A unique quirk I am seeing is how Air Canada blocks Business Class seats for customers to maximize the chances of having an empty seat next to them.

Air Canada Business Class Seat Blocking on Airbus 330 Aircraft

On my flight from Toronto to Vancouver on Air Canada Airbus 330, I grabbed a screenshot of the seat map prior to gate upgrades and after upgrades were processed.

Prior to the gate upgrade, we saw 8 empty seats, Row 4AC, 4EF, 5EF, 5HK, on the Air Canada website.

Air Canada A330 Seat Map

However, once all the upgrades were processed, 4AC, 4EF, 5HK were all occupied. Only 5F was lucky to have an empty seat next to them. All the other travelers who had an empty seat next to them, kept their empty seat because Air Canada had blocked them from being automatically selected.

a screenshot of a computer

 

Air Canada Business Class Seat Blocking on Narrowbody Aircraft

I saw this on another Air Canada flight, also from Toronto to Vancouver. Row 1AC, 3C, 3F, 4A are blocked. Only row 1DF can be assigned automatically.

Air Canada Seat Blocking

However, on the Air Canada website, it appears as if only Row 1DF are available.

Air Canada Seat Blocking

That means, if there are only two upgrades that will be processed, they will be automatically assigned Row 1DF. Even though, if they are both individual travelers, they would be better off being assigned seat 1AC and 1DF.

Conclusion

I do not think this is exclusive to elite status members. I think, what Air Canada does is, they automatically block flights seats next to you in business class that are not already full.

If the upgrade list is longer than the available seats, then the seat blocking is redundant. However, if the upgrade list is shorter than the number of available seats, then all existing Business Class customers have the greatest likelihood of an empty middle seat. In this situation, all passengers upgraded at the gate would likely have a seatmate for their journey. This is a small and meaningful gesture by Air Canada to thank those who purchased Business Class seats in advance.