Montreal to Tokyo: business class

A report on the signature service (fka business class) experience.


The Air Canada Signature Service pod (see more photos below)

Air Canada’s Signature Service (fka International Business Class) makes a half-day-long flight pretty painless. At the airport, check-in, security clearance and boarding is expedited with dedicated counters and express lanes, and the time you save can be spent in the beautiful Maple Leaf Lounge.

A variety of seating is available there, from bar seats to workstations to tables with comfortable armchairs to sofas — a dimly lit, plant-filled corner by the elevators is a very zen option. For entertainment there are plenty of magazines, a large flatscreen TV (which was set to a sports channel during our lounge time) and an airport view through the lounge’s large windows (another zen option), but the go-to for nearly everyone with lounge access is the food and drink stations. Beverages (including wine) are self-serve, while the adjacent bar provides beers, spirits and cocktails. The buffet includes snacks (fruit, pretzels, that kind of thing), soup, bread and sides for a deluxe main course that’s prepared before your eyes at the chef station — the dishes are care of award-winning chef David Hawksworth (of Vancouver’s Hawksworth restaurant), and that day it was a delicious pasta with scallops and a white-wine-based sauce.

Hawksworth is also responsible for the on-board dining — dinner was served not long after takeoff, though you have the option to “dine on demand” or order an “express light meal” (minus the main course) at any time. A delicious salad with bread and drinks were followed by a main (sablefish) that was easily the best dish I’ve ever been served on a plane — the Japanese meal was apparently a winning option, too. A generous brunch arrives about an hour before landing at Narita, with fruit, nuts, chips and cookies available to grab at the front of the cabin in the interim. You will not leave the plane hungry.

There’s also no way to reach your destination tired or sore given how Signature Service pods work. The seats — which feature lumbar (lower back) support and massage functions — flatten into a bed, with fitted sheets, pillows, blankets, earplugs, eye-masks and even socks and skincare products provided for your comfort.

The only problem with Signature Service is that this deluxe travel option may leave you feeling spoiled. ■

See our feature report about the food, culture and nightlife in Tokyo here.