Air Canada vs. Air Canada Rouge: Navigating the Differences

The Budget Airline Explained

Are you a frequent flyer with Air Canada and find yourself wondering about the differences between it and its subsidiary, Air Canada Rouge?

Here, we delve deep into the details to bring you a comprehensive comparison of the two. Understanding these differences can potentially help you save money and choose the service that best suits your travel needs.

Brands under Air Canada

Apart from the flagship Air Canada brand, the airline operates several subsidiaries and affiliate services catering to different market segments. Here's a snapshot:

  • Air Canada Rouge: Launched in December 2012 and inaugurated service on July 1, 2013, focusing on leisure and vacation travel. It operates as a low-cost airline under the Air Canada banner.

  • Air Canada Express: Handles feeder flights operated by other regional airlines.

  • Air Canada Jetz: Manages a small fleet of business-class configured Airbus A319s available for private hire.

  • Air Canada Cargo: Responsible for the airline’s cargo operations.

Historical Perspective

Air Canada Rouge commenced operations targeting leisure travelers, marking its entry with a flight to Kingston, Jamaica, from Toronto. Initially having a modest fleet comprising two Airbus A319s and two Boeing 767s transferred from Air Canada, it went on to expand significantly in the following years.

By September 2016, it built up a sizable fleet including 19 Boeing 767s, which played a significant role in serving various destinations including many in Europe. However, the fleet saw a significant reduction during the COVID-19 pandemic, retiring all its 25 Boeing 767s and some Airbus A319s.

Integration into Air Canada Network

Both Air Canada, and Air Canada Rouge are highly integrated, sharing the Air Canada “AC” flight number. However, services operated by Air Canada Rouge will be denoted as such in the flight schedules. It shares the Maple Leaf lounges with Air Canada and operates under the Air Canada Aeroplan scheme, allowing passengers to earn miles.

Fleet and Services

Air Canada Rouge has a distinguishable fleet, primarily operating Airbus models including A319s, A320s, and A321s, which are different from the Air Canada's diverse fleet, housing models like Boeing 737 MAX 8 alongside various Airbus types. Noteworthy is the re-entry of Rouge's fleet into service from September 2021 after a suspension due to the pandemic.

While the onboard amenities follow the industry standards for low-cost airlines, Rouge also offers a business class product named "Premium Rouge." This inclusion offers a more premium experience, similar to Air Canada’s regional business class, with larger seats and complimentary meals and drinks.


Though it was originally serving numerous European destinations, Air Canada Rouge had to drop many of them due to the retirement of Boeing 767s in its fleet. However, it predominantly operates routes within Canada, the US, Central America, and the Caribbean, giving passengers options to choose between Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge on several routes.

As of now, there is speculation about the resumption of European services with narrowbody aircraft, although without a confirmed timeline.

Onboard Experiences

Expect a denser seating arrangement with Rouge compared to Air Canada, reflecting its low-cost model. Despite the packed seating, Rouge offers fairly comfortable seating, including a business class with premium amenities. The entertainment options vary, with Rouge offering streaming options to personal devices as opposed to the seatback screens available in Air Canada.


Though it operates as a low-cost airline, Air Canada Rouge stands a notch above many others in its category, offering business-class services and integrated amenities for a comfortable journey. Understanding these nuances can enhance your travel experience, letting you choose wisely between Air Canada and its vibrant subsidiary, Rouge.