Air Canada leisure carrier Rouge to fly to 23 holiday destinations by end of 2014

TORONTO - Startup leisure carrier Rouge expects to be flying to 23 holiday destinations by the end of the 2013-2014 holiday season, parent company Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) said Tuesday.

Air Canada says Rouge's fleet will consist of two Airbus A319 aircraft and two Boeing 767-300ER aircraft when it begins operations July 1.

That will grow to 10 aircraft by the end of 2013 with the addition of six Airbus A319 aircraft, followed by the addition of four Airbus A319 aircraft by March 2014.

It says a number of popular holiday destinations currently served by Air Canada's mainline carrier will be converted to Rouge beginning in October as additional aircraft are released by the main airline for operation by its leisure carrier.

Among the destinations Rouge will serve are a number in the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, as well as Las Vegas, and Orlando and Sarasota, Fla.

"We're going to start small and build it up gradually," said president and chief executive Calin Rovinescu.

"We didn't want to start with 10 or 15 aircraft. That creates much too much complexity."

The airline said it also wanted to time the launch of the new leisure service with its peak travel season.

"To launch a venture like this with the most chance of success it really needs to start in the summer," said Rovinescu. "That's our strongest season."

Rouge plans to expand to more locations in Europe next year, but it depends on how many destinations are released by Air Canada, Rovinescu said.

Meanwhile, television screens are being removed from Rouge aircraft and the carrier will instead stream movies, TV shows and music to passengers' mobile devices for a $5 fee.

Customers on rouge Premium flights will be able to access the service for free.

"Our market testing has indicated that many people prefer to ring their own devices and are happy to do that," said Rovinescu.

The airline says it's also considering other forms of ancillary revenue, but did not provide details.