Air Canada Executive First

ROUTE: Heathrow to Santiago, via TorontoFIRST IMPRESSIONS: Forgive the nationality-based stereotyping, but Air Canada’s excellent Executive First cabin lives up to all the positives one might expect from the land of the maple leaf.

ROUTE: Heathrow to Santiago, via Toronto

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Forgive the nationality-based stereotyping, but Air Canada’s excellent Executive First cabin lives up to all the positives one might expect from the land of the maple leaf. Cabin crew are calm, friendly and oh-so-organised, the 6’3” lie-flat bed could accommodate all but the very tallest Mountie, and the décor – all soft Rocky Mountains blues and greys – lulls you into uninterrupted slumber. Oh, and with a 1-2-1 configuration, every seat has direct aisle access, so you never need squeeze past a snoozing neighbour to reach the bathroom. No true Canadian would force you to be that impolite.

THE FACTS: But don’t fall asleep too soon – there’s a lot to enjoy. You’ll be welcomed with a glass of Champagne, and then plied with a selection of two whites and three reds, including an Argentinean Malbec – an apt choice for those travelling on Air Canada’s South American connections. Dinner, if you say yes to everything, spans a whopping five courses, with dishes including Salmon Gravlax, Rump of Lamb, and Chocolate Praline Cake. The nutritionally unnecessary but pleasantly welcome cheese course is accompanied by a glass of Dow’s Port. A flexible mean option offers main courses at any time throughout the flight, and there’s a pre-arrival ‘light meal’ of sandwiches and a cream tea.After all that food you’ll need all 21” of your seat to spread across, which reclines to 180 degrees when it’s time to sleep. A comprehensive amenity kit, a soft, squishy pillow and a duvet-style cover all mean even those who don’t sleep easily in the air have the best possible chance of catching a few Zs.The Maple Leaf lounge in Toronto is huge, with showers and a quiet area with reclining chairs for a snooze, plus a wide range of food and beverages, and free wifi. Executive First ticket holders get access to lounges in many other airports too – at Heathrow, in addition to the departures lounge, there’s an arrivals lounge with showers, breakfast, work stations and a valet service to press clothes and shine shoes.

WOW: The nice, large, 12” screen is another reminder you’re in an upgraded seat, and there are over 150 films to choose from, including some very up-to-date options. Flying in March, I was able to catch up with a host of Oscar-nominated movies only a week after the Academy Awards ceremony. And with the entertainment system online from gate to gate, you won’t be cut off before the final credits roll.

BACKGROUND: Air Canada’s commitment to quality is well known, and it has picked up a range of awards – it’s currently the only North American international network carrier to receive a four-star ranking from Skytrax. For those who can’t quite afford Executive First fares, Air Canada is introducing a Premium Economy cabin. A 2-4-4 cabin configuration will feature wider seats with 7” more legroom than in Economy, a complimentary bar service and priority check in. Starting on the Paris-Montreal route in July, routes will be added over time as new aircraft join the fleet. Five new Boeing 777-300ER are being delivered by February 2014, and along with the new Premium Economy cabins these aircraft will have larger Economy cabins. Boeing 787 Dreamliners are on order and expected to join the fleet in 2014.Air Canada launched Rouge, a lower-cost leisure option, in December 2012, with Edinburgh-Toronto the inaugural route.For British tourists, don’t think of Air Canada solely for reaching Canadian destinations. Its South American connections are useful, particularly flights to Santiago and Lima – there are no direct options from the UK to these cities, and transiting through Canada takes little more time than through Madrid.

HOW MUCH: London-Santiago fares from £3,858