By Benjamin Pham
Air Canada Rouge Restarts Flights After Suspension
The relentless Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the airline industry substantially in the last year and a half, forcing several major airlines to halt flights and reduce operations due to a sharp decline in passenger travel demand. However, while there seems to be no end in sight for the effects of the ordeal, airlines across the world started gradually resuming flights and attempting to restore a higher level of normalcy as international borders began to reopen over this summer. Air Canada Rouge — a Canadian low-cost carrier and subsidiary of Air Canada — deemed it was appropriate to restart flights and attempt to rebound from its losses during its grounding and suspension.
In early August, the U.S.-Canada border reopened after experiencing a lengthy closure that extended several times due to significant effects of the Covid-19 ordeal. In response to the long-awaited border reopening, the leisure subsidiary of Canada’s flag carrier recently resumed its transborder flights to warmer destinations in Florida and Mexico with more service being added later this month, after suspending service earlier this spring from its key hubs.
“Air Canada Rouge remains integral to Air Canada’s overall strategy. As we emerge from the pandemic, we anticipate increased demand for vacation travel and from customers flying to enjoy overdue visits with family and friends,” Jon Turner, Vice President Inflight Services and President of Rouge Operations at Air Canada, said in a statment.
While the leisure carrier’s flights were suspended, Air Canada Rouge utilized the time to retrofit its Airbus A321 Rouge cabin interior with leather seats, charging ports and entertainment streaming capabilities. The airline plans to operate the first of nine retrofitted aircraft — out of 39 total Rouge aircraft in its fleet — later this fall.
“Air Canada’s leisure airline is ideally suited to serve this market with a compelling array of leisure destinations and an inviting travel experience so that the holidays begin as soon as customers board an Air Canada Rouge aircraft,” Turner added.
The fall travel season, followed by the winter holidays, is around the corner, which means another significant surge in passenger travel demand, specifically for leisure travel. In late August, Air Canada announced its required vaccination initiative for all of its employees and new hires. The airline is hoping the new mandate could play a role in helping it and its low-cost subsidiary capture as much of the remaining market for leisure travelers as possible.
The prominent Star Alliance carrier expects to have all of its employees fully vaccinated and submit a report by Oct. 31. Simultaneously, WestJet, Air Canada’s most significant competitor and Canada’s second-largest carrier, recently announced an obligatory vaccination for its employees, which they must get by Oct. 30 or face unpaid leave as well as termination.