Air Canada Rouge Introduction
When Air Canada switched over many of their leisure routes from mainline to Rouge many folks weren’t too thrilled about it, yours truly included. Nothing says premium travel like 35 inch seat pitch. Rouge is the “lower-cost” arm of the airline. They operate their own planes in a more leisure configuration, meaning fewer business class seats, more economy seats, and less legroom. This would also allow them (if I’m not mistaken) to hire new cabin crew at lower pay rates.
Rouge has been operating an increasing number of traditional Air Canada mainline routes, one of which is Vancouver – Los Angeles. What most travellers have been unsatisfied with was the fact that they were pretty much unable to receive compensation for the tighter seats, charge for in-flight entertainment, and similar reductions in benefits associated with a leisure airline.
Air Canada must be really hoping that Rouge will weather out the storm as them seem very committed to Rouge at this point, including cutting mainline service on many important routes and forcing all travellers to either fly Air Canada Rouge or switch to other airlines. Thankfully, Rouge is bookable with airline miles no different than a regular Air Canada flight. I used 25,000 Aeroplan for premium rouge, which would be the same price as a “real” domestic first award.
This was an awful value (in my opinion) as it costs only 7,500 Avios miles transferred from Membership Rewards to redeem on Alaska in economy, which are accessible with the American Express Gold Card as well as the Platinum Card. Unfortunately, at the time I booked there wasn’t any availability at the low level and it didn’t seem worth it to pay 20,000 Alaska miles for mid-tier economy, since Alaska miles are worth quite a bit more than Aeroplan.
Air Canada Premium Rouge Review
Air Canada Rouge AC1878
Vancouver to Los Angeles
07:00 to 10:02 (3 hours 2 minutes)
I boarded promptly at Gate 82, after having visited the Plaza Premium Lounge at Vancouver in their Transborder Pier, which I think is better than the Maple Leaf Lounge.
By the time I got onto the plane, the cabin was pretty full, so I didn’t manage to take as many pictures as I would have liked to. But I’ll try and describe it the best I can. Today, I was on an Airbus A319, with premium rouge, and regular (rouge) economy. Premium rouge is in a 3-3 configuration, with the middle seat blocked off. I was in seat 2F, a window seat. The cabin was nearly full with perhaps one empty seat. See the seatmap from seatguru.com.
Pre-departure drink of orange juice or water was offered. We took off on-time and headed toward LA. At this point I tried desperately to sleep although given it was an economy seat with 35” of legroom, and an empty middle seat, I didn’t end up sleeping much. The pillows were nice, though.
Breakfast was served in the premium rouge cabin and I believe the meal card handed around had either a choice of fruit and oatmeal or an omelet. I choose the former.
There was no in-seat IFE but there was streaming media through iPads available for rent in economy (and free in premium rouge), as well as a phone app for Android or iPhone anyone could download. There was also no power, even in premium rouge. This was moderately annoying as my electronics hadn’t been charged completely.
Before I knew it we were descending into LA.
The best way to describe premium rouge is intra-Europe business class. With intra-Europe business, you get lounge access, extra baggage, and a blocked middle-seat in economy with more legroom, and meal service. That’s exactly what you get here in premium rouge. For my flight everything was okay, given that it was a tolerably short flight. However, for flights like Toronto – Las Vegas and San Diego (and not to mention flights to Honolulu), where the flight time is 4-5+ hours, I can imagine the limited legroom, especially for taller folks, can be unbearable.
The seat pitch in economy is 29”. That’s worst than Allegiant at 30” and almost as bad as Spirit at 28”. Given that economy class especially domestic are pretty much the same and the only difference is seat pitch and airplane, I probably personally would avoid Rouge. There’s no way I’d redeem points for rouge either, except if it’s close-in and/or a paid fare is excessively high. I’d rather redeem on star alliance partners or AC mainline metal, which do have a legitimate domestic first seat, and less bone-crushing legroom in economy.
The easiest way to accumulate 25,000 Aeroplan miles in Canada is the American Express Gold Card, which offers 25,000 Membership Rewards points after $500 in minimum spending within the first six months of holding the card. These points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Aeroplan (and British Airways as well). Currently, this is pretty much one of the better cards to get given the signup bonus of the American Express Aeroplan Gold Card decreased to 26,000 miles.
Air Canada Premium Rouge is tolerable, and even to an extent nice. However, I wouldn’t go out of my way to redeem on it and it wouldn’t be my first choice either when Air Canada is pricing similar to domestic first (and in the case of an award, exactly the same). Only time will tell if travellers continue choosing Rouge, which is pretty much the only airline in North America to operate with such a blocked middle seat business class configuration.
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