Starting July 2013 three weekly flights to Costa Rica with a twice weekly link to San Jose and weekly flight to Liberia

Air Canada has unveiled the launch plans of its new leisure airline, marking a major step in the transformation of Canada’s flag carrier to compete in the growing leisure travel sector.


The carrier will inaugurate services from July 1, 2013 using a mixed fleet of Airbus A319s and Boeing 767-300ERs being retired from the mainline business.  Its network will initially cover Athens, Edinburgh and Venice in Europe and destinations in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Costa Rica across the Americas.

“With the introduction today of Air Canada rouge, Air Canada enters today’s growing leisure travel market on a truly competitive basis,” said Ben Smith, executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Ben Smith.  “In partnership with Air Canada Vacations, part of our new leisure group, Air Canada rouge will leverage the strengths of Air Canada’s extensive network, operational expertise and frequent flyer reward program in order to offer Canadians great value for their vacation travel.”

The launch of Air Canada rouge will allow the Canadian flag carrier to compete more aggressively in the highly competitive leisure travel market with lower-cost competitors like Transat AT, Sunwing and WestJet Vacations.  Interestingly, two of its initial long-haul routes are new to the Air Canada network, while Athens is already served on a seasonal basis by the business.  Senior executives at the carrier had suggested previously that the lower-cost structure of the new leisure business would allow it to compete effectively on routes it would not have been able to serve with the mainline model.

Air Canada rouge’s fleet will initially comprise of four aircraft – two Airbus A319s and two Boeing 767-300ERs.  The Airbus models will be used within the Americas and will be configured in an all-economy configuration for 142 passengers offering a selection of rouge Plus seats with additional legroom.  The 767-300ERs will be used on Transatlantic services and will be arranged in a two-cabin configuration for 264 passengers offering a selection of rouge Plus seats with additional legroom and Premium rouge seats featuring additional seating comfort, space and enhanced meal and beverage service.

The two 767-300ERs are being released from the mainline fleet in 2013 following the arrival of two 777-300ERs and additional aircraft will be added to the Air Canada rouge fleet as the national carrier starts to take delivery of its new 787 Dreamliners in 2014.  Subject to commercial demand, Air Canada rouge is expected to operate up to 20 767-300ERs and 30 Airbus A319s to pursue opportunities in markets made viable by Air Canada rouge’s lower operating cost structure.

“With leisure time at a premium, Air Canada rouge will combine affordable fares, great service and choice leisure destinations with those benefits offered by Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations that are valued most by vacation travelers,” said Michael Friisdahl, president and chief executive officer, Air Canada’s Leisure Group.  The name Air Canada rouge was selected following a contest launched on Facebook inviting customers, employees and travel industry professionals for their input.

As mentioned above, Air Canada rouge will initially serve three long-haul destinations – Athens in Greece, Edinburgh in Scotland and Venice in Italy.  The mainline business has served the Greek capital from Toronto and Montreal on a seasonal basis since summer 2010 so has a good understanding of the passenger demographic already.  The start-up will offer two weekly flights between Montreal and Athens and four weekly services between Toronto and Athens, competing with leisure rival Air Transat on the latter route.

In the Americas region, Air Canada rouge will take over the current mainline flights that Air Canada operates for Air Canada Vacations to ten destinations across the Caribbean from Toronto.  The airline will operate five flights per week to the Dominican Republic with three weekly services to Punta Cana and weekly rotations to Puerto Plata and Samana; three weekly flights to Costa Rica with a twice weekly link to San Jose and weekly flight to Liberia; a five times weekly offering to Kingston, Jamaica and six weekly flights to Cuba – a three times weekly Varadero link and weekly rotations to Cayo Coco, Holguin and Santa Clara.

The formal details on the new low-cost venture have been released just weeks after Air Canada outlined its own network expansion plans for summer 2013, including growth in international markets.  The carrier is launching a new non-stop route between Toronto and Seoul, starting service to Istanbul subject to government approval, adding seven weekly departures to Beijing from Toronto and Vancouver, and upgrading its Calgary-Tokyo Narita route to provide daily service.

“Air Canada is seizing the opportunities of the Pacific Century with the most far-reaching international expansion of its schedule in its 75-year history. Our new routes embrace the world from Istanbul to Seoul and deepen our already extensive Asian service,” said Ben Smith, executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Air Canada.  “With our Asia expansion alone, we will be flying eleven daily departures or more than 43,000 seats a week across the Pacific Ocean this summer – a commitment of up to 14 widebody aircraft valued in excess of $2 billion.”


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