Air Canada Rouge Review

What is Air Canada Rouge?

The main difference between Air Canada, and Air Canada Rouge is that Air Canada Rouge is a lower tier secondary brand offering from Air Canada. Rouge began operating in July 2013, and has since expanded the route offerings to vacation destinations in North America, Europe, and beyond.

Basically, Rouge offers a younger, more casual and upbeat type of service, but with a stripped down flight offering, and a premium economy section in place of business/executive class. The crew wears funkier outfits with cool hats and Fluevog shoes, but there are no video monitors in the headrest in front of you like on a regular Air Canada flight, and any entertainment must be brought with you, or you can connect your own iPad or mobile device to the plane's WiFi system to connect with the in-flight entertainment system. The selection of movies and TV is limited, and draws on older movie favourites, and homegrown CBC options to fill out the entertainment package.

While none of this is actually a bad thing, I have found that after several Rouge excursions, none of the people around me have had any idea what the difference between Rouge and the regular Air Canada is. In one instance, I ended up on a Rouge operated plane despite booking a regular flight through the Air Canada website. The downside of this was tighter legroom and lack of USB charger for my phone, which at that point I had counted on being there as it is on a regular Air Canada flight.

The person sitting next to me on these different flights has consistently made some comment about the lack of TV and legroom, and how Air Canada has gone downhill.

Personally, when I'm aware that I have booked a Rouge flight, I come prepared and my expectations have been met; however, when I book a regular flight on AC — in theory paying more than Rouge — I am a little disappointed.

Is it Actually Cheaper?

Well, in theory, Air Canada Rouge is cheaper, but thus far I haven't really felt much impact on that. My flight to Europe in June on Rouge was the least expensive Air Canada option, but it was still about $1400 to Barcelona from Penticton (via Vancouver). Some of  the west coast flights seem to be consistently less expensive now, like Vancouver to Los Angeles, so that is nice, but I would imagine if the flight was packed I'd still be paying a premium.

Are the Seats Roomy and Comfy?

I'm not sure what the numbers are, but the seats on a Rouge plane do seem much tighter. I'm 5'11" and fairly narrow. Sitting totally upright my knees touch the seat in front of me on an Airbus 319 and I find I don't have a lot of leeway before I'm elbow fighting with the passenger next to me — this is not the case on a regular Air Canada 319. This leads me to assume that they are packing more passengers onto a Rouge flight, hence the discount.

In Premium Rouge, however, there is tons of legroom. So much so that I had a variety of different leg position choices (see photos below). The service is also similar to executive class on  a regular Air Canada flight with meal and drinks service, with a dedicated flight attendant. On future Rouge flights this is an option I would consider if the flight is long enough, and if the price is right.

I don't mind bringing my own entertainment with me, but it is important to remember that everything needs to be fully charged before stepping on the plane as there are no power/charging options for your devices. Also, the food options are average, so think of a Rouge flight as a B.Y.O.E. (bring your own everything), and you should be fine.

Air Canada Rouge Economy Leg Room

Air Canada Rouge Economy Leg Room

Air Canada Rouge Premium Leg Room

Air Canada Rouge Premium Leg Room

Air Canada Rouge Premium Leg Room

Air Canada vs. Air Canada Rouge

Air Canada

  • Personal TV/entertainment system
  • New hollywood movies and shows to watch
  • USB charger
  • Dismal paid food options (domestic)
  • Average, but free, meals on long haul international flights
  • Crowded economy class seats / super deluxe executive class seating
  • Sometimes crotchety, but often just professional in demeanor flight crew
  • Status Aeroplan miles on Flex (formerly Tango Plus)  fares (and up)

Air Canada Rouge

  • Bring your own iPad or media device
  • Older, more limited movie/TV selection
  • No charging ability for devices
  • Dismal paid food options (domestic)
  • Average, but free, meals on long haul international flights
  • Super crowded economy class seats / roomy premium economy seats
  • Bubbly and fun young flight crew, but more casual sometimes comes at the price of service
  • Status Aeroplan miles on Flex (formerly Tango Plus)  fares (and up)

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Chris Stenberg is a creative director, photographer, filmmaker, and traveller. In his spare time you can find him biking and boarding in the mountains of British Columbia.