Air Canada Sends 79 Planes Into Early Retirement

In the release of its first-quarter results on May 4th, Air Canada announced that it would be sending 79 planes into early retirement. Boeing 767s, Airbus A319s, and Embraer 190s will exit the fleet. This will see a drawdown of most of the Air Canada Rouge fleet.

Air Canada Rouge
Air Canada will be retiring its Airbus A319s. Photo: Air Canada

Air Canada retires three aircraft types

The Embraer 190s have already exited the fleet and have been retired. Meanwhile, the Boeing 767s and Airbus A319 retirements are being accelerated. Most of the 767s and A319s operate under the Air Canada Rouge banner meaning that the leisure-arm of the Canadian flag carrier will be reduced to flying just narrowbody aircraft.

There were 22 A319s at the end of March in the Rouge fleet. Photo: Air Canada

In moving forth with these retirements, the airline highlights that this will reduce its cost structure and lower its carbon footprint.

In its last fleet update, the Air Canada mainline fleet numbered 193 planes at the end of March with 65 Air Canada Rouge planes. In total, this is equivalent to 258 planes. With these retirements, it will leave the Mainline and Rouge fleet at about 70% of its current numbers.

767 rouge
The 767s primarily flew long-haul leisure routes. Photo: Air Canada

There were five 767-300ERs, 16 A319s, and 14 E190s in the mainline fleet. Another 25 767-300ERs and 22 A319s were in the Rouge fleet. However, three of the A319s in the mainline Air Canada Fleet operate as Air Canada Jetz– charter aircraft in an all-business configuration with 58 seats. Those aircraft will likely remain in the fleet for the time being.

Air Canada has a sub-fleet of A319s that fly private charters. Photo: Air Canada

Air Canada has been drawing down older aircraft. About one month ago, the airline retired its maiden Airbus A320 aircraft after flying for 30 years with the airline. These aircraft are all in the mid-to-late 20s in terms of age. For a plane– especially a narrowbody workhorse– this is a long time to remain in operation.

The Air Canada Jetz planes are in an all-business class configuration. Photo: Air Canada

What does this mean for Air Canada Rouge?

Effectively, Air Canada Rouge will be reduced to 18 aircraft– all A321s and A320s. However, Air Canada will not be left entirely without a low-cost arm. The airline is working to take over Air Transat, which is another leisure carrier. Air Transat flies Airbus A330 aircraft and has 14 A321LR planes on order. Combined, these two aircraft types can help make up for low capacity from the Boeing 767-300ERs. It would, however, leave limited room for expansion. Most of the current Air Canada Rouge routes will see Air Transat service.

Air Canada aircraft
Air Canada will likely combine the Rouge and Transat fleet. Photo: Getty Images

With leisure travel likely rebounding slower than business, it makes sense that Air Canada foresees a smaller footprint for leisure carriers. This could, however, raise some concerns about competition and air travel accessibility in Canada. But, given the downturn in aviation, regulatory agencies may be willing to let the takeover continue to help stabilize the market.

Transat A321LR
Air Transat has airbus A321LR aircraft on order. Photo: Airbus

Other fleet developments

Air Canada has A220 aircraft on order. These planes will help Air Canada maintain a robust, efficient fleet. The aircraft is slightly larger than the E190s and A319s; however, it is more flexible and fuel-efficient, giving Air Canada some much-needed cost savings. Out of 45 on order, the airline has received four already and expects an additional 14 this year. One more Airbus A330 will join the fleet in 2020 as well.

Air Canada MAX
Air Canada altered its MAX orders earlier this year. Photo: Getty Images

Back in March, Air Canada also altered its 737 MAX order. The carrier cut 11 MAX 9 aircraft from its order book. The airline stated that its ongoing fleet plans had shifted away from the MAX 9. However, Air Canada will continue to take MAX 8 aircraft once the global grounding is lifted.


Air Canada is retiring 79 aircraft early. In doing so, it will likely draw down the Rouge brand ahead of its takeover of Air Transat. Whether there will be any permanent cuts to the airline’s route map remains to be seen.

What do you think about Air Canada retiring 79 aircraft early? Will you miss any of these planes? Let us know in the comments!