Air Canada rouge’s inaugural YVR-LAS Airbus A319 flight at the gate on a rainy Vancouver morning
You may have read the recent commentary and analysis by AirlineReporter’s Bernie Leighton, “You Get What You Pay For Rant: Why Economy Class Is What It Is.” I certainly did. It seemed fitting, then, that just a couple of days later, I was invited to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) for Air Canada rouge‘s first Western Canada flight.
Air Canada rouge is an “airline within an airline”, and is part of the Air Canada Leisure Group along with inclusive-tour operator, Air Canada Vacations. The airline is positioned as Air Canada’s “Leisure” carrier, intended to get passengers to their vacation destinations. Air Canada rouge launched last July 1st with flights from Toronto (YYZ) and Montreal (YUL) to Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the U.S. In addition to specific vacation travel, Air Canada is hoping to make its unprofitable routes financially viable by a transfer to Air Canada rouge, which has lower operating costs. Bernie talked all about that, and CASMs and RASMs, in his rant.
By the end of 2014, Air Canada will have transferred 47 routes to rouge. Another seven routes new to the AC network will be operated exclusively by rouge. The just-announced Western Canada routes include YVR to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, and seasonal service to Anchorage. From Calgary, flights will go to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
The Air Canada rouge fleet is made up of Airbus A319s and Boeing 767-300ERs, transferred from Air Canada’s mainline fleet. As of the end of April, there were 15 A319s and four 767s flying for the leisure carrier. Ultimately, rouge may have up to 30 A319s and 20 767s, with the 767s coming into the fleet as Air Canada receives its new 787 Dreamliners.
Sparkling-new Air Canada 777-300ER C-FIVX at the Boeing Delivery Center, Paine Field, Everett WA. Photo: Bernie Leighton
It’s looking pretty busy at Air Canada (AC) and not just because they’ve launched their new “leisure airline,” rouge.
This summer, AC took delivery of the first two 777-300ERs from their latest five-plane order. When this order is completed, AC will have 17 -300ERs and 6 -200LRs in their international fleet. While AC’s new 777s look standard on the outside, they are very different inside.
Their newest 777s are configured in a new, three-class cabin, seating 458. That’s a huge 30% capacity increase from AC’s older 777-300ERs, which have 349 seats in a two-class arrangement. What all has changed? Obviously we had to take a closer look.
Air Canada rouge’s first flight takes off – A319 from YYZ to KIN
All photos courtesy: Air Canada rouge
With Monday morning’s A319 flight from Toronto (YYZ) to Kingston, Jamaica (KIN), Air Canada rouge became the second new Canadian airline to begin operation in as many weeks. Rouge’s startup fleet has 2 A319-100s and 2 767-300s, all previously flown by Air Canada. Initial Caribbean destinations for the A319s are in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Costa Rica and Jamaica.
The 767s will fly to Athens, Edinburgh and Venice, all departing from Toronto or Montreal (YUL). More destinations will be added to the schedule as rouge receives additional aircraft from Air Canada. Many of their vacation routes will be transferred from Air Canada as the rouge fleet grows. They’re planning to ultimately have 20 767s and 30 A319s, as Air Canada takes delivery of 787s and additional 777s. The new airline has its own operating certificate, but is wholly-owned by Air Canada. It’ll be integrated into AC’s website and Aeroplan frequent-flier program.
Air Canada calls rouge a “new leisure airline”. It’s part of the new Air Canada Leisure Group, which includes Air Canada Vacations, which has been around for many, many years. The new Group competes with established Canadian tour operators/airlines Transat, Sunwing, and of course, Westjet. As rouge expands it’s US destinations, I wouldn’t be surprised if it tries to repatriate Canadian passengers heading to Plattsburgh and Niagara Falls NY, and Bellingham, WA for cheaper flights.