Air Canada Rouge Will Operate Transatlantic A321 Services Once 767 Retires

As the Air Canada Group makes its first moves to recover from a disastrous 2020, its CEO and President, Calin Rovinescu, talked about his plans for the airline group this week. He covered a broad range of topics. Key amongst them was the retirement of the Boeing 767-300 and what that means for low-cost carrier Air Canada Rouge.

The 767-300s days are numbered within the Air Canada Group. Photo: Air Canada Rouge

The Air Canada Group winds down its use of the Boeing 767

Air Canada Rouge was launched in 2013 using four aircraft. Two of those aircraft were 767-300s, and they were used to fly as far afield as Edinburgh, Venice, and Athens. At its peak, Air Canada Rouge was operating 25 Boeing 767-300 planes.

The mothership, Air Canada, was also a big Boeing 767 operator. In recent years, Air Canada has reduced the number of 767s they operated, whittling the fleet down to single figures.

In May, having stored many of their aircraft, Air Canada said it would move to reduce their overall fleet by one third. It included aircraft at subsidiary airlines like Rouge. In Air Canada’s sights were older, less economical planes such as the Boeing 767s.

Things have moved swiftly since. Air Canada operated its final revenue 767 flight last week on the short hop between Montreal and Toronto.

The Boeing 767 is down, but not yet out at Air Canada Rouge

While Rouge’s 767s are currently idle, it is too early to say Rouge will never fly a 767 again.

“We still have 767s that are ready to go and operate the Rouge configuration if needed. We’ll make that decision when the time is right,” said Mr Rovinescu.

“For the interim period, the 767s will still be there.”

But the airline boss does acknowledge the Boeing 767s days are numbered across the Air Canada group of airlines.

“Instead of having small sub fleets, the 767s, the Embraer 190s, we decided to exit these fleets entirely. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen all at one time, but that decision has been made.”

The Boeing 767 is down but not yet out at Air Canada Rouge. Photo: Air Canada Rouge

Rouge will be a narrowbody airline aiming to cross the Atlantic

Part of Mr Rovinescu’s medium-term plan is to convert Air Canada Rouge into a narrowbody operator. Excluding the 767s, Air Canada Rouge has a fleet of A319s, A320s, and A321s. The A319s are going. That will leave Rouge with A320 and A321 aircraft.

“Rouge will become primarily a narrowbody operator with the Airbus narrowbodies we have.

“From that, we will be able to serve lots of our leisure destinations that we have been building into the Rouge profile – the Caribbean, the US, the sun destinations, and even transatlantic routes.”

Air Canada Rouge is jumping aboard the narrowbody transatlantic trend. Photo: Air Canada Rouge

That would see Air Canada Rouge climb aboard the narrowbody trend when it comes to Atlantic crossings. What was almost unthinkable a decade ago is fast becoming a reality. Airlines like the nimbleness, reach, and efficiencies of the smaller Airbus aircraft.

While Mr Rovinescu didn’t talk about destinations, the idea of the A321s in Rouge livery jetting across the Atlantic raises a whole host of interesting possibilities. It’ll be good for passengers and help the wider Air Canada group get back on track.