MIAMI — On December 16 of this week, Air Canada is bringing its subsidiary and leisure carrier Rouge on the Montreal to Fort Lauderdale route. During the winter season in Canada, thousands of people escape to Florida to find warm weather and take a break from the cold.
Many airlines offer numerous daily flights between Eastern Canada and the Sunshine State during the peak winter period. One of the most popular route is from Montreal-Trudeau to Fort Lauderdale, currently offering up to ten daily flights. Air Canada’s move to bring Rouge into this market is adding more seat capacity, but on the other hand, passengers will not have the onboard amenities they used to enjoy on flights operated by Air Canada.
We will compare the number of seats from last winter to the expected capacity of this upcoming winter. For this analysis, we will pick the weeks of February 23, 2015, and February 22, 2016, to make the comparison.
Air Canada has barely reduced its number of flights but has added larger aircraft such as the Boeing 767-300ER. This aircraft can carry 280 passengers in a dual class configuration (24 Premium rouge, 35 rouge Plus, and 221 rouge seats). The airline is still operating the Airbus A321, but the difference is that these aircraft are factory new and have 13 more seats than the regular mainline aircraft of the same type. Rouge is also introducing the smaller A319, which can seat 136 customers.
Sunwing Airlines, a leisure carrier as well, has increased its number of seats by around 67% by adding two more weekly flights between the two cities. As seen in the table above, the number of seats for WestJet has dropped by 60 seats per week even though the number of flights and aircraft type remains the same. The reason is that WestJet started to block the middle seats of the first three rows of all of its fleet to offer a superior inflight experience for its passengers who decide to pay an extra fee.
Despite Sunwing’s additional flights to the schedule, Air Canada Rouge is still way ahead and the leader in market share for the number of seats. Industry wide for this route, the available seat miles (ASMs) have rose by 15.5% from the previous year.
It is also important to note that there are also many drawbacks in shifting to Rouge operations. Rouge will be more profitable for the airline because it will be able to reduce its cost per available seat mile (CASM) but passengers are never happy when an airline squeezes seats in an aircraft.
The first thing passengers will notice when entering the main door of either the A319, A321, or B767 is that there are a lot of seats. The seat pitch on the A319 and A321 has been reduced to a cramped 29″ while the B767 has a slightly better seat pitch of 30″ in the economy cabin. In comparison, the same aircraft types that operate in regular mainline for Air Canada have between 31 and 32 inches of seat pitch.
As passengers get settled in their seats, they can also observe that there are no personal televisions on the seatback in front of them. Even the smaller CRJ705 and the E175 operated on behalf of Air Canada Express have inflight entertainment. Like Delta Air Lines, Rouge has set up an application that allows customers to enjoy movies and other entertainment on their own devices that they bring onboard. Rouge also rents iPads for $10 for the duration of the flight. The Air Canada Rouge fleet is also not equipped with inflight internet.
Air Transat and Sunwing Airlines have also a high density seat configuration. Sunwing does offer free snacks and free meals on its flights. WestJet Airlines is the clear winner because it has most of the amenities onboard such as standard seat pitch, IFE, power ports, and free snacks.
An advantage on Air Canada Rouge compared to the other competing airlines on that route is their premium Rouge class, the airline’s First Class. It offers larger seats and improved seat pitch, along with superior inflight services. WestJet has 12 Plus seats on its aircrafts which are located in front of the cabin. As mentioned earlier, these seats are not First Class seats, but they have the middle seats blocked to allow passengers to be more comfortable. Customers choosing a Plus seat will also enjoy better inflight service.
The Montreal to Fort Lauderdale route is a popular one, especially during the winter season. Every year, airlines are adding capacity due to growing demand. Fort Lauderdale is more of a leisure destination than a business destination. The flight has only a 3h15 min duration on average, which is not long compared to flights to Europe. The onboard experience might not matter to leisure customers who have paid a cheap price to fly away from the cold. Now you have a better overview of the four airlines available to fly to Florida.