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Singapore Airlines’ A330 Business Class seat relegated to Premium Economy status

Air Canada will take four ex-Singapore Airlines A330s and sell the Business Class cabin as Premium Economy

Cabin Overview

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.

AC 787 J (Air Canada)
Air Canada’s new 1-2-1 Business Class cabin, pictured here on the Boeing 787, will also be fitted to these ex-SIA A330s in late 2019. (Photo: Air Canada)

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.

2009 RJ-2
The SIA 2009 Regional Business Class seat reclines into a 172o angle-flat bed. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

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.

Divider J.jpg
The Singapore Airlines 2009 RJ seats even have an in-built privacy divider. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

We have a full review of this Singapore Airlines Business Class seat from a Bangkok to Singapore flight in late 2017.


Click here to read our full review of Singapore Airlines’ 2009 RJ seat


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.

AC 787 Tail (Air Canada).jpg
The A330s will receive the Air Canada external livery prior to service entry, however the seats inside will be the Singapore Airlines product for a number of months. (Photo: Air Canada)

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).

Seat Map
Notice how there are no Business Class seats available on these flights. Premium Economy is what SIA currently calls Business Class. (Image: ExpertFlyer)


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.

2009 RJ (MM)
The finest Premium Economy money can buy? (Photo: MainlyMiles)

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)



  1. Biz class = premium economy in less than 10 years! Air Canada deserves a medal by admitting this is not biz. You can still find it on SQ for 7.50hours ADL SIN!

    1. To be fair to Singapore Airlines they are targeting Adelaide, their longest A330 route, for the A350 Regional with new flat-bed 2018 RJ seats from December this year. It’s a great product, in our opinion.

      With the exception of the SIN-MEL-WLG-MEL-SIN run, Singapore to Seoul at 6h 30m will then be the longest stretch with these 2009 RJ seats. That’s still a bit harsh especially overnight on SQ608 / SQ603 but there are strides in the right direction here and SQ can’t be expected to change it overnight. Also on both Seoul and Melbourne routes there are better J seats available.

      This news though will certainly come as a frustration to the bigwigs at Airline House. If I were high up in SQ I’d be asking “why the hell are the seats included in these lease deals?”. If no one was asking while people flew for $600 in A380 Suites on a Premium Economy ticket with Norwegian from London to New York, they’re surely asking now…

  2. I had a chance to review this product and I think it deserves more love. I know most people don’t like the business seats on the A330-300 but this is by no means shabby. 60″ seat pitch is very spacious. It’s still leaps above many other airline’s business class seats. It’s going to be an amazing premium economy ride. Shut up and take my money!

  3. One can look at this class shift a bit differently.

    Business Class, when it was first introduced by British Airways in the 1970s was a Premium Economy product in everything but name. It squeezed in between First and Tourist Class.

    With the improvement of Business Class seating, particularly the final move towards lie flat (wait… Final let’s wait for the generalization of Business Suites) and the LCCing of the Economy Product, Business is becoming the new First. That, in turn, opens up the same opportunity for the PE product, BA saw back in the days.

    On the route issue I think it’s not very likely that AC will bring back the retrofit 330 on the YYZ-ALG. The market just does not sustain any business class sales, full stop.

  4. I just booked a flight on Air Canada LAX-YUL in mid June and they are selling them as lie flat business seats……

    1. Unlucky! That’s effectively ‘domestic’ though (at least within North America), despite the long distance.

      For transatlantic (long haul) they are selling as PE.

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