Air Canada | History and definition of the Air Canada | Air Canada Image

Air Canada (TSX: AC.A, AC.B) is the flag carrier and largest airline of Canada. The airline, founded in 1936, provides scheduled and charter air transport for passengers and cargo to 178 destinations worldwide. It is the world's ninth largest passenger airline by number of destinations, and the airline is a founding member of Star Alliance, an alliance of 26 member airlines formed in 1997. Air Canada's corporate headquarters are located in Montreal, Quebec, while its largest hub is Toronto Pearson International Airport, located in Mississauga, Ontario. Air Canada had passenger revenues of CA$9.7 billion in 2008.

Canada's national airline originated from the Canadian federal government's 1936 creation of Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA), which began operating its first transcontinental flight routes in 1938. In 1965, TCA was renamed Air Canada following government approval. Following the 1980s deregulation of the Canadian airline market, the airline was privatized in 1988. In 2001, Air Canada acquired its largest rival, Canadian Airlines. In 2003, the airline filed for bankruptcy protection and, the following year, emerged and reorganized under the holding company ACE Aviation Holdings Inc. In 2006, 34 million people flew with Air Canada as the airline celebrated its 70th anniversary.

Air Canada operates a fleet of Airbus A330, Boeing 767, and Boeing 777 wide-body jetliners on long-haul routes, and uses Airbus A320 family aircraft, including the A319, A320, and A321 variations and Embraer E170/E190 family aircraft on short-haul routes. The carrier's operating divisions include Air Canada Cargo and Air Canada Jetz. Its subsidiary, Air Canada Vacations, provides vacation packages to over 90 destinations. Together with its regional partners, the airline operates on average more than 1,370 scheduled flights daily.

Air Canada's predecessor, Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA), was created by legislation of the federal government as a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway (CNR) on 11 April 1936. The newly created Department of Transport under Minister C. D. Howe desired an airline, under government control, to link cities on the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. Using $5 million in government seed money, two Lockheed Model 10 Electras and one Boeing Stearman biplane were purchased from Canadian Airways. Experienced airline executives from United Airlines and American Airlines were brought in.

Passenger operations began on 1 September 1937, with an Electra carrying two passengers and mail from Vancouver to Seattle, a $14.20 round trip. On 1 July 1938, TCA hired its first flight attendants. Transcontinental routes from Montreal to Vancouver began on 1 April 1939, using 12 Lockheed Model 14 Super Electras and six Lockheed Model 18 Lodestars. By January 1940 the airline had grown to about 500 employees.

In 1942, Canadian Pacific Airlines suggested merging with TCA. Prime Minister Mackenzie King rejected the proposal and introduced legislation regulating TCA as the only airline in Canada allowed to provide transcontinental flights. With the increase in air travel after World War II, CP Air was granted one coast-to-coast flight, and a few international routes.

Originally headquartered in Winnipeg, which was also the site of the national maintenance base, the federal government moved the headquarters to Montreal in 1949; the maintenance base later also moved east. With the development of the ReserVec in 1953, TCA became the first airline in the world to use a computer reservation system with remote terminals.

By 1964, TCA had grown to become Canada's national airline, and in 1964 Jean Chrétien submitted a private member's bill to change the name of the airline from Trans-Canada Airlines to Air Canada. This bill failed, but it was later resubmitted and passed, with the name change taking effect on 1 January 1965.

On 31 October 2004, the last Air Canada Boeing 747 flight landed in Toronto from Frankfurt as AC873, ending 33 years of 747 service with the airline. The Boeing 747-400 fleet was replaced by the Airbus A340 fleet. On 19 October 2005, Air Canada unveiled a new aircraft colour scheme and uniforms. A Boeing 767-300ER was painted in the new silver-blue colour, and the green tail was replaced with a new version of the maple leaf known as the 'Frosted Leaf.'

On 9 November 2005, Air Canada entered into an agreement to renew its widebody fleet with Boeing by purchasing 18 Boeing 777s (10 -300ERs, 6 -200LRs, 2 777 Freighters), and 14 Boeing 787-8s. It also placed options to purchase an additional 18 Boeing 777s and 46 Boeing 787-8s and -9s. All of the 777s will be powered by the GE90-115B engine, and the 787-8s, by the GEnx engine. Deliveries of the 777s began in March 2007 and deliveries of the 787s are to begin in the second half of 2013. As the 777s are delivered, and as the 787s are delivered, it will gradually retire all Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s.

On 24 April 2007, Air Canada announced that it has exercised half of its options for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The firm order for the Dreamliners is now at 37 plus 13 options, for a total of 50. This makes Air Canada the largest customer of the Dreamliner in North America and the third largest in the world (behind Qantas and All Nippon Airways). It also announced that it has cancelled orders for two Boeing 777Fs. In November 2007, Air Canada announced that it will lease an additional Boeing 777-300ER from ILFC. Air Canada has now taken delivery of the 18 Boeing 777s on order (12 -300ERs, 6 -200LRs) and still holds options for 16 more, totaling 34.

Air Canada has also taken delivery of 15 Embraer 175s and 45 Embraer 190s. It holds options on an additional 60 Embraer 190s. These aircraft are being used to expand its intra-Canada and Canada/USA routes. Additionally, some of the Embraer 190s will replace older A319/A320s.

Started in July 2006, and now completed, Project XM: Extreme Makeover, is a $300-million aircraft interior replacement project to install new cabins on all aircraft. New aircraft such as the Boeing 777 are being delivered with the new cabins factory installed.

New cabin features include:
  1. In Executive First, new horizontal fully flat Executive First Suites (on B767s, B777s and A330s).
  2. New cabins in all classes on all aircraft, with new entertainment options.
  3. Personal AVOD (8.9 in/230 mm touch-screen LCD) in Economy class (domestic and international) and Executive Class (domestic).
  4. Larger AVOD (12 in/300 mm touch-screen LCD) equipped with noise-cancelling Sennheiser headphones available in Executive First Suites.
  5. Interactive games at all seats in Executive and Economy; XM Radio Canada available at every seat.
  6. USB ports to recharge electronic devices and for game controllers; 120 Volt AC plugs in most seats, in both classes.
Since the late 2000s, Air Canada has been facing a number of financial difficulties, including the global recession, leading to speculation that it could file for bankruptcy, just several years after it exited bankruptcy on 30 September 2004.

President and CEO Montie Brewer was replaced by Calin Rovinescu effective 1 April 2009. Rovinescu became the first Canadian President since Claude Taylor in 1992. Rovinescu was Air Canada's chief restructuring officer during its 2003 bankruptcy, and he resigned that year after unions rejected his demands, and is reported to be "an enforcer".

Federal finance minister Jim Flaherty appointed retired judge James Farley, who had presided over Air Canada's 2003 bankruptcy, to mediate pension issues between the company and its unions and retirees. The contracts with four of its unions also expired around this time. The airline stated that its $2.85-billion pension shortfall (which grew from $1.2-billion in 2007) was a "liquidity risk" in its first-quarter report, and it required new financing and pension "relief" to conserve cash for 2010 operations. The company was obligated to pay $650-million into the pension fund but it suffered a 2009 Q1 loss of $400-million, so it requested a moratorium on its pension payments in 2009. The unions had insisted on financial guarantees before agreeing on a deal.

Air Canada Centre (French: Centre Air Canada) also known as La Rondelle ("The Puck" in French), is a 7 storey building that serves as the corporate headquarters of Air Canada, located on the grounds of Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and in Saint-Laurent, Montreal, near Dorval.

In 1994 David Israelson of the Toronto Star described the facility as "ultra modern." In 1990 the airline announced that it was moving its headquarters from Downtown Montreal to the airport to cut costs. In 2004 the company said that it has no plans to move its headquarters back to Downtown Montreal.

Air Canada Cargo is the company's freight carrying division, offering more than 150 shipping destinations through the Air Canada airline network and airline partners. Its route network has focused on European destinations through its Eastern Canada departure points, along with direct services from Vancouver and Calgary to Frankfurt, Paris, and Zurich.

In Toronto, a new cargo terminal was completed in early 2002 which features modernised inventory and conveyor systems.

Formerly Air Canada Technical Services/ACTS (Aero Technical Support & Services Inc.), Aveos Fleet Performance Inc. is a full-service Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) organisation that provides airframe, engine and component maintenance and various ancillary services to more than 100 customers. Major bases are in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

As of December 2009, ACE Aviation Holdings Inc. owns 27 percent of Air Canada and holds a 27.8 percent stake in Aveos, after selling its remaining stake in 2007 to private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co. and Sageview Capital for $723 million. On 23 September 2008, ACTS, formerly Air Canada Technical Services/ACTS, changed its name to Aveos Fleet Performance Inc. to reflect its new ownership structure. In February 2011 the CIRB ruled that Aveos and Air Canada are separate companies and gave ultimatums to the seconded Air Canada employees working at Aveos. Air Canada remains its only customer for Aircraft overhaul as jet Blue and America West have been sent to El Salvador to be repaired by Aeroman.

Air Canada Vacations, a subsidiary of Air Canada, is a Canadian tour operator offering a full collection of leisure travel packages including cruises, tours, car rentals and excursions. All packages include accommodation, Aeroplan® Miles and roundtrip airfare aboard Air Canada and its Star Alliance™ partners. Repeat recipient of the Consumer’s Choice Award for Best Travel Wholesaler and named Favourite Tour Operator by Baxter Travel Media in 2010, Air Canada Vacations services hundreds of destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, North, Central and South America, Asia, South Pacific and Europe.

Air Canada Vacations benefits from unique access to Air Canada’s extensive network, offering connecting flights from 65 Canadian cities, on-demand seat-back entertainment from gate to gate on most flights, web and mobile check-in and Aeroplan® Miles.

Air Canada Vacations was the first Canadian tour operator in 2011 to launch a mobile application for BlackBerry and Apple devices.

Air Canada Vacations partners with the world’s most recognized hoteliers and cruise lines worldwide, including Sandals and Beaches Resorts, Barceló Hotels and Resorts, Couples Resorts, Occidental Hotels & Resorts, Palace Resorts, Sol Meliá, SuperClubs, Iberostar Hotels and Resorts, Walt Disney World Resorts, Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Costa Cruises.

Air Canada Vacations' customers benefit from guest services made exclusively available to Air Canada Vacations under the Privileges added-value program. In conjunction with Aeroplan®, Air Canada Vacations offers Aeroplan® Miles on all air-inclusive packages and offers bonus Aeroplan® miles on select packages year-round. Aeroplan® Miles may also be redeemed toward the purchase of Air Canada Vacations’ packages.

Air Canada Vacations is headquartered in Montreal and has an office in Toronto.

As part of their customer care network, a wide network of destination representatives are available throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Europe, Asia, South Pacific and South America.

Air Canada Vacations offers Executive Class® service on select flights, non-stop flights from major Canadian cities and daily flights to many destinations.

Air Canada flies to 15 domestic destinations and 81 international destinations in 33 countries (including British overseas territories, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Overseas departments and territories of France and United States territories) across Asia, Americas, Europe and Oceania. Along with its regional partners, the carrier serves 171 destinations in 39 countries worldwide.

Air Canada has flown a number of fifth freedom routes (passenger and cargo rights between two non-Canadian destinations), only one of which is still operated, namely Santiago-Buenos Aires. Past fifth freedom routes have included: Honolulu-Sydney, London Heathrow-Düsseldorf, Paris-Geneva, Paris-Munich, Paris-Berlin, Frankfurt-Zürich, Zürich-Zagreb, Zürich-Vienna, Zürich-Delhi, Lisbon-Madrid, Brussels-Prague, London Heathrow-Delhi, London Heathrow-Nice, London Heathrow-Bombay-Singapore.

In 1963, Air Canada claimed to be the first major air carrier to have adopted turbine technology on its entire fleet for lower maintenance costs and higher productivity. It also claimed to be the first world airline to introduce jet freighter service using DC-8 equipment.

Air Canada was also one of the first airlines to have its entire fleet of unpressurised aircraft equipped with fixed oxygen systems for use by flight crew and passengers, using the rebreathing bag principle.
  1. Air Canada's Airbus A340-500s (C-GKOL, fin 951 and C-GKOM, fin 952) were retired in August 2007 and replaced by Boeing 777-200LRs. They were then leased to TAM Airlines.
  2. Air Canada's Airbus A340-300s were retired in November 2008 and replaced by Boeing 777-300ERs.They were leased to 6 different airlines, including Swiss International Airlines, Gestair, Air Jamaica, Lan Airlines, AirAsia X, and BWIA Int
  3. Air Canada's Boeing 767-200ER fleet was retired from service by the end of 2008.
  4. The Boeing 767 involved in the Gimli incident (known as the "Gimli Glider") remained in service with Air Canada until it retired in 2008. The aircraft (C-GAUN) now sits at the Mojave Spaceport in California.
  5. The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft operated from 1971-2001 were owned by Canadian Airlines.
Air Canada has two classes of service, both business and economy, on most aircraft. On long-haul international routes, Executive First and Economy Class is offered; short-haul and domestic routes feature Executive Class and Economy Class. Air Canada Express features Executive Class and Economy Class, on CRJ705 aircraft; all other Air Canada Express aircraft have one-class economy cabins.

Executive First is Air Canada’s international business class product, updated during the carrier's Project XM upgrade. These cabins are available on all widebody aircraft with the exception of three B767-300ER aircraft (which feature a North American Executive Class cabin).

Executive First Suites feature electronic flat beds, in a 1–1–1 (B767-300ER and A330-300s) or 1–2–1 (B777-300ER and B777-200LR) herringbone configuration with a 21-inch (0.533 m) seat width and a 6-foot-3-inch (1.91 m) seat pitch. The configuration is similar in layout to Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class Suite and Air New Zealand's Business Premier Class product. Entertainment is personal AVOD (Audio Video On Demand), while music is provided by XM Satellite Radio. Self-service bar areas and mood lighting are available on all B777-300ER and B777-200LR aircraft.

The prior Executive First cabin featured electronic recliner seats reclining to 151°, with a width of 21 inches (0.53 m) and a pitch of 57 to 60 inches (1.4 to 1.5 m). Seat configuration was 1–2–2 or 2–2–1 seating on the 767-300ER aircraft, depending on tail fin. The Airbus widebodies featured a 2–2–2 seating configuration. Entertainment provided was personal DVD player or in-seat AVOD depending on aircraft type.

In international Economy Class, seats are pitched 31 inches (0.79 m) to 34 inches (0.86 m) with a width of 17.2 inches (0.44 m) to 18.5 inches (0.47 m) and a recline to around 6 inches (0.15 m). On all Project XM fitted aircraft, entertainment is personal AVOD (audio-video on demand). Configuration is 3–3–3 on the B777, 2–4–2 on the A330, and 2–3–2 on the B767. On Economy Class (original) aircraft, main screen entertainment is offered. Music on both types is provided by XM Satellite Radio.

Within North America, Executive Class is Air Canada’s premium product. On Embraer 175/190 aircraft and CRJ705 aircraft (Air Canada Express), seat configuration is 1–2 abreast, with recline around 120°, and a width of 20 inches (0.51 m). On Airbus narrow-body aircraft, seat configuration is 2–2 abreast, with 124° recline, and 21 inches (0.53 m) width. Seat pitch is 37 inches (0.94 m) on Canadair-705 aircraft and 39 inches (0.99 m) on Embraer and Airbus aircraft. All seats feature AVOD and the new style cabin interiors. Music is provided by XM Satellite Radio.

Economy seating for domestic, North American, sun destination and caribbean flights is 3–3 abreast on Airbus aircraft and 2–2 on Embraer aircraft, with a pitch between 30 inches (0.76 m) and 32 inches (0.81 m) on Airbus aircraft. For these flights food and alcoholic beverages can be purchased through Onboard Café while non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary. GuestLogix point of sale terminals are used.

Air Canada Express flights operated by CRJ100/200, Dash 8-100/300/400 aircraft offer a bar and refreshment service on board. The CRJ705 features Executive Class and personal AVOD at every seat. Flights on board the CRJ100/200/705 and Q400 which are two hours or more feature Onboard Café.

Air Canada has made a change in uniform by changing the dark green for a midnight blue colour. The uniforms were designed by Canadian fashion designer Debbie Shuchat. At a presentation in the Toronto Pearson International Airport hangar, Celine Dion helped the newly-solvent airline debut its new image.

Maple Leaf Lounges are available to passengers holding a same day ticket on Air Canada in Executive Class, Star Alliance Gold Members, Air Canada Super Elite, Air Canada Elite, Air Canada Maple Leaf Club members, American Express Maple Leaf Club members, CIBC Maple Leaf Club card holders, American Express AeroplanPlus Platinum holders, holders of a one time guest pass or economy passengers who have purchased lounge access during booking.

The Air Canada London Heathrow Arrivals Lounge is available to eligible members arriving into London from any Air Canada international flight, holding a confirmed same-day overseas travel boarding card. Eligible groups include Executive Class Passengers, Air Canada Super Elite, Air Canada Elite, Air Canada Maple Leaf Club Members, American Express Maple Leaf Club, CIBC Maple Leaf Club or those holding a one-time guest pass.