10 Things You Need to Know About Flying Air Canada Rouge

RougeLast week, I flew on Air Canada rouge for the first time. They began operating on July 1, 2013 with a start-up fleet of two Airbus A319 aircraft and two Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. By the end of this month, they’ll operate a total of 27 aircraft including 19 Airbus A319s and 8 Boeing 767-300ERs.

At launch, their planes serviced a network of 14 routes flying from Toronto and Montreal to Europe and the Caribbean but they’re now up to a total of 52 routes from Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver—including 11 to Europe.

I recently flew them roundtrip from Los Angeles to Calgary in both classes. Here are 10 things you need to know about flying Air Canada rouge:

Air Canada rouge check-in at YYC

Air Canada rouge check-in at YYC

1. Same check-in as Air Canada
Although Air Canada rouge is a separate airline from Air Canada, you still check-in for your flight as if you’re flying Air Canada.

Air Canada Rouge LAX-YYC July 20142. Cool flight attendant uniforms
All the Air Canada rouge flight attendants that I came across were young and attractive, and sporting funky uniforms that included a gray pin-striped trilby hat. The look was created by Maybelline and Redken and their burgundy Fluevog shoes were designed and manufactured by Canada’s own Fluevog Shoes. Rob Lowe famously made fun of their uniforms but I like them—especially the hat.

Air Canada Rouge LAX-YYC July 2014-0083. The planes aren’t brand-spanking-new
I was expecting Air Canada rouge’s planes to be brand-spanking-new since the airline is only a year old, but they’re actually just converted Air Canada planes. According to Renee Smith-Valade, Vice President of Customer Experience, “the aircrafts Air Canada rouge operate (the Airbus A319 and the Boeing 767-300ER) have been transferred from Air Canada’s fleet. Air Canada rouge aircraft are restyled inside and out. They have modern charcoal and burgundy cabin interiors, featuring new Slimline seats with a streamlined profile, and branding accents throughout the cabin (e.g. bulkheads, curtains) and onboard service elements (e.g. tray liners in Premium rouge). Both aircraft types sport a sleek white, red and burgundy livery that clearly establishes Air Canada rouge as part of the Air Canada family.”

Air Canada Rouge LAX-YYC July 2014-0034. There are no built-in entertainment systems
Although Air Canada rouge’s planes don’t have Air Canada’s seatback entertainment systems, they do have a very cool app that you need to download before getting on the plane. Air Canada rouge aircraft are all equipped with Player, a next generation in-flight entertainment system that streams unlimited live entertainment to customers’ personal electronic devices. Customers should bring their own fully-charged laptop or iPad, iPod or iPhone and download the latest Air Canada app (from the Apple App Store). For those with a laptop, make sure you have Adobe Flash Player installed. Availability on other platforms like Android is coming this fall.

Air Canada Rouge in Premium YYC-LAX July 2014-0055. You can rent an iPad
If you don’t own a tablet, you can rent an iPad on-board for $10 (free for Premium rouge passengers). They hand them out after takeoff.

6. There are no electrical outlets
Rouge planes don’t have electrical or USB outlets to charge your devices so be sure to have everything fully charged before getting onboard.

Air Canada Rouge LAX-YYC July 2014-0047. Coach seats are tight
I flew on rouge’s A319 and the seats are tight in coach. The A319s are configured with 3×3 seating and they only have 29 inches of pitch (distance between the back of your seat and the back of the seat in front). In comparison: American Airlines has 30 inches, United has 31, Virgin America has 32 and regular Air Canada has between 31-35. The good news is rouge does have 18-inch wide seats, which are wider than American’s and Virgin America’s. FYI: On rouge’s other style of aircraft, the 767, which flies longer distances, they offer 30 inches of pitch in economy.

Air Canada Rouge in Premium YYC-LAX July 2014-0078. You can buy food
Just like on Air Canada, you can buy food—including pizza—on rouge on flights in coach. But on their flights to Europe, they do offer complimentary meals and non-alcoholic beverages. FYI: Food pic is from Premium rouge.

Premium rouge cabin A3199. Premium rouge
On the A319, Air Canada rouge offers Premium rouge, which is a cross between premium economy and first class. They have 24 standard coach seats but they don’t sell the middle seat (just like intra-Europe on most European carriers). These seats have 35 inches of pitch and are 18 inches wide and recline more than the coach seats. If the Premium rouge seats aren’t sold out, they’ll offer them for a discount to coach passengers when they check-in online. Prices vary depending on the route but we were given our upgrade by their PR department. The food they offer is comparable to business and first class on transcontinental business class and it was good.

Good to know: If you want to sit next to your travel companion, you can sit in the middle seat—it’s not physically blocked. In row one (the bulkhead) the armrests don’t go up and there’s also no overhead bin storage above you (they use it for the plane’s equipment). I also don’t recommend row one because you can hear the flight attendants talking, which can be disruptive if you’re trying to read, work or sleep.

When asked why they didn’t upgrade the rouge seats in Premium rouge, their representative said: “The reason that we stayed with the 3+3 configuration on the Airbus A319 in the Premium rouge cabin was the flexibility of the seating. There are some routes that we operate that do not have a demand for a Premium product. With the 3+3 configuration, we can block the middle seat for the routes where we do offer that Premium product, and sell that middle seat for those routes where we fly a rouge and rouge Plus-only configuration. The blocked middle seat has proven quite popular as it allows the Premium customers to decide for themselves what they want to do with that additional space.”

Air Canada Rouge LAX-YYC July 2014-00610. They write the flight number on landing cards
This was a first for me…When the flight attendants handed out the landing cards for Canadian immigration, the airline and flight number were already filled out. When I asked the flight attendant if they always do this they said they try to on all rouge flights. That’s a nice touch.

Comments

  1. Point # 7 re “tight” seats is an understatement. If you’re a 6′ or taller, you cannot fit comfortably in the seats on their 319 aircraft. If you’re tall (I’m 6’4″), you simply will not fit. When I expressed concern about seating before my first flight, I was told by Rouge to pay extra for their “Plus” or “Premium” options. Then, Air Canada management said that Rouge’s horrible reputation re seat comfort was because their customers were too stupid to understand what “leisure” carrier seating is supposed to be. Fail.

    No comments in the article re pricing. Based on my flying out of Calgary, they’re selling a discount carrier product (think Allegiant or Spirit, definitely not like main Air Canada) but pricing it at a hefty premium (identical to their non-discount competitors). You don’t get what you pay for.

    Costs to upgrade to “Premium” at time of check in, in my experience, are ridiculously high — particularly given that what they call business class on the 319 is really just extra legroom with a free meal.

    Use caution when booking any Air Canada flight to what might even be remotely classified as a vacation destination. So far this year, they’ve surprised untold numbers of customers by “Rouging” mainline flights that they’d already purchased — resulting in a significant downgrade in service, zero compensation in return (unless you choose to cancel outright) and often major changes to flight schedules. If your pre-existing AC reservations get Rouged, it will be painful.

  2. Interesting uniforms! I’m sure it’ll do better than what I have experienced in Indonesia. I went on the plane and the seat I was in was broken. The tray infront of me was broken. The next seat I went to had a broken arm rest. I’m not saying that these problems are going to bring a plane down, but damn it’s a little worrying to fly when regular maintenance isn’t done!

    That aeroplane food has also made me hungry. Sadly.. I need to eat!

    • I agree completely with Ken Kai’s comments regarding the condition of the aircraft interiors. I flew last year from YYZ to LAS return on one of their two A319’s at the time. When I tried to raise the headrest of my seat, it came off in my hand and maintenance had to be called. Fortunately we had not departed the gate at the time

  3. From what little I have read, it appears “Rouge” is little more than Air Canada’s attempt at running a business without unions, and lowering costs. If this is the case, then where’s the cost advantage for the customer–I don’t see it? Smoke and mirrors…

  4. Anonymous says:

    All I can say about Rouge is that I got Rouged and will be flying anything but Air Canada. I’m also a Super Elite and was disgusted with Air Canada’s underhandedness in selling Air Canada flights and then changing them to Rouge without notifying the customer. I paid for a Rolex, but got a Timex instead. Never again on Air Canada will I book as you don’t know what you will be getting.

  5. There is only one thing you need to know about flying on Air Canada Rouge……DON’T!!!

  6. I flew with them from Manhester to Toronto and it was hell. Seat pitch is far too small for a transatlantic flight. Shame, as I quit liked everything else.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Agreed that this is complete bull. We purchased “business class” tickets only to discover upon receiving our confirmation that it was a Rouge flight – why are they priced the same? There should be differentiated pricing given that I’m just getting a slightly better economy seat. Air Canada is the worst.

  8. Hate the hats. I find it looks awkward and gets in the way of the attendants’ tasks. The attendants have to hold their heads at weird angles just to look at you from under the brim. They then end up taking them off for in flight work and to keep their hair in place you see these childlike colourful headbands on women who are trying to pull off a polished look. On the aircraft I rode, all the attendants are super young and many inexperienced. They had to call in help several times for simple tasks. Please drop the hats and the ageism Air Canada Rouge.

  9. As an AC super elite that avoids Rouge as much as possible (ie to get to vegas I now fly to la and take southwest or united to LAS), I unfortunately have flown rouge many times. I was on one of their first flights, before they even had the chance to upgrade the old Air Mexicana planes with their interior, and it was the worst flight experience I’ve ever had. While the flight staff have slowly improved, it still boggles my kind at what a poor experience Rouge offers.

    I agree with one of the above comments – this is simply AC to lower their union costs by hiring non-unionized flight crew. I understand they tried to also include the pilots in this, but backed off due to fear of backlash, so the pilots are regular ac union pilots.

    Two things are extremely disappointing for me:
    1) none of the cost savings are past on to the customer. Its one thing getting bargain basement service/seat pitch/etc when you pay bargain basement prices, but Rouge isn’t cheap.
    2) there’s no reason for the service to be as bad as it is. It has taken over 45 min to get a drink in their premium / business section. Boggles the mind.

    I fly over 150k miles per year, and the first time I actually lost my patience on a flight was in this airline, when I was stuck in the last row and someone kept reclining their seat (it actually hit me every time).

    I write this in hopes ac takes notice (I have given them feedback dozens of times). My wish is that they:
    A) train their flight staff properly
    B) lower their economy prices to be on par with transat and other charters
    C) offer choice by not converting entire flight routes to Rouge.

    Bottom line, I will never fly Rouge economy again, and suggest you don’t unless you get a really low price and be prepared for a terrible charter-like experience.

  10. Two chances of me flying with Air Canada, in particular their Rubbish, er, I mean Rouge product. None and none.

  11. The seats are not only tight they are terrible. I fly air canada a lot and i will not fly rouge again. my knees are in the seat ahead of me and i am only 6 feet tall. they sell this seat at the same rate as competitors so we will fly united from now on unless it is a regular a/c plane. If you want to get some work done on the plane…don’t even think about it. Terrible product…but i guess AC get 12 more seats of profit.

    Do not travel on this plane.

  12. Not a Fan! says:

    I didn’t now anything about Air Canada Rouge until I got on a plane from LA to Vancouver and suddenly felt incredibly claustrophobic. I’m a frequent traveller and we travel with kids. I couldn’t understand how my three year olds legs could easily kick the seat in front of him,just when he move slightly around in his seat. Then I realized that air canada had launched this separate airline. It’s deceiving cause right up until you get on the plane you think it is a regular Air Canada flight. Then you sit in your seat and the guy in front reclines and he’s literally in your lap. Did I mention, I’m 5’4! I felt to sorry for the 6ft guy beside me. Thank god he had the isle seat but he could not have been comfortable. I know understand why there are so many articles in the news lately about passengers getting into fights on planes because they recline their seats. I wonder if there is a correlation?! Luckily my husband was behind me, but I didn’t have the heart to recline it on him given that I knew that if I was uncomfortable with the space, he definitely would be too.
    I think anyone who flies this airline should kindly not recline their seat, out of curtesy for the person behind. But what garbage to even have to suggest that!

  13. Hi:

    The entertainment section write-up in “10 things to know about flying Air Canada rouge” says, “For those with a laptop, make sure you have Adobe Flash Player installed.” Does this refer to a laptop running Microsoft Windows? If yes, how do you access the Rouge system – just turn the PC on, or?

    Any help appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  14. I am also a Super Elite flying more than 125K a year and agree with everybody that Air Canada Rouge is garbage. Fly to Vegas a lot and not so much any more directly specifically because of these Rouge flights. I modified my trip to fly to PHX and rent a car to drive over and sure enough, PHX is now rouge as well.
    Air Canada Rouge – you are killing yourselves with the seats you offer and the lack of room. I don’t mind the entertainment being used on individuals tablets or phones and that makes sense but some things you have done such as the lack of leg room does not. Did you test this solution with any consumers and understand their needs or is this purely a finance equation not taking into account the people that pay your bills. Yes but cutting leg room you get more seats on a plane but that doesn’t mean anybody on the plane is happy. You’ve done a great job at scaring customers and as with myself I will start flying Westjet and Westjet is starting to offer you up the same status that you have with Air Canada so not too many downfalls to switch to different flights and routes.

  15. RICK LEFEBVRE says:

    Yes–I have to agree 100% with all the negative comments. I fly Air Canada regularly–once a month–Montreal to Toronto and Toronto to Phoenix. I think Air Canada has simply re-configured their existing aircraft to squeeze more passengers in to the plane. I have never complained before about any Air Canada Flight until I discovered Rouge. I am 5ft 8 and my knees touch the seat in front of me. On A 5 hour flight to Phoenix from Toronto–this is not fun—you just want to get there and get off. The seat reclines–maybe 2 inches?? So if you do log in to their weird entertainment system with your Ipad–it is right in your face as the seats are just too close to the one in front–same with eating any meal–its plain uncomfortable.
    May a 1 hour Flight from Montreal to Toronto–you can put up with this–but not any longer.
    Air Canada is going to lose –Big Time on this Venture.
    I have already used WestJet a number of times on these flights that I take every month. Old Planes–But very comfortable—with Satellite TV–and a crew that is very professional—but will always make you laugh and have fun though the boring safety instructions—they have a great time with the passengers–even in coach.

    Thank god WestJet just this year have regular convenient flights from Toronto to Phoenix—because–I am on them now. I have also advised friends about Rouge–one in particular always flys Air Canada–after telling about Rouge–he booked WestJet–Direct to Phoenix–he is 6 ft–and would be very uncomfortable on Rouge
    If I cant Get WestJet –I have options to and from Phoenix- US AIR–Delta–American Airlines and United.
    I would rather take a quick 1 stop flight now–than book Rouge–Direct

    Question for Air Canada Rouge—what is the point of getting 2 or 3 more rows of seats–when eventually you will have 5 rows empty- because of unhappy customers–and the rest- that are onboard–unhappy customers. As you can see–everyone is already shopping around.

    Air Canada–very bad idea—were rated #1 –but are headed for last place now

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