Air Canada Goes Rouge With Low Cost Unit

Air Canada Rouge Boeing 767-300ER

Air Canada Rouge Boeing 767-300ER

Airline Within an Airline for Leisure Market

Air Canada has formed a new leisure unit named Air Canada Rouge, an airline within an airline, with flights starting July 1, 2013. However, this has been tried before with a variety of US carriers with a number of low cost schemes that have crashed and burned.

The name of the new carrier was a result of a contest Air Canada launched on Facebook.

Delta Air Lines once had Delta Express, an all 737 leisure unit flying non-stops to Florida. Delta then tried again with Delta “Song”. Song featured a Boeing 757 fleet with live satellite TV which has since been re-united back into their mainline fleet. Continental tinkered with a low cost leisure unit as did United with Ted and US Airways with the long gone MetroJet.

It’s understandable air carriers are attempting to save money with lower yield leisure destinations, but will Air Canada Rouge go the way of Song, Ted, and MetroJet?

The new unit will initially be made-up with two widebody Boeing 767-300ER aircraft featuring two cabins, as well as two Airbus A319 aircraft in an all economy layout for shorter hops such as Central America and the Caribbean. Most flight will originate from Toronto’s Pearson Airport (YYZ), but consumers will be able to connect to flights operated by the low cost unit from Air Canada mainline, Air Canada Express, as well as Star Alliance partner flights.

Routes Going Rouge – Air Canada Rouge

Air Canada Rouge flights will start on July, 1 2013, with trans-Atlantic flights to Venice (VCE), Edinburgh (EDI), and Athens (ATH). Flights to Punta Cana (PUJ), Puerto Plata (POP), and Samana (AZS) in the Dominican Republic along with Kingston (KIN), Jamaica, San Jose (SJO) and Liberia (LIR) Costa Rica, and finally Varadero (VRA), Cayo Coco (CCC), and Santa Clara (SNU) in Cuba will also be operated by Rouge.

The new “airline within an airline” will sell add-on creature comforts such as seats with additional legroom, wifi internet, streaming wireless entertainment available for viewing on your personal electronic device, such as a laptop, tablet (i.e. iPad) or smartphone device, and passes to Maple Leaf Lounges.

Seating Sardines

Legroom on the new low cost unit is going to be tight, unless you cough up additional money for a Rouge Plus seat.

The seat pitch, which is the distance between seats, is a mere 29″ on the Airbus A319 and 30″ on the Boeing 767-300. Industry standard for Economy Class seats is 31″, but it’s common for budget carriers to pack em’ in.

The Airbus A319 will seat a total of 142, 24 in Rouge Plus with a 35″ pitch and 118 in Rouge with 29″. Rouge provides seating for 282 on the Boeing 767-300. This includes 24 Premium Rouge seats with a 37″ seat pitch, 28 Rouge Plus seats with 35″ between seats, and 230 packed in at 30″ seat pitch.

Routes previously operated by mainland Air Canada will be taken over by the low cost leisure unit.

Rouge is looking to take on leisure markets with their lower operating costs. However, there is a degree of risk when it comes to variable costs such as jet-fuel which will depend on largely on the oil markets.

While the “airline in an airline” concept didn’t work in the United States, it’s been doing well in Australia with Jetstar, a unit of Qantas. Both Qantas and Jetstar operate domestic flights within Australia as well as international routes.

There’s a number of other examples, but only time will tell. In the meantime, Canadian consumers and other individuals with easy access to the Air Canada network will enjoy competitive pricing on a variety of leisure routes starting July next year. To avoid the squeeze, Rouge will offer upgrades for a fixed fee depending on the route.

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