Review: Air Canada Rouge A319, San Francisco – Vancouver


Air Canada Rouge is the low cost carrier version of Air Canada. It currently services it’s leisure United States, Caribbean and European markets to and from Canada. It is supposed to offer a cheaper alternative to cater to its leisure markets. However, it seems to have turned into a way to lower labor costs, while keeping prices very similar to their mainline offerings. It would be our first (and last) experience flying Air Canada Rouge.

This post is one chapter in our trip to Australia on Air Canada & Qantas Business Class and United Airlines. This trip was booked using British Airways Executive Club Avios and Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) points. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Air Canada Rouge A319, San Franciso – Vancouver.

I don’t normally fly Air Canada Rouge. Air Canada Rouge is the airlines attempt at a Low Cost Carrier to serve it’s leisure markets to and from Canada. Truth be told, I have avoided Air Canada Rouge at all costs. However, those efforts weren’t based on any direct experience. Rather, it was based on other ratings, word of mouth reports from colleagues and complaints of how cramped the cabin was. 

We departed the American Express Centurion Lounge San Fransisco and headed towards the International concourse. We stopped by for some duty free, on our way.

Views of United Airlines B747-4 at SFO
San Francisco International Terminal

Our aircraft was on site and was parked at the Gate 91B as we arrived.

Gate 91
Gate 91 – Hold Area
Air Canada Rouge Livery

As we boarded, we had made it past the podium and while we were getting the duty free pickup from the clerk, one of the gate agents chased after us to gate check our rollies. I gave up my bag and boarded onto my first flight on Air Canada Rouge.

Air Canada
Operated by Air Canada Rouge
Economy Class
SFO-YVR (San Francisco International Airport – Vancouver International Airport)
AC 1847 – Economy Class 
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
December, 2014
Booked: NIL 
Scheduled: Airbus 319
Flown: Airbus 319

On Board Air Canada Rouge:

We got on board and settled into new refitted cabin from Air Canada’s previous mainline Airbus 319. The plane was adorned with new, sharp looking, slimline seats and fresh looking, youthful and enthusiastic Rouge flight attendants. Air Canada Rouge use separate staff from Air Canada mainline. Seats, presumably in order to cut down on weight, do not have any video or entertainment screens. Passengers are encouraged to bring their devices, having downloaded the AC App, and stream videos from on board wifi. Select iPads were also available for in flight rental. 

Compact Air Canada Rouge Economy Seats
Air Canada Rouge Economy Class Seating
Compact Spaces

Unfortunately, that is where the comfort ended. I’m six feet two inch tall. Within 10 minutes of sitting in the seat, with the plane still parked at the gate, I subconsciously started to sit with my legs sideways on an angle. I didn’t realize it at first, but after recognizing that there was actually no physical space for my legs, I had to make adjustments. I don’t normally do leg room shots, but seated square, my knees were bumping the seat in front all the time. 

Air Canada Rouge: Very tight legroom

I  tried to work around this. I discovered that sitting with my legs straight out and slightly bent downward, meant that my feet passed under the seat and over the top of the lower cargo separation bar that’s used to prevent under seat stowage, regularly tickling the poor passengers feet in the seat in front of me. I was physically unable to sit with my feet flat on the floor as my knees would be firmly pressed against the seat in front. I crinkled my legs on an angle and partly into the aisle for the rest of the flight. I might add that this was made worse by my height, being 6 feet 2 inches and likely taller than the average customer. 

The service was pleasant and enthusiastic throughout. Likely as a result of a much younger 25 something staff that hasn’t been de-habilitated with years of contract negotiations or wage freezes or cuts. Okay,– that might be my cynical self talking after years of travel. Either way, they were very pleasant to deal with. 

A Fully Stuffed Cabin
Getting Settled In

Entertainment in Flight:

Since there is no hard wired in flight entertainment, Air Canada encourages you to download their Air Canada App from the App Store to stream entertainment through their portal. I must be one of the few without an iPad, but I had previously installed the App on my iPhone. The product was functional, but not engaging enough for me to watch an entire movie on a tiny phone screen.

I got into a little Bill Murray greatness in Lost in Translation

Food on Board: Buy on Board Only

A buy on board was offered. Being a flight under two hours, there were no substantial meals on offer (nuts, chips and other light snacks only). One beverage service was offered. I passed on the food, opting for sleep instead.

It was a rough flight home with lots of bumps that felt like yaw. I was promptly sick when I got home to the house, despite having taken some Gravol on landing in Vancouver. This was probably due to a long day from the three 3 flights of shaking, all the way from Adelaide.

We landed in Vancouver amid a heavy rain fall weather warning. The Adelaide – Vancouver door to door journey across three airlines in two alliances was over after 32 hours, 8,946 miles and three flights. Wow – it hurts just thinking about it. 

My thoughts on Air Canada Rouge:

Air Canada Rouge is aptly placed as a low cost carrier. While it offered a nice clean and new aircraft, it didn’t offer a whole lot for seasoned business travellers or hard core road warriors. The seating was exceptionally compact, and only a basic buy on board was offered. The in flight entertainment is self catering and, a a result, not all that exciting.

My Final Thoughts on Hitching a Ride to Australia:

It had been about 10 years since I had flown as a non rev with my sister. It was an interesting experience to do it again much older in life. When you’re in your early thirties, you’ll still saving for those big ticket expenses like a car, apartment or a house. An almost free economy seat when you’re starting to travel is still something that is cool. Now that I’m in my forties, having been fortunate enough to experience over 80 flights in business and first class cabins, the allure of cheap travel isn’t there as much as it used to be. 

My conclusion is that flying as a non revenue is a great way to travel on the pocket book but it’s only for those that have lots of time. I personally found the non confirmed nature of the travel to be maddening. I prefer to examine and plan parts of the travel in advance, so that you can spend your time relaxing or getting the most out of your holiday when you get there. In this case, there was much more contingency planning than I was used to. At least in a snow storm, the airline will do it’s best to take care of you- even if it’s a computer taking automated action to re-book you on the next flight. Doing it all yourself means that you’re completely on your own. It involves making calls, checking loads and making reservations. You may or may not be up for this challenge.

In terms of Qantas, I was impressed with the overall experience. The lounges were pleasant, the employees friendly and food nice to eat. I’d be happy flying them domestically around Australia. Hey- I’d even hang out in their Qantas lounges for a few hours if I had nothing better to do. Sadly, I don’t think that this level of service is going to last. North America has cut back on their food and beverage services, Europe offers picnic bench seating in business and Asia’s footprint of Low Cost Carriers is expanding every year. If it’s on your list of things to do, I’d experience it while you can. The BA Avios experience was easy to achieve and a snap to book. Lastly, a big thanks for all the readers for following along.

If you’ve flown Air Canada Rouge, would you be keen to fly it again on your next trip?

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