Air Canada had a bit more to celebrate than the average Canadian on July 1st.
Michael Friisdahl, Chief Executive Officer, and Renee Smith-Valade, Vice President of Customer Experience, were on hand at Toronto Pearson International Airport to announce Air Canada rouge’s first ever flight to Kingston, Jamaica and Liberia, Costa Rica. The launch fiesta supposedly included steel drums, non-alcoholic mojitos and flip flop giveaways! By focusing on the details, from buttons to let flight attendants know travelers are flying for the first time or celebrating a birthday to filling out customs declaration cards in advance with flight numbers, rouge is off to a great start.
With a funky website, Air Canada rouge offers affordable and competitive fares on non-stop flights from Toronto and Montreal and seamless connections within the traditional Air Canada flight network. Additionally, rouge offers an upgraded selection of in-flight entertainment through Air Canada rouge player. player will be available to fliers free of charge for the month of July, but starting August 1st, will charge $5. player will give you unlimited access to movies, TV shows and kid's programming for the duration of your flight, while music playlists and destination information is free. Unfortunately for those who do not have an Apply product, it looks like you'll be waiting a little longer for player access.
But rouge isn't stopping their customer experience development with little ol' player. Renee Smith-Valade is charged with leading rouge toward customer experience innovation and she has done just that. New flight attendants on the new low-cost airline were all required to attend a week-long training course at the Disney Institute in Orlando including on-site practice scenarios at the theme park. While flying with rouge, you will even notice that flight attendants all wear nametags with their name and hometown, just like in any Disney theme park. Additionally, marketing for the new low-cost subsidiary included launch parties in Kingston, Jamaica, Edinburgh, and Venice. Nearly 6 months ago, rouge unveiled the new brand experientially in Yonge-Dundas Square in December by giving out 10,000 "boarding passes" offering random discounts of 10% to 99% off base fares.
Air Canada rouge currently flies to Western Europe and the Caribbean from its Toronto hub and twice weekly flights to Athens from Montreal, with more routes expected in the fall. Just last week, rouge announced the additional locations of Mexico, Florida and Las Vegas, bringing the total number of destinations to 23. The initial Rouge fleet consists of four planes, accommodating about 150 passengers on the smaller planes, but Ben Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, Air Canada expects to expand to 50 planes in three to five years.
Many critics have pointed out that "airlines within airlines" tend to cannibalize each other and ultimately lead to the downfall of both segments. My impression is that Air Canada and rouge seem to have identified the particular segment of leisure travelers and thus will not take away from existing dominant route patterns of the larger traditional full-service carrier. What do you think?
Want in? You can book now through Air Canada's main reservation system or rouge is currently hiring flight attendantsâ€¦ Smith-Valade recently noted that they have already received "lots of positive feedback" on flight attendants' uniforms.