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AC Fleet Plans


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With new aircraft arriving from Boeing and Bombardier, Air Canada and its low-cost subsidiary Air Canada Rouge have announced several changes to their fleets. The expected changes will see modern and more efficient planes replace the current aging aircraft types in their fleets.

The aircraft replacement concerns Air Canada’s Embraer 190s and Air Canada Rouge’s narrowbody fleet. On the mainline Air Canada side, all remaining twenty-five Embraer EMB-190IGWs will be removed from service by mid-2019. “Our expectation is that we will sell them into the marketplace,” CEO Calin Rovinescu said.

The Embraer regional jets, Air Canada’s smallest aircraft, will be replaced by Airbus A319-100 in the short term, and then by the new Bombardier CS300 aircraft as they enter Air Canada‘s fleet. This is expected to happen in late 2019. The airline has forty-five of the Canadian-built short to medium-haul aircraft on order with the manufacturer.

“We have made decisions to accelerate the removal of the Embraer-190s from our mainline fleet. To do this we will retain the A319-100 aircraft a little bit longer than initially planned at the bridge to the deliveries of the Bombardier CSeries scheduled to commence in late 2019. The Airbus 319 aircraft typically has a lower CASM (Cost per Available Seat Mile) than the Embraer-190,” Air Canada Chief Financial Officer Mike Rousseau said.

Whether the switch from Embraer to Bombardier benefits passengers remains to be seen. All of Air Canada’s Embraer jets had extremely generous seat pitch and width, even in economy class, and a 2-2 configuration. Their comfort may be hard to beat, even by the new CS300, which feature a 3-2 configuration.

On the Air Canada Rouge side, the situation is more significant- both in terms of numbers and in terms of marketing strategy. The low-cost Rouge is expected to convert its entire narrowbody fleet to a high-density, single-class layout. This more clearly distinguishes the brand Rouge as the low-cost carrier from the mainline Air Canada brand.

In this process, Air Canada may choose to assign all of its Boeing B737 MAX to Rouge. Currently, Air Canada has a total of 61 737 MAX aircraft due from Boeing, including 49 B737 MAX 8s and 12 B737 MAX 9s. Four of the 8s have already been delivered. They would be added to the 20 A319-100s and 6 A321s, as well as 24 widebody B767-300ERs Air Canada Rouge operates today.

The carrier believes that its low-cost unit will be well-positioned to compete with WestJet’s low-cost counterpart, Swoop, as well as other players such as Flair Airlines. “Air Canada Rouge could also take over some regional routes from Air Canada Jazz,” Rovinescu further explained.

If this change does happen, Rouge will gain in size and importance in the Air Canada world. Rouge would grow at a much fast rate than the mainline brand and could help Air Canada make inroads into the low-cost carrier scene not just in Canada, but across North America and even beyond. Whether this is good for passengers, however, is another matter.

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Am I wrong in observing that Air Canada seems to spend a lot of time swapping cabins around? The rouge fleet was mainline until 4.5 yrs ago, now this article seems to suggest that the MAX, while currently planned to be delivered with mainline cabins, will shortly be converted to an all-economy rouge cabin? During these MAX deliveries, the A320 starts leaving the fleet, and is replaced at mainline by rouge A319s whose cabins have to then be swapped back? Why would you take brand new MAX interiors in the ML config if you were planning to put those aircraft at rouge? Or, maybe only 30-odd will go to rouge, thereby splitting both the max and airbus fleets at rouge and ML. Wut? Either the article writer doesn’t quite grasp this, or there is a fairly large piece missing, relating to the number of AOC’s currently in use. 

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45 minutes ago, Zan Vetter said:

Either the article writer doesn’t quite grasp this,

I don't think he does.  From what I can see he's neither a journalist nor an industry insider, so I can't see how he'd be privy to AC's fleet plans beyond what AC has made public.  I have heard nothing internally, not even rumour, of plans to convert the Rouge NB fleet to an even higher density, all Y layout.  Perhaps AC will decide that part of the fleet should go that way to compete with Swoop and/or whatever other ULCCs, if any, are operating a few months down the road, but I can't see them withdrawing the Rouge front cabin on every route Rouge serves while Rouge is set to become a larger part of AC's N American network than it now is given the recent agreement with ACPA.

Large numbers of 737s going to Rouge would also make me wonder what would replace the 320s at mainline and when.  Some of them are nearly 30 years old.


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The closest AC has come, to my knowledge, to suggesting an all-economy layout for rouge is Ben Smith saying it COULD be done, pending future developments in the ULCC market in Canada. More of a shot across the bow than anything actually planned much less already in progress. BUT! If one were to imagine this to be a future case, I believe several things would need to happen. To wit,

Eliminate mainline-only/rouge-only city pair distinction. Presently, AC maintains a hard distinction between routes that are rouge, and routes that are mainline. Routes are transferred back and forth depending on conditions. If you wanted, say, 60 MAXs in all-economy config with rouge paint, you would need to run them on lots and lots of routes that are currently mainline-only. If they wanted to deploy an all-economy cabin on that many fins, there would need to be city-pair mixing ie. The 0600 departure to city XYZ is rouge, the 0900 is mainline etc. And probably a fairly large airbus (NEO?) order forthcoming, to replace the old airbii that the MAX was supposed to be replacing but would now be growth in the form of an all-economy ersatz ULCC product. Doesn't seem likely.

Today, the MAXs are delivered in mainline cabins. Presently, rouge has 25 NB fins. Once the desired number of old ML A320s are replaced by the MAX, one begins (conceivably?) replacing rouge NB fins with MAX as well? So now there are type-rated pilots on the NB airbus at mainline and rouge, AS WELL AS type-rated MAX pilots at mainline and at rouge? And still two different flight attendant groups? What a clusterF...All the better to re-integrate the AOCs in advance of this type of idea. So...

Re-integrating the rouge AOC into mainline is obviously a goal of ACPA's, but it comes with certain benefits for CUPE as well. ACPA would be stupid to do all the negotiating on that front. Not only that, but a complicated scenario like the above, if desired by management (ie. the market), all but requires it be done in order to streamline the already significant training workload of both flight ops departments. Is this what's known as a win-win-win? 

From a clean sheet, the MAX at rouge, or at least in rouge paint, makes sense. All the competition flies the 737, it's the cheapo-air standard bearer. But to get THERE from HERE is damn complicated for Air Canada, given the corner it's painted itself into fleet-wise. It could be done, but is much, much more easily done if they dispense with the rouge AOC and run it as a fare class/airline-within-an-airline (shudder). Hey, its more or less working already, and they could eliminate a not insignificant amount of back-office duplication. The 767 pay, the work rules, the FAs contract, the duty rigs...some of it may survive, some will have to be swept away in the TSUNAMI OF SYNERGIES that could be realized. 

But to claim that the MAX is going to rouge in an all-economy layout, imminently, doesn't seem at all possible. 

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56 minutes ago, Zan Vetter said:

Re-integrating the rouge AOC into mainline is obviously a goal of ACPA's, but it comes with certain benefits for CUPE as well. ACPA would be stupid to do all the negotiating on that front.

It would have more benefits for CUPE than for ACPA in my view, but I'm not sure that AC has any desire to go down that road with us.  It would likely reduce the high turnover at Rouge which I suspect is the last thing AC wants.  The incredibly cheap FA labour they have at Rouge probably offsets the cost of back office duplication several times over.  I also don't know when CUPE would see an opportunity to enter negotiations on the subject unless AC's current plans to expand Rouge beyond a fleet size of 50 provide it.  We're under a 10-year contract now and are very limited in what we can bring to the table during reopeners.  

Where I predict a real, as you put it, clusterF, is in the next downturn whenever that is.  If the industry hits the skids again to the point where aircraft are parked and people are laid off, trying to sort out retrenchment between mainline and Rouge while respecting size/capacity limits between mainline and Rouge will be a real mess.

Edited by FA@AC
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