Air Canada Express CRJ-900 business class is shockingly decent

Air Canada Express CRJ-900 business class is shockingly decent

Although this wasn’t the first time that I had flown on an Air Canada Express (Jazz) CRJ-900 between Vancouver and San Diego, it was the first time that I’ve done it in business class. Yes, there are business class seats on those regional jets, and they’re actually not that bad.

Business class on the Air Canada Express CRJ-900 consists of a larger seat, complimentary headphones, upgraded snacks, and a full meal (if the flight is long enough).

It was basically my second Air Canada flight in a row which left me feeling that domestic first class service back home in the US sucks balls.

AC8768
Vancouver, BC (YVR) – San Diego, CA (SAN)
Friday, April 22, 2022
Aircraft: CRJ-900
Registration: C-GLJZ
Duration: 2 hours 34 minutes
Seat: 4A (Business Class)

Air Canada Express (Jazz) CRJ-900 side view
Air Canada Express (Jazz) CRJ-900 side view illustration by NorebboStock.com
AC8768 flight track
Our route from Vancouver to San Diego this evening as AC8768.

My full review of Air Canada Express (Jazz) CRJ-900 business class from Vancouver to San Diego

Prior to this flight, I was feeling slightly miffed that (after all these years) Air Canada was still running regional jets between Vancouver and San Diego. There’s a lot of traffic between these two city pairs on any given day, and in my opinion, the route deserves a better airplane than a CRJ.

However, as you’re about to see, business class on an Air Canada Express CRJ is freaking legit.

My arrival at the Vancouver International Airport

If you read my Air Canada A321 business class review, you’ll know that I was stressing out (bad) trying to get down to Vancouver from Edmonton this afternoon in order to catch this flight.

Long story short, I quickly discovered that a 1 hour layover is enough time in Vancouver – even if you have to go through US Preclearance. I was stressed AF upon arrival, but gosh darn it, it all worked out in the end.

SANspotter inside YVR airport
I’ll spare you the details of how I made it to YVR this evening. All you need to know is I’m drenched in sweat, my blood pressure is in the red zone, and I might need a change of underwear.
Gate 86 YVR airport
It’s a good thing that there’s nobody manning the gate yet for the flight down to San Diego, because your boy SANspotter needs a hug. I can’t freaking believe I made it in time!
YVR airport terminal E interior
Thankfully, not only did I arrive in time to catch my flight, I even had a few extra minutes to soak in the beauty that is YVR. It’s good to see this place again.
Air Canada express mobile boarding pass
Ok, I’ve seen enough. Let’s go home.

The boarding process for Air Canada Express flight number 8768 to San Diego

All flights from the Vancouver Airport to the US depart from Terminal E. It’s a fantastically beautiful airport terminal to hang out in before a flight, and I was thankful that I had at least a few minutes to soak it all in before they started the boarding process for the flight down to San Diego.

Despite what looked to be a full plane load of people waiting in the gate area, I found myself to be the very first passenger on the plane this evening without even trying. Not even a little.

YVR airport jet bridge
That way to the CRJ!

Passengers in domestic Air Canada business class are bestowed with a Zone 1 boarding pass. However, they still do the “families with small children” and “those with needing extra time” thing before starting with the zone numbers.

Nobody needed any extra time this evening, so yours truly was the first through the boarding door.

Air Canada express CRJ-900 boarding door
It’s been a while since I’ve been the very first person onboard the plane. It’s been even longer since I’ve made a flight attendant squirm away from me like this. Glad I still have it I guess.

My first impressions of Air Canada Express CRJ-900 business class seats

Even though I’ve said a lot of good things about business class on the Air Canada CRJ-900 so far, I fully admit that I wasn’t all that impressed immediately after stepping onto the plane.

Air Canada express (jazz) CRJ-900 business class cabin
The Air Canada Express (Jazz) CRJ-900 business class cabin. They’re not anywhere near as nice as the newest seats (as you can see in my review of Air Canada 737 MAX 8 business class), but considering what I went through to get here this evening, cinder blocks would’ve been just fine.

FYI, the CRJ-900 business class seats didn’t look any fancier than what you saw in my Alaska Airlines E175 review (for example). There’s only so much that can be done to fit a proper business class seat into such a small aircraft.

Air Canada express (jazz) CRJ-900 business class seat 4A
Seat 4A is mine for the flight down to San Diego this evening.
Air Canada express (jazz) CRJ-900 business class footrests
Footrests! My feet have never been so spoiled on a CRJ.
Air Canada express (jazz) CRJ-900 business class seating
Although I much prefer fabric seats, vinyl is to my advantage tonight since it’ll be easy to wipe the stress-induced sweat off mine before deplaning. Probably a bit too much information, I know, but you came here looking for a thorough review.
Air Canada express (jazz) CRJ-900 business class seats looking forward
This ain’t half bad!
Air Canada express (jazz) CRJ-900 business class video screens
The weirdest, yet most satisfying thing about this experience so far? Video screens. At every seat. On a CRJ. 
SANspotter selfie air Canada express CRJ-900 business class
Wait a sec. I’m pretty weird too! I’m not very satisfying though, so I guess the video screens win.
Air Canada express business class seat details
Arm rests, cup holders, and decently-sized overhead bins. I’m not ready to apologize for all the bad things I’ve said about CRJs over the years, but I’m willing to admit that maybe I’ve been a little too harsh at times.
Air Canada express business class pre departure drink
I’m not sure if it was because the flight attendant could see that I was a sweaty hot mess, or if she’s always this nice to everyone, but the pre-departure bottle of water was a nice touch.
Air Canada express business class USB ports
Finally, it’s worth noting that there are USB ports…
Air Canada express business class electrical outlets
…and electrical outlets at every seat. My apologies to anyone who clicked on this review hoping for a profanity-laden CRJ bash-fest.

The departure out of Vancouver

There was a slight delay pushing off the gate due to an unfortunate lack of ground personnel. All we could do was sit and wait for someone to show up and get us on our way.

Which was especially tense for me, since I was hoping to get in the air before the sun set over the horizon. Airline reviews are always a lot nicer with juicy sunset pics! Amirite?

Delta connection e175 at YVR
Just in case there’s any confusion about what the ladies think about the E175 vs the CRJ-900.
Sunset at YVR airport
Might as well get my sunset pics now since it’ll probably be too late once we’re in the air.
Sunset through airplane window
Nailed it!
Philippine Airlines 777 at YVR
For anyone new to my airline reviews, I highly recommend reading my Philippine Airlines 777-300/ER business class review from Vancouver to New York if you haven’t done so already. It was easily one of my most memorable flights ever.
Taxiing out to runway at YVR in air Canada express CRJ business class
Three years later, here I am gushing about an Air Canada Express CRJ-900 experience. I seriously need to get back to flying the exotic stuff…
Air Canada maintenance center YVR
Humongous building filled with little airplanes (lol).
Departing YVR on a CRJ-900
“Ripping out of YVR” is the caption I’d like to use for this pic, but in all honesty, it was about as intense as a Dyson vacuum on the medium setting.

What is in-flight entertainment like in business class on the Air Canada Express CRJ-900?

The good news is that there are video screens at every seat on the CRJ-900. The bad news is that they are the exact same video screens (with the same outdated user interface) that I experienced in Air Canada Express CRJ-900 economy class nearly 6 years ago. It felt a little crusty then, but it felt nothing short of geriatric now.

But hey. At least there’s video entertainment available for anybody who wants it.

Video screens on air Canada express jazz CRJ-900
Video screens on a CRJ look oh-so-wrong, but it feels oh-so-right.
Air Canada video screens
Unfortunately, despite how right it feels, the user interface has got some catching up to do.
Air Canada express video screens
The novelty of having video screens on a regional jet is completely offset by the fact that (not only can I see every pixel), it takes 2-3 seconds for anything to happen after I press anything. So close, yet so far…
Air Canada complimentary ear buds
Because noise canceling headphones would’ve been far too fancy.
Air Canada business class ear buds
That wasn’t a derogatory comment by the way. I truly believe it would’ve been weird for them to give us decent headphones with such vintage video screens. I kinda like how everything was “period correct.”

It’s worth noting that I’m more willing to accept a crappy video entertainment experience on a regional jet than I am on a mainline aircraft. I only slightly hated the video screens on this airplane. However, I was downright irritated by the exact same screens when I flew Air Canada A320 business class

Do they serve full meals in Air Canada Express business class?

Heck yes they do. And it’s pretty darn good! I wasn’t expecting to be served a full meal on this flight, so I was slightly bummed that I showed up with a full belly.

Air Canada serves full meals in business class on all flights over 2 1/2 hours. Even on the regional jets. Food quality was excellent, and the cabin service was exceptional. Of course, there were only three of us seated in business class this evening, so the flight attendant had it pretty easy.

Air Canada express business class menu
Not only were we served a full meal on this flight, we we’re also presented with menus. I didn’t even get a menu on a recent 5 hour United 787-8 business class flight from IAD to SFO!
Air Canada express business class drink menu
Hmmm…an ice-cold Molson Canadian sounds tempting eh.
Air Canada express business class drinks and snacks
I wussed out and went for a Diet Coke instead. Eh. 
SANspotter air Canada express business class drinks
Is it culturally insensitive to say “eh” if you’re not Canadian?
Air Canada business class chicken breast with barbecue sauce
Whoa. This is the chicken breast with barbecue sauce option – which seemed amazing to me considering that I wasn’t expecting anything more than pretzels and a drink on this flight.
Air Canada domestic business class meal
Sexy breasts they were.
SANspotter air Canada domestic business class meal
“O Canada, our home and native land, true patriot love, in all thy son’s command…”
Air Canada domestic business class food
Seriously, this was a phenomenal meal for a regional jet flight. Color me impressed!

How comfortable are the Air Canada Express CRJ-900 seats on longer flights?

I’ve experienced many domestic US first class seats on regional aircraft before, and I have to say that the seats on the Air Canada CRJ -900 aren’t any better than those. They’re basically the same seats you’ll find in United Express E175 first class.

Air Canada domestic business class seats on mainline aircraft (such as the A320 and 737) are fabric as opposed to vinyl, which for me, is a lot more comfortable. Fabric makes the seats feel softer, I like the fact that I don’t slide around in them as much. I also tend to think that they feel slightly warmer. The seats on the CRJ-900 are vinyl – which feels cold and cheap to me. 

Sleeping on an air Canada express CRJ-900
Sleeping will be difficult in these seats. Especially if you’re feeling miffed about the outdated video entertainment.
Air Canada express CRJ-900 economy passengers
It’s a lot more comfortable than economy class though! I wonder what all these people were thinking when they watched me take pics of my food?
SANspotter air Canada CRJ adjusting air vent
Whatever it was, I don’t care. 

The arrival into San Diego

I love arriving in the US on a flight from Canada. With US passport control and customs already complete, I can just walk off the plane as if it were any normal domestic flight.

Being able to walk off the plane and straight out the front door of the airport was especially important this evening considering the late arrival. I definitely wasn’t in the mood to stand in line to wait to go through customs.

Approaching San Diego airport at night
What a sight for sore eyes! It was only a few hours ago that I was sure that I wouldn’t be going home tonight.
Approaching San Diego airport city lights in background
I guess the upside to being so down-in-the-dumps pessimistic is that it feels *amazing* when things actually turn out ok.
Arrival at San Diego airport air Canada CRJ-900
Welcome to San Diego!
San Diego airport terminal 2 west exterior at night
I’m glad they left the lights on for us.
Delta a321 parked at terminal 2 west San Diego airport at night
You just know this guy was miffed he had to work overtime on a Friday night. Sorry bud!
End of flight air Canada express arrival in San Diego
FYI, the fasten seatbelt sign “ding” sounds exactly the same in French.
SANspotter selfie air Canada express CRJ-900
What a weird (but good evening). I made it through US Preclearance at YVR in less than an hour, I experienced personal video screens in a CRJ, and I was fed a surprisingly good meal (with excellent service from the cabin crew). Now watch me get run over by a dump truck on the way home…
Air Canada express CRJ-900 business class cabin view looking forward
I told you that I was a pessimist.
Passengers in San Diego airport jet bridge
That’s it for the pics! This was a really great experience, and I hope it helped to convince you that I’m far too pessimistic for my own good Air Canada Express business class is definitely worth the extra cost.

Pros and cons of business class on the Air Canada Express (Jazz) CRJ-900

As you’ve just read, this flight from Vancouver to San Diego was very good. Air Canada domestic business class (even on the the CRJ-900) far exceeded my expectations, and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to do it again. Here’s a quick list of all the pros and cons of my experience:

Pros

  • I wasn’t expecting to be served a full meal on a regional jet, but the one I was served on this flight was fantastic. Not only was it tasty, it was served with a smile.
  • There are videos screens every seat on the Air Canada Express CRJ-900s. Although the ones in business class are the exact same as the ones in economy, you will get complementary earbuds.
  • I’m not sure everyone is going to agree with me on this, but I really liked that the seats were fabric as opposed to vinyl.
  • Air Canada Express CRJ-900 business class is outfitted in a 1-2 configuration. If you’re traveling by yourself, the single seats are sublime.

Cons

  • The video entertainment on these CRJ-900s is well past its prime. “Outdated” is too tame of a word to describe it. “Crusty” is more juvenile, for sure, but it’s far more appropriate.
  • Keep in mind that the fuselage diameter of the CRJ-900 is a lot smaller than mainline aircraft such as an A320. This means that even though the service from the cabin crew might be good, you’re likely going to feel a lot more cramped than you would on most other aircraft in the fleet.

Comments (3)

  1. SDRSpotter

    May 19, 2022
    • SDRSpotter

      May 19, 2022
      • Scott (SANspotter)

        May 20, 2022

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