Air Canada is the single largest airline of Canada and outnumbers all other competitors by the size of its fleet and the number of passengers carried. The airline was founded on 10th April 1937 as the Trans-Canadian Airlines and was re-labeled as Air Canada on 1st January 1965, after 28 years of existence.
Air Canada Express is the airline’s regional service operative. Its headquarters are in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and its largest port is at the Toronto Pearson International Airport.
The impressive fleet of airplanes possessed by Air Canada has some notable models, like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A330, Boeing 777, Boeing 737 Max 8, and various Airbus A220-300 models. Its multiple subsidiaries include cargo carriers like Air Canada Cargo and Air Canada Express, the private charter jet line, “Air Canada Jetz,” the leisure airline, “Air Canada Rouge.” Also, the vacation airline, “Air Canada Vacations,” which provides vacation flight packages to over ninety destinations across the globe.
With that introduction to the brand out of the way, let us dive right into the must-know facts about the Canadian Airline that has offered services for more than eighty years now.
1. The First Airline to Ban Smoking on Flights
30th December 1989 was dubbed the last day to smoke on a domestic flight by CBC, and rightfully so, as shown by the events that followed. Air Canada became the first scheduled airline to offer smoke-free flights to all passengers who booked domestic flights. The ban was an extension of the Non-Smoker’s Health Act in Canada.
As mentioned above, only domestic flights were made smoke-free. The reason why this did not apply to international flights was quite simple. The people traveling from foreign countries in Europe and Asia would simply switch airlines if they had to spend time flying in the air without lighting a cigar. The losses incurred would be upwards of $40 million per year. Hence, due to the added pressure of heavy losses, the Canadian government restricted the ban to flights within Canada.
This ban was later raised to international flights of six hours or less. And then, in 1994, Canada became the first country to ask for all its flights, domestic and foreign, to be made smoking-free. In an attempt to save the passengers while in case of emergencies, Air Canada introduced the rebreathing bag principle and also provided oxygen masks for use by the crew and the passengers.
2. Air Canada Had the First Computer Reservation System
ReserVec was the world’s first recognized computerized reservation system. It was developed and manufactured by Ferranti Canada in 1963. Despite the long-held American belief that Canada is ten years behind the world, ReserVec was two years ahead of SABRE. This computerized reservation system cost American Airlines five times as much as ReserVec cost Canada.
3. De-icing of Windshields
Air Canada has undoubtedly had its share of firsts in history. To add another important one to the list, we have the backdrop as early as 1938. Then known as Trans-Canada Airlines, they were the first company to have alcohol dispensing nozzles to get rid of the ice that accumulated on the windshields at very high altitudes. This was added before the onboard radar was invented, and at the time, was crucial for the safety of their aircraft.
The alcohol nozzles were abandoned in favor of the overall efficiency of the electric de-icing of the windshields, back in 1961. This was first seen in the Vickers Vanguard aircraft.
4. Merging With Canadian Airlines
At the turn of the century, on 4th January 2000, Air Canada announced the ambitious acquisition of its biggest rivals in Canada, Canadian Airlines. The addition did not have an extremely bright future, as the subsequent years showed.
5. The Bankruptcy Days
In 2003, Air Canada was forced to file for bankruptcy protection, only three years after its ambitious merge move. In a somewhat surprising revelation in the coming years, they re-emerged under ACE Aviation Holdings Inc.
They also introduced their subsidiaries Air Canada Jazz, Air Canada Express, and Star Alliance in an attempt to revive the business.
6. Air Canada Offered the First Flight to the Queen Mother
In 1962, the Queen Mother of Britain chose to fly the Trans-Canadian Airlines over Britain’s own British Overseas Airways Corp. (BOAC). In what was her first commercial flight, from London to Montreal, she sat in first class as one would expect. However, she also expressed an ardent desire to look at what the economy class looked like, and did manage to check it out. She even shook the finger of one lucky baby in the economy class of the flight.
7. Air Canada DC-8 was Hijacked
This happened on 12th November 1971. The flight was headed to Toronto from Calgary and was hijacked by Paul Cini. He took flight attendant Mary Dohey hostage and instructed the captain of the plane to fly to Ireland. When the plane landed at Great Falls, Mont. to make a navigator on board, Cini surprisingly allowed the passengers to leave, including Dohey. Still, she refused to do so because she was formerly a psychiatric nurse.
A long story short, Cini mistook a life jacket for a parachute and put his gun down. The captain kicked the gun away, and the rest of the crew used an ax to save their lives. Mary Dohey’s bravery was rewarded with the Cross of Valour and the captain of the flight, Vern Ehman was awarded the Medal of Bravery.
8. Airbus A320
The Canadian airline was the first ever to operate an Airbus A320. Still, the scandal that took place with the Airbus company afterward almost ended the tenure of the Canadian Prime Minister at the time, Brian Mulroney. Funnily enough, the Airbus A320 had been chosen for its ‘technical superiority.’
9. The DC-8 Jet Engine and the All Turbine Fleet
This was the first time that anybody validated the claims of the by-pass engine, more commonly known as the jet engine. The by-pass engine was claimed to provide increased efficiency and performance. It was also the first airline to practically use the jet engine on one of its commercial flights—namely, the DC-8, which flew from Montreal to Vancouver.
The last of the propeller-driven DC’3 was retired in 1963, and this made Canada’s national airline the first-ever airline company to have a fleet that consisted of planes having turbine-powered engines exclusively.
10. Boarding Pass Innovations
While coming to this point, Air Canada has offered a lot of industry firsts and revolutionary ideas. They made the self-service check-in kiosk in 1999. They also developed the 2D barcode technology and implemented it in their daily flight boarding pass checking procedure. It was also the first airline in North America to provide electronic boarding pass recognition so that customers could use their mobile phones to check in. This innovation was first used in 2007.
11. The Apps
The company went digital with the introduction of the applications for Apple and Blackberry devices exclusively, back in 2009. The app was made free to download and use and provided passengers with check-in facilities and itinerary changes and a lot of other features. They were also the first in Canada to offer mobile booking services through their Apple app. The Cargo mobile app also offered customers a live package tracking facility. The app was made available for the Apple Watch as recently as 2015.
12. Wi-Fi in the Sky and Alexa
Air Canada is the first known airline in the country to offer Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft on select North American flights. As of more recently, they have also made use of Amazon’s Alexa AI feature, and use it to offer price quotes to passengers and the status of flights.
13. Entertainment Facilities
Way before there were display screens and personal entertainment systems on the back of flights, the company offered various types of magazines on the back of seats to keep the passengers occupied. Some copies of magazines were regularly stolen, though.
They were the first company to have personal seatback entertainment systems on the shorter flights. Coupled with the lie-flat beds in every one of their business class cabins, passengers were bound to have more comfortable flights than before. They were also the first to introduce telephones for all of their passengers, attached to their seats.
They have also become the first Canadian airline to offer an immersive virtual reality simulation of their business class cabin while flying on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This was made to provide a demo run of sorts to travel agents and to customers who were willing to try out the experience before committing to it. The simulation comes complete with a business class meal in an executive pod.
14. Economic Fair Structures Offered to Passengers
The company now offers much broader flexibility to the passengers, enabling them to select the sort of features that they want for their ride. The offers include preferred seats and a complimentary Maple Leaf lounge access but is not restricted to it.
They also offer a very simplified fare structure to all of their bookings that are made online through the app or a travel agent. The airline also has a subscription-based option, where they offer unlimited flights to frequent fliers on a monthly payment basis.
15. Air Canada Foundation
In an attempt to celebrate its 75th anniversary and to give back to the community, the airline introduced the non-profit organization, which focused on providing healthcare and shelter to children who require help.
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