Flight Review: Air Canada’s updated Airbus 321-200s are changing the in-flight experience

Air Canada have been giving their Airbus 321-200s a much needed overhaul, from head to tail, featuring everything from larger baggage compartments, to a camera on the tail and belly – a first for a narrow body aircraft. This will help bring the aircraft up to the standard of their newer narrow body aircraft, both the Airbus A220 and Boeing 737 MAX. I recently flew on the service, from Toronto to Los Angeles, where I was attending the Pixar Fest launch at Disneyland. Here’s how the experience stacked up.

Route: Toronto to Los Angeles
Aircraft: A321-200
Seat: 17C 3-3 Layout
Flight Time: 5 1/2 hours
On Time? Yes

Departing from YYZ & Air Canada Lounge

The noon flight to LA is one of the best in the schedule, getting you into LA at 2:30pm, and avoiding the early morning slog that can be security and US customs. I jumped on the UP express train just before 10am on the UP express, and with carry on only, I was through security and US customs (which you clear here instead of at LAX) in less than 20 minutes.

As a Virgin Australia Velocity Gold Member, I have access to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. In the US gates in Terminal 1, is located upstairs, right after security and US customs. It’s a large lounge with two self service drink areas and one hot food station. Breakfast was still being served with Montreal bagels, toast and English muffins, tortillas, potatoes, sausages and scrambled eggs. Alcoholic drinks came out at 11am and tea, coffee and non alcoholic drink options were plentiful. I grabbed an iced tea from the fridge. No announcements are made in the lounge but if you’ve got your number attached to your booking you can expect a text message when boarding starts.


I was in Zone 4 (unlike United, AC haven’t extended any priority baggage or boarding options for Velocity Frequent Flyers), and the airline did a great job in ensuring only people in their respective zones were lining up and boarding. It helped ensure a faster boarding overall and passengers were responsive to the requests. Thankfully I didn’t have to gate check my carry on – even though it was a full flight. Though they were encouraging you to check the bag via email in the leadup to the flight.

The larger overhead bins would be the cause for this – they were able to fit so many more bags. It’s a very well designed aircraft, especially in that respect. I’d love to see this across all airlines, especially given how everyone seems to be encouraged to bring on a roller bag these days (in lieu of paying for checked luggage).

The Airbus 321-200 Experience

The Airbus 321-200 is a single aisle aircraft, so it runs in a 3-3 layout in economy. There’s a single bathroom towards the centre of the cabin, and two at the rear.

I was in row 17, just behind the exit row. This was labelled as “preferred” seating, and did seem to offer extra leg room – though even though I was flying on the cheapest ticket price, “basic”, I was able to select it free of charge when I checked in. Though other preferred seating further up the cabin was not available (as usually is when flying on other ticket types). This process was possible 24 hours before your flight. The earlier you check in, the easier it will be to choose a seat closer to the front of the plane – or whatever you may prefer.

Though the bathroom in the centre of the cabin had some issues with smell (which I assume was caused in flight) and some damage to the mirror, exposing some of the wiring behind it, the plane’s was otherwise clean and new (including the restrooms at the back).

Seats were comfortable with minor recline – but enough for a day flight – and movable headrest with side flaps. Window shades were the normal varietal and most people closed them for the flight.

In Flight Entertainment

The in-flight entertainment units were large and bountiful, with endless film and TV options in a well designed menu. There were plenty of games and music options, and you could even watch the world pass by via a camera on the tail and belly of the aircraft. The former (which you’ll see pictured at the top of this article), is an industry first, I’m told.

Skipping ads is an easy option, which isn’t the case on all services, so comes appreciated. The only glitch in the system is that sometimes games crash after announcements happen! I’ve noticed this on other Air Canada flights as well, so it wasn’t just my unit.

The unit had a headphone jack, as well as USB and USB-C charging ports, the first time I’ve seen the latter in an economy seat. Given how much faster it charges, this comes as a welcome addition. An international AC plug also sat under the seat in front of you.

Food and Drink Service

Cabin crew served non-alcoholic beverages complimentary shortly after take off. Usually no complimentary snacks are served on board a flight over 90 minutes (which is a bit ridiculous to be honest), but because a strike at the airport meant they had no food on board otherwise, everyone was given a complimentary biscuit. On my return flight (which was on an older Airbus), this was no longer the case.

Soft drinks, juices, tea and coffee were all available free of charge, and alcohol available at an additional cost.

EDITORS UPDATE (JUNE 2024): Since writing this review in May, Air Canada have updated their services in the USA and Canada to include a snack for each passenger – these seem to generally be cookies or garlic pretzels – as well as complimentary Beer and Wine. Spirits are available for $5. It’s unclear if this is permanent, as e-mails indicate it’s only guaranteed “throughout 2024”, but it’s wonderful to see them make this long awaited upgrade to their service. The review score has not been altered to reflect this, however anyone flying the airline soon should be aware of the fantastic service update.

There was a second service 90 minutes or so before landing.

The Verdict

Though I prefer wide body aircraft on the route, the aircraft was one of the most comfortable single aisle planes I’ve been on. It’s the small changes that have made a big difference.

The enhanced in flight entertainment units with USB-C charging, were easy to use and offered some never-before-seen features. And then there’s the extra baggage storage, which served to counter a lot of the common issues found on aircraft that contend with the realities of modern travel – particularly with almost every passenger opting for a roller carry on in lieu of (or in addition to) a checked bag.

If these interiors are anything to go by, Air Canada travellers have plenty to look forward to as they continue to roll out the updated Airbus fleet.


To book travel with Air Canada, head to their official website.

The author flew as guest of Disney Parks & Resorts. Photo by the author. This article was originally published on 19th May 2024, with an update to the article seeing the article re-published on 26th June 2024. 

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.