Rouge is the new low cost division of Air Canada designed to cater to leisure and infrequent travellers. We flew this entirely new division only 6 days after their inauguration on July 1st, 2013.
Flight: Air Canada Rouge Flight 1906 (YYZ-VCE)
Class: Premium Rouge
Seats: 1A, 1C
Date: July 7, 2013
We were in seats 1A & 1C and would recommend these seats. It was nice to not have anybody reclining in front of you. The tray tables for this row come out of the armrests and I actually didn’t check to see if the non-bulkhead row was any different – the trays were pretty annoying two piece folding deals that didn’t go completely flat but ultimately did most of the job requested.
The seats were quite comfortable for both of us (one is 5’7, 150lbs, one is 5’10, 170lbs). The adjustments are manual and the lumbar functionality didn’t seem to do much. The recline function was actually better than I thought and while I can’t typically sleep in non lay-flats, I managed to sneak a few hours on the way to Venice. One thing I liked about these seats is that many typical airplane seats are very uncomfortable in their most upright position (required for takeoff/landing) and I find these to have more of a natural recline to them which is much more comfortable for me.
The overhead screens played 3-4 movies throughout the time that you could listen to (note: you need an old style 2-prong adapter for headphones! Premium Rouge had free headphones if you needed them, not sure about standard). The streaming app was running but since we had not downloaded the app ahead of time, we could not use the streaming service at all. However, there were 50 iPads (per the service director) available for loan plus anybody with their own device could also use the service if you had downloaded the app before you got onboard. The service director asked all Premium Rouge seats if they wanted an iPad before heading back, not sure how they were allocated in the back but everybody who wanted one up front had one. The app was unreliable at best (same app between the borrowed iPads and your own), it automatically paused when announcements were being made but sometimes reset your movie when the announcement was over – very frustrating. The system also had to be rebooted several times. The overall knowledge of the flight attendants on the system was poor and I overhead several non-technically savvy individuals trying to use their own devices having problems that should have been easily dealt with.
The quality of content when playing was okay and it never lagged behind, but the selection was not great – some of the movie titles were extremely old and despite there being around 25 movie titles total, it was actually quite hard to find an exciting movie to watch. Definitely worse than mainline AC in this respect. The TV show selection was about the same as mainline.
Very similar to AC Domestic ExecutiveFirst except the salad and entree are served on one tray rather than separately and there are only two choices of entree instead of 3-4. Proper plate, metal cutlery, white linen napkin, nice glassware. Not worth writing home about in the least but edible. In my opinion, the dessert is actually better than the ice cream / cookie combo that I am used to getting. The second meal on an 11 hour flight is a warmed over burrito that is pretty awful – on an 11 hour mainline flight you’d have two proper full meals I believe so the point definitely goes to mainline there.
First things first, this is a young and NEW crowd of flight attendants. There is no getting around this. The service is absolutely less consistent and less polished than mainline ExecutiveFirst. I spent some time chatting with the service director on my flight back (who was definitely under 30) and he said that while he and the other girl working Premium had worked for another airline for some years, the rest of the crew were brand new and literally had 3-5 flights under their belt. He and the other experienced girl had to go back and help the newer attendants with basic functions like getting dinner service done in a reasonable time period, etc.
With that said, I am a young guy and found the flight attendants to be extremely personable, helpful to the best of their abilities, and much more pleasant than most (not all) of the mainline staff. Also, some very nice looking young women if that is a factor in your decision…
My experiences with Premium Rouge have been mostly what I expected for a premium product on a brand new low cost carrier. Many of the things that were most annoying were things that I expect will be easily rectified with a more experienced crew and working out a few technical bugs.
The seats despite being a new retrofit already look archaic and the omission of any method of charging your devices is almost unforgivable, although the loaner iPads help (and one charge made it through the long Athens-Toronto Rouge flight with juice to spare). More concerning is on each of the flights we took we noticed problems with the new seats – footrest doesnt stay up on this one, tray fell off on this one, etc. The seats look OLD for being quite new to AC, but I will give them that they are comfortable and for me that trumps most all else.
If my choice was to fly Premium Rouge or Mainline ExecutiveFirst, no question at all, it would be ExecutiveFirst every time.
If my choice was to fly Premium Rouge or Mainline Economy, no question at all, it would be Premium Rouge every time.
The pricing when we booked our open jaw YVR-YYZ-VCE, ATH-YYZ-YVR was about $200 more for Premium Rouge over standard Rouge which gave us Priority check-in, boarding, baggage handling, a latitude fare for the YVR-YYZ and YYZ-YVR legs allowing immediate e-upgrades, and a total of 9,756 status miles for a trip that would normally earn around 12,800 status miles on an all-flex economy ticket. We also had the (to me HUGE) bonus of skipping connecting in Europe at all as Rouge offered direct flights to our two chosen entry & exit cities, which was a very nice feature.
It was not a perfect set of flights, but for how early in the process it was, I was satisfied, and if they continue to improve and were serving my destinations, I wouldn’t hesitate to book Premium Rouge again.