Air Canada 737 MAX 8 economy (it’s not all that bad really)

Air Canada 737 MAX 8 economy (it’s not all that bad really)

I recently had a chance to try Air Canada 737 MAX 8 economy from San Diego to Toronto. It was a satisfying experience that surpassed my admittedly low expectations. 

Air Canada’s newest domestic economy product (as I experienced on the MAX 8) is really good. Seat pitch is a little tight, but the onboard service and in-flight entertainment was fantastic.

Yeah, it was far from being the most luxurious airline experience of my life. It was still fun though, and you wouldn’t even have to put a gun to my head for me to do it again.

San Diego, CA (SAN) – Toronto, ON (YYZ)
Monday, September 26, 2022
Aircraft: 737 MAX 8
Registration: C-GELQ
Duration: 4 hours 21 minutes
Seat: 27A (Economy)

Air Canada 737 MAX 8 side view
Air Canada 737 MAX 8 side view illustration by
AC1092 flight track
Our route from San Diego to Toronto today as AC1092.

The video

Economy class videos on mainstream airlines such as Air Canada tend not to do very well on YouTube. I decided to go for it anyway, since the MAX 8 features their best economy class product at the moment.

The 4 1/2 hour flight from San Diego to Toronto provided me with loads of footage opportunities, and it ended up being a fun video to put together. Hope you enjoy it. If you didn’t, you’re probably not going to like the written review below…

My full review of Air Canada 737 MAX 8 economy from San Diego to Toronto

Remember the last time that I flu between Toronto and San Diego? That was in Air Canada Rouge A321 economy, and I’m still scarred from that experience. Thankfully, as you’re about to read, Air Canada has redeemed themselves by putting their primary brand back on this popular route. Thank God.

Arrival at the San Diego Airport

Air Canada operates out of Terminal 2 West at the San Diego International Airport (SAN). Their ticketing counter is currently located all the far end of of the terminal however, so RIP to anyone with a lot of luggage to check. It’s a bit of a haul.

Palm trees at the San Diego airport
Welcome to the San Diego International Airport! You weren’t expecting to see palm trees in an Air Canada review, were you?
San Diego airport terminal 2 crosswalk
Let’s see if I can cross this intersection without getting trucked…
Air Canada check in and baggage drop San Diego airport
Success! FYI, the Air Canada check in area is located all the way at the end of the T2 ticketing hall, so there was some effort involved in getting this pic. The things I do to create through airline reviews

Waiting (patiently) for the flight

Once through the security checkpoint, you’ll have full access to the entirety of Terminal 2. Air Canada economy class passengers don’t get lounge access of course, but there are plenty of restaurants and shops to get what you need before your flight. San Diego Airport food is pretty good actually.

Terminal 2 west corridor San Diego airport
Once past the security checkpoint, turn left and walk until you see red maple leaf logos. 
Gate 50 air Canada San Diego airport
Gate 50 is where our flight will be departing from today. And I don’t want to give too much away too early, but…that 11:15am departure time shown on the screen was excessively (and hopelessly) optimistic.

If you’re simply feeling lazy and unwilling to move, it’s not all that hard to find an empty gate to veg out at until the boarding process starts.

SANspotter blue shoes San Diego airport
The most important lesson learned from this San Diego based Air Canada review so far: comfortable walking shoes are a must!
Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 San Diego airport
Oh, and the plane eventually showed up close to our scheduled departure time. Better late than never (or in pieces) I guess.

The boarding process for flight number 1092 to Toronto

The boarding process started about 40 minutes late. The most satisfying part of the experience was that (unlike how US airlines do it), they used zone numbers that actually meant something.

There was none of that “Premium Elite Diamond-Crusted Unicorn Medallion” BS to sit through before they started with the zone numbers. With my zone 3 boarding pass, I was solidly in the middle of the pack. What a concept!

Air Canada mobile boarding pass for economy class
I’m ready. And how soon do you suppose it’ll be until they replace those 747 icons on the boarding passes with A320s or 737s? I’m definitely going to pour one out the day that happens. 
Boarding air Canada flight gate 50 San Diego airport
Zone 3 life.
Walking down jet bridge to air Canada flight San Diego airport
Despite the late arrival of the aircraft, they actually did a really good job cleaning it up and preparing it for boarding. They hustled!
SANspotter Canadian mask regulations
Good news: the Canadian government has just announced the end of the mask mandate! Bad news: it takes effect the day after I return home from this trip. Oh well. Can’t win them all I guess.
Air Canada 737 max 8 boarding door
Transferring from “Stars and Stripes” mode to “Maple Leaf” mode in 3…2…1…

My first impressions of Air Canada 737 MAX 8 economy seats

Air Canada A330-300 economy class from Montreal to Vancouver was the last time I experienced the lowest level seats on this airline. That was pretty good, primarily because it was an internationally configured aircraft.

This 737 MAX 8 was the first time I ever got to experience a domestically configured Air Canada economy class seat. And you know what? First impressions were good.

Air Canada 737 max 8 economy cabin
Welcome to Air Canada 737 MAX 8 economy class. These first few rows are the “Preferred” seats, but I’m headed all the way to the back. Wish me luck.
Air Canada 737 max 8 economy aisle
“I just want to tell you both good luck. We’re all counting on you.” (Yes, I do mutter “Airplane!” movie quotes to myself more often than I’d care to admit).
Air Canada 737 max 8 economy seats
Row 27, seats A, B, and C. I’ve got the window today. Should I be worried that the guy in 28A seems disappointed with his choice?
Air Canada 737 max 8 economy seat leg room
Yup, the leg room is better than Air Canada Rouge. So far so good!
Air Canada 737 max 8 economy seat video screen
I’m gonna be so disappointed if I can’t watch live Hockey (or Curling) on this video screen.
SANspotter selfie air Canada 737 max 8
I didn’t see any live sports in my initial look at the offerings, but disappointment was instantly averted thanks to a certain movie I found…
Air Canada 737 max 8 economy power outlets
Yes, there are full sized electrical outlets (and USB ports) at every seat.
Air Canada 737 max 8 economy USB port
There’s another USB port located just beneath the video screen. The question is: did you bring two USB cords?
Air Canada 737 max 8 economy passengers
Her body language seems to imply that she wished she brought a second USB cord. Amen sister. Amen.
Air Canada 737 max 8 safety card
Might as well have a look at the safety card. I mean, it is a 737 MAX 8 after all.
Air Canada 737-8 safety card
(*ahem*) Seems as if Air Canada would prefer that we call it a 737-8 instead.
Air Canada 737-8 economy class
Should I ring the flight attendant call button to let them know that changing the name of the airplane won’t magically invalidate it’s flaws?

The departure out of San Diego

The fact that there was a problem with the aircraft (one that prevented us from pushing off the gate on time) didn’t surprise me at all. It worried the hell out of me, of course, because this was a 737 MAX after all, and I couldn’t help but to think back on how many problems this aircraft had at the beginning of its life.

Air Canada delay San Diego airport
Sitting patiently while the mechanics sort out the issue with the plane. It’s ok though, because this is a 737-8. I’d be worried sick if it was a MAX 8!

We ended up pushing off the gate about an hour and 20 minutes late. It wasn’t a big deal since I didn’t have a connection to make in Toronto, but it was certainly frustrating.

Air Canada 737 max 8 at San Diego
Whatever the problem was, they fixed it (I hope). Toronto, here we come (I hope).
Air Canada 737 max 8 video screens
One of the things I did during the delay was to get the video entertainment system set up so that it’ll be a quick and easy transition into Top Gun Maverick once we get airborne. Every second counts!
Air Canada 737 max 8 taxi for takeoff SAN
Top Gun quotes racing through my head as we taxi into position. “Come on Mav, do some of that pilot ****!”
Taking off from SAN in an air Canada 737 max 8
Pro tip: These departure pics are a lot more rad if you hum “Danger Zone” to yourself when looking at them.

Flying over San Diego in an air Canada 737 max 8
A view that never gets old. So long, San Diego.

In-flight entertainment

If you read my Air Canada Jazz CRJ-900 business class review, you’ll know that I had mixed thoughts about the video entertainment on this airline. The selection of movies and TV shows and music seemed to be good, but the hardware was severely lacking.

I’m happy to report that this economy class experience completely changed my mind. Air Canada in-flight entertainment (in all classes of service) is astonishingly good.

Air Canada 737 max 8 economy video screens
As soon as I can show you what the video entertainment system is like, the sooner I can watch Top Gun (again). This is the main screen, BTW. 
Air Canada 737 max 8 economy video entertainment
The selection of movies and TV shows was impressive! There was also an interactive menu (which is always nice to see in economy class), but it wasn’t working on today’s flight.
Air Canada economy class ear buds
Ear buds were complimentary, but you won’t need them if you brought your own. My advice: bring your own.

Wi-Fi is available at an extra cost for anyone needing Internet access. I didn’t get a chance to try it out, but I didn’t see anyone around me throwing their laptops to the floor in frustration due to slow connections.

The food

Non-alcoholic drinks and a light snack are completely free in Air Canada economy class. If you want something more substantial, you’re going to have to pay for it. Thankfully the in-flight menu is pretty good, and from what I can tell, they had nearly everything listed in stock.

Air Canada economy class food for purchase menu
Talk to me, Goose. It wasn’t easy to find something that would pair nicely with a movie about cocky pilots, past regrets, and hair-raising explosions.
Air Canada economy class food for purchase cheese and crackers
Thankfully, cheese and crackers will pair with anything.
Air Canada economy class food for purchase cheese plate
I paid $9 (Canadian) for this, and I think it was worth it.
Air Canada biodegradable wood utensils
Huge thanks to Air Canada for replacing plastic utensils with biodegradable ones instead! The only downside I can see is the inevitable splinter through the tongue if you’re an aggressive eater. It’s a small price to pay for saving the environment (and eating good cheese) IMHO. 
Air Canada economy class food
A small bag of snack mix was also available (for free), but I passed on that today. I regretted that decision later in the flight however – the cheese and crackers wasn’t enough to satisfy me for a 4 and a half hour flight.

A few words about seat comfort

The total flying time from San Diego to Toronto today was just about 4 hours and 21 minutes. The economy seats on the MAX 8 felt decently comfortable up until about the 3 hour mark in my opinion. After that, the firmness was starting to get a little irritating. Nope, there’s not a lot of padding in these seats.

Air Canada 737 max 8 economy class cabin view from rear
If I had to rank Air Canada 737 MAX economy seats on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most comfortable), I’d give them a solid 6.827.
Air Canada 737 max 8 basic economy
Having an empty seat next to me made a world of difference of course, but I could have easily survived this even with someone there. In that case, my seat comfort ranking would be reduced to 6.521. 

The last hour of the flight (and the arrival into YYZ)

Despite my bony butt giving me signals that it wasn’t happy about the lack of seat padding, I was still generally satisfied with the experience. In-flight entertainment was awesome, the food was pretty good, and the flight attendants were very friendly. Can you really ask for anything more in a transcontinental economy class experience?

Air Canada 737 max 8 economy lavatory
I don’t know, but one look at the lavatory gave me the sense that the flight attendants gave up maintaining it half way through our journey today. Can’t say I blame them.
Flying at sunset Boeing 737 max 8
Even the beauty of the setting sun wasn’t enough to help me unsee what I saw in the loo just now.

The sun had completely set by the time we started making the approach into YYZ, so it was a dark and gloomy ride all the way in. Nevertheless, it was nice to be in Toronto again. It had been a minute since my last visit.

Boeing 737 max 8 window
As I always do in these final moments of any flight arriving into Canada, I start coming up with a plan for explaining my reasoning for entering Canadian territory today. “I’m an airline reviewer” doesn’t always work – Canadian immigration officers can be ornery sons of b****** sometimes.
Approach into YYZ at night
Even if they don’t let me in, at least I got to see Toronto from the air I guess.
Arrival at YYZ airport
Welcome to Toronto!
End of flight air Canada 737 max 8 economy class passengers
Final thoughts? This was a really good experience actually. Air Canada 737-8 economy has its flaws (all economy products do), but there’s nothing that would stop me from doing this again.
air Canada 737 max 8 economy aisle
Well, I do know that business class on the Air Canada 737 MAX 8 is really good, so that would certainly be one way to stop me. But you know what I mean.
Boeing 737 max 8 door frame
Officially entering Canadian territory. No turning back now! Unless the Canadian immigration officers put me on the next flight back the US…
SANspotter selfie Toronto airport jet bridge
< confident voice > “I’m an airline reviewer.” < / confident voice >

Pros and cons of Air Canada 737 max 8 economy class

If all you’re looking for is confirmation that flying on the Air Canada 737 MAX 8 in economy isn’t all that bad, you’re in luck. It isn’t all that bad. It isn’t perfect either, so this list of pros and cons ought to set things straight:


  • In-flight entertainment is excellent. Compared to WestJet (the other Canadian airline), the selection of movies, TV shows, and music is incredible.
  • The quality of the food was better than I expected. Of course you’re going to have to pay if you want to eat anything off the menu, but rest assured that it’s pretty good food.
  • The seats look very nice in person. The quality of materials they used is about the same as you’ll find on other airlines, but the colors and textures make it feel somewhat upscale.
  • Having multiple power ports at every seat comes in really handy on longer flights.


  • Seat pitch (legroom) isn’t all that great. It’s not terrible, but I’ve certainly sat in more comfortable economy class seats on other airlines.
  • Seat firmness might be a problem on longer flights. For what it’s worth, I didn’t have any issues until more than halfway through the flight. After that, I was more than ready to press the fast-forward button to Toronto.

Comments (10)

  1. Peter

    October 16, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      October 16, 2022
      • Peter

        October 18, 2022
  2. Ray K.

    October 17, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      October 17, 2022
  3. Mike

    March 20, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      March 20, 2023
  4. Gloria

    January 7, 2024
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      January 8, 2024
      • Gloria

        January 8, 2024

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