Air Canada's Rouge returns with focus on North American routes

Routes to secondary European cities, popular prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been scrapped.

Air Canada’s leisure-focused Rouge subsidiary, grounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, is restarting routes as the carrier seeks to tap into what little demand there is as the pandemic and related restrictions continue to keep many Canadian passengers home.

"Air Canada Rouge remains an important part of our overall strategy in rebuilding Air Canada's global network,” Air Canada VP of network planning and alliances Mark Galardo said.

"As leisure traffic resumes, we will progressively add Rouge to select North American leisure markets from Eastern Canada.”

The Rouge fleet numbered more than 60 aircraft before the pandemic. Air Canada’s latest fleet allocation shows that Rouge has 34 aircraft dedicated to it—all Airbus A320-family narrowbodies. Retirements included all 25 Boeing 767-300ER widebodies that Rouge had, which allowed Air Canada to tap into some European leisure markets.

Executives have said the revised Rouge will focus on more flying within North America, such as the Toronto (YYZ)-Cancun (CUN) service re-launched on November 2.

“Taking a typical example … before we would have service from one of the Canadian cities with Rouge to, call it, a secondary European city [nonstop]. You'll see fewer of those for the next few years,” outgoing Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu said during the summer. "You'll see fewer of those because the demand will be less.”

The Canadian government continues to urge its citizens to avoid all non-essential international travel “until further notice.”

Photo credit: Joe Pries