying between Montreal and Algiers on Air Canada, among those on other routes flown by these planes yet to be confirmed, have an exceptional almost fully-flat bed for the price of a Premium Economy ticket.
In many ways this news also goes to show how far Business Class has come over the last decade. That Air Canada aren’t willing to sell this seat as such a product, even for a short-term period while they wait for their own full flat-bed versions to arrive, is telling about how passenger expectations have shifted. Not just in Canada, but apparently in Algeria too.
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)