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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Air Canada and Air France to launch rouge and Hop! brands

Canadian and French flagcarriers Air Canada (AC) and Air France (AF) revealed two new airline brands which will be launched this year. AC announced rouge, its new business unit which will mainly center around leisure markets. Given that the unit will also have lower costs, it will take over some of the destinations served by AC which mainline operation can not serve efficiently. In Europe, AF hopes to simplify the structure of its regional operation by merging three regional carriers into one entity named "Hop!". Other than the planed name, AF has not provided much details on the matter.

Air Canada opposes Air Transat, Sunwing and WestJet with rouge
rouge is presented as AC's wholly owned leisure unit featuring lower cost base. As previously announced, rouge will initially operate services to the Caribbean and Europe. Launch is now scheduled on 1 July. For now, the carrier will operate only one route from Montreal, to Athens. But from Toronto, the airline will serve Athens, Edinburgh and Venice, along with ten Caribbean destinations in Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. On the majority of these routes and the ones to be announced next, rouge will replace AC's mainline service.

The leisure airline will cooperate closely with AC. Passengers will be able to connect on AC's network and also use AC's lounges, amenities and earn frequent flyer miles. The airline itself will rely on AC's marketing and distribution channels, while lower salaries on flexible terms and higher seat density - compared to mainline AC - will be the main pillars for lower costs. Complimentary meals and non-alcoholic beverages will be served on European destinations, while the same will be available on routes to the Caribbean for a fee.

AC does not have any news on fleet operated by rouge. Earlier, it was communicated that the airline would use narrowbody Airbus A319s and widebody Boeing 767-300ERs previously operated by AC. In the next few years, the operation could grow to as much as 50 aircraft.

Hop! to strengthen regional network of Air France
As AF continues its offensive against competitors - particularly LCCs and high-speed rail - it will implement a set of changes across its entire operation in order to make it more efficient and up-to-date with market conditions. One of these measures is the planed merger of a smaller French operator Airlinair with AF's regional airlines Brit Air and Regional. AF made a decision to name the new airline "Hop!", but details on livery and other branding aspects will be released at the end of January along with new pricing and schedules.

RĂ©gional Embraer ERJ190; F-HBLF@ZRH;24.12.2012/681cg
So far, the three carriers have not revealed any major changes to expect after the merger. Number of employees at the merged airline will be reduced through non-replacement of staff that leave the company. A small number of aircraft will also leave the fleet.

Airlinair is not a direct subsidiary of AF, but Brit Air holds a majority stake in this scheduled and charter flight operator. Its fleet consists of 25 ATR turboprops, split between ATR42-300s, -500s, ATR72-200s and -500s. Brit Air and Regional are both wholly owned by Air France and, like Airlinair, have a fairly unified fleet. Brit Air has 40 Bombardier CRJs of -100, -700 and -1000s variants, while Regional deploys 50 Embraer regional jets split between ERJ135/145s, 170s and 190s. Irish airline CityJet will not be included in AF's regional strategy. Air France - KLM group has still not made a firm decision on CityJet's future.

AF's regional offensive will not only involve regional airlines, but also mainline fleet with some aircraft operating out of smaller French cities to European destinations. This project was launched around a year ago, and AF only recently disclosed its satisfaction with results and willingness to keep the new bases calling them one of key elements of the airline's Transform 2015 restructuring plan.