MIAMI — Air Canada will resume service between Vancouver and Osaka’s Kansai International Airport on low cost arm Rouge, with seasonal nonstop service beginning May 1, 2015. The route will be served five times per week using Rouge’s Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, which seats 264 or 280 passengers in a two-class configuration [ ( 18Y+ / 256Y ) or ( 24Y+ / 256Y ) ]. Flight schedules for the first Rouge long haul service from Vancouver are as follow:
AC 1927 ~~ YVR – KIX ~~ D: 1205 A: 1455+1 ~~ 12357
AC 1928 ~~ KIX – YVR ~~ D: 1625 A: 0955 ~~ 12346
Air Canada served Osaka-Kansai year-round with mainline aircraft for many years from Vancouver, its trans-Pacific hub. However, the route was plagued by low yields and the same economic factors that dragged down the performance of other long haul routes from Osaka, causing Air Canada to terminate service in late-2008 at the depth of the late-2000s global financial crisis.
However, nearly 40% of Vancouver’s population is of Asian descent, so visiting family and relative (VFR) and tourist demand remained robust. After five years of economic recovery in Japan and Canada, Air Canada is banking on that demand (as well as connecting traffic from across North America) to make the new route profitable at Rouge’s lower costs.
Osaka Kansai will become the first Asian destination for the divisive Rouge, which will operate eleven trans-Atlantic routes from Toronto and Montreal in the summer alongside the Osaka service. The low-cost wing will also offer a slew of North American services from Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto, using its fleet of Airbus A319 aircraft.
Air Canada’s Rouge operation has been controversial, with the carrier claiming that its lower costs allow Air Canada to maintain an expansive route network while boosting profitability. Customer response has been more negative, with critics decrying poor service, reduced seat pitch, and the sudden replacement of mainline Air Canada service with Rouge on several routes. While Rouge in theory offers Air Canada the ability to compete more effectively with nimbler Asian rivals and low cost carriers (LCCs) such WestJet and Air Transat, the carrier also faces the the threat of brand dilution, which has hampered Qantas Airways (in conjunction with its low cost arm Jetstar). Thus it is unclear whether Air Canada’s push to grow Rouge will pan out.