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New Tail Cam: Air Canada Debuts Refreshed Airbus Cabins

The new cabins feature sleek modern upholstery, large overhead bins and a the airline's latest IFE system with Bluetooth connectivity.

Air Canada’s first retrofitted Airbus A321-200 cabin (Photo: Air Canada)

Air Canada has unveiled new cabins for its Airbus A320 and A321 fleet. The Canadian flag carrier is retrofitting these aging aircraft with modernized seats and fixtures, bringing their interiors in line with the carrier’s newer narrowbody aircraft.

New Seats and New Cabins

The new seats feature dark black and grey upholstery, consistent with those found on Air Canada’s Airbus A220-300 and Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. In installing these new seats, the airline is rolling out a standardized product across its narrowbody fleet. The seats also have increased storage space as well as in-seat power with AC, USB-A and USB-C options.

Passengers will notice the new LED mood lighting that allows the cabin ambiance to change throughout the flight. The cabins also have Airbus’ latest Airspace XL design, featuring large overhead bins that will also be installed on the airline’s future Airbus A321XLR aircraft.

The retrofitted aircraft will also have Air Canada’s newest inflight entertainment system, which has Bluetooth connectivity that allows travelers to connect their own headphones to the seatback entertainment system. The airline is also providing live television and free Wi-Fi on these aircraft. Aviation enthusiasts will also be excited to find tail and belly cameras, which the airline describes as “first-in-class” for narrowbody aircraft.

Exterior camera view on an IFE seatback screen on Air Canada’s first retrofitted Airbus A321-200 (Photo: Air Canada)

Air Canada debuted the new cabins on Saturday onboard flight 692 from Toronto Pearson International Airport to St. John’s International Airport in the eastern Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The flight was operated by a 22-year-old Airbus A321-200 registered as C-GITU. Prior to this flight, the aircraft appears to have spent time being retrofitted at Montréal-Mirabel International Airport and Birmingham Airport in the United Kingdom.

The first Air Canada Airbus A321-200 to receive the new cabin, a 22-year-old aircraft registered as C-GITU and painted in a Star Alliance livery (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Deerrickson)

The newly retrofitted A321 also has six additional Economy Class seats when compared to the old configuration, with a total of 16 seats in Business Class and 196 seats in Economy Class. The airline expects its eight A320 and 14 A321 aircraft to have the upgraded cabins by the end of 2025.

Air Canada’s A320 Family Strategy

From the 1990s to the end of the 2010s, Air Canada’s Airbus A320 family aircraft formed the backbone of its narrowbody fleet. Airbus A319s, A320s and A321s adorned with the maple leaf tail crisscrossed the Canadian skies, bringing travelers across the country and to destinations south of the border. While many of these aircraft are still in service, they now only make up approximately a quarter of the airline’s narrowbody fleet.

Air Canada began operating A320 family aircraft in the early 1990s. The fleet grew over the next few decades, including through the addition of aircraft through its acquisition of Canadian Airlines. While the carrier has retired its oldest Airbus narrowbodies, it still operates over 30 A320 family aircraft with an average aircraft age of over two decades.

Air Canada Project XM Economy Class cabin on an Airbus A320-200 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Andrew Chen)

In 2006 the airline began a major interior retrofit project across its fleet, known as Project XM. The new cabins were cutting-edge at the time, featuring touchscreen personal screens with on-demand entertainment, interactive games, as well as USB and AC charging in all cabins. While these seats made Air Canada an innovative industry leader at the time, the aging interiors slowly became outdated over time. Today, the Project XM interiors can still be found across the airline’s A320 family fleet, with slow touch screens and unreliable charging ports.

Air Canada Project XM Executive Class (North America business class) seats from 2006 (Photo: Air Canada)

These outdated seats are contrasted sharply by Air Canada’s cabins on its A220 and Boeing 737 MAX narrowbodies, which feature sleek upholstery, modern cabin fixtures and a robust personal inflight entertainment system. It is therefore refreshing to see that Air Canada is retrofitting its older aircraft to provide a consistent passenger experience across its narrowbody fleet.

Air Canada Airbus A220-300 Economy Class cabin (Photo: Air Canada)

Air Canada’s five Airbus A319s were notably left out of the announcement. The airline retired its A319s from mainline service in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic but has since quietly brought a few back to the fleet, including two from its leisure brand, Air Canada Rouge.

However, it is unsurprising that these aircraft will not be retrofitted as they likely re-entered the fleet to provide temporary capacity. While the airline’s A320s and A321s are also over two decades old, the carrier’s latest announcement signals that they are expected to stay in the fleet for years to come. The airline also has 28 Airbus A321XLRs on order, with deliveries slated to begin in 2025.

Andrew Chen

Author

  • Andrew Chen

    Andrew is a lifelong lover of aviation and travel. He has flown all over the world and is fascinated by the workings of the air travel industry. As a private pilot and glider pilot who has worked with airlines, airports and other industry stakeholders, he is always excited to share his passion for aviation with others. In addition to being a writer, he also hosts Flying Smarter, an educational travel podcast that explores the complex world of air travel to help listeners become better-informed and savvier travelers.

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