Air Canada: 8 things to know before you fly

The largest airline in Canada and the fifth largest (by passengers carried) in North America, Air Canada launched in 1937 after the federal government chartered it as Trans-Canada Airlines. It was renamed Air Canada in the mid-1960s and has been flying high ever since.
The Montreal, Quebec-based carrier has been focusing on expansion and amenities lately. It launched 25 new routes just year and introduced Air Canada Signature Service for North American premium fliers. The airline also began offering Wi-Fi on its wide-body international fleet.

Looking to fly Air Canada? Here’s what to know before you book a ticket

Air Canada is known for having the some of the most transparent airfare fees in the airline industry. The carrier lays out all of the taxes, fees, charges and surcharges attached to your airfare so you know exactly what you’re paying when you by your ticket. That makes for one of the most upfront and trustworthy booking experiences you could ask for — but more on that later.

If you’ve never flown Air Canada or you’re thinking of booking a ticket again in the near future, here are some important things to know about the carrier:

1. Where does Air Canada fly?

Air Canada and its regional carriers, including Air Canada Express, fly to more than 200 cities around the world. A founding member of the Star Alliance, Air Canada operates in a network encompassing 26 other airlines from nearly 200 countries. If you want to go somewhere, it’s a good chance Air Canada can get you there.

Air Canada flies nonstop to 57 U.S. cities and 91 more in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America.

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2. Air Canada’s website has a U.S. & Canadian version

If you just go to AirCanada.com and start searching for a flight to buy a plane ticket, you may be in for a shock: You may be on the Canadian version of the website. Sure, you’ll notice if everything’s in French, but even its English site has special offers that may not be available to U.S. customers. You’ll see a box (shown below) that you’ll need to check to see whether you qualify for a deal or not.

3. What to know about Air Canada airfare fees 

Ever book an airfare for a great price only to see fees balloon the total at checkout? Well, Air Canada’s one-way airfares you see online typically have all the fees included. That means you pay what you see, since the fares are tax-inclusive. Here are the fees you’ll typically expect to pay on an Air Canada international airfare:
  • Canadian and provincial sales taxes
  • Foreign taxes, fees and charges
  • An airport improvement fee (levied by various airports across the country)
  • A federal air travelers’ security charge
  • Navigational, fuel or other surcharges

4. What to know about Maple Leaf Lounges

Air Canada things to know - Maple Leaf Lounge
Screenshot from Aircanada.com
If your plane ticket includes a stopover in Toronto or 15 other select international airports, you may be able to take advantage of the amenities of a Maple Leaf Lounge, a premiere leisure space for elite travelers. In addition to complimentary snacks and beverages, the lounges have a no-cell phone zone, as well as business centers. Among other ways, you may qualify for Maple Leaf Lounge access if you’re a business traveler or have an American Express AeroplanPlus credit card.

5. What is Air Canada Rouge?

Ever heard of Air Canada Rouge? That’s the name of Air Canada’s discount airline. The carrier began service in 2013 under the Canada Leisure Group brand targeted toward vacation travelers. Now it has its own website. As you might imagine, Rouge’s flights tend to be focused on destinations with huge tourism industries like the Caribbean, Mexico, South America and Europe.

6. What are Air Canada’s baggage fees?

When it comes to carry-on bags, Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge and Air Canada Express flights allow you one standard bag and a personal item.

For checked bags, your first one will cost you $25. You may qualify for a complimentary baggage allowance based on how much you pay for your airfare, your destination and frequent flyer status. Here are the baggage price details based on fares:

  • Basic and Standard fares:
    • 1st bag: $25.00 – $26.25
    • 2nd bag: $35.00 – $36.75
  • Comfort and Flex fares:
    • 1st bag: free
    • 2nd bag: $36.75- $40.25
  • Latitude fares:
    • 2 bags free

7. How to find cheap flights on Air Canada

  • Check out Air Canada’s homepage: The airline frequently runs Surprise Seat Sales on its website. These last-minute deals are usually on Air Canada’s homepage.
  • Check out Air Canada’s sale page: The airline has a Special Offers page on its website, with discounted fares from the U.S. and Canada.
  • Book at least 30 days out: The airline says its best fares are available about one month out, so plan accordingly.

8. If you go: Tips for traveling into Canada

Make sure your travel documents are in order before leaving the United States, that includes making sure your passport is not expired or close to it. You’re dealing with another country so your travel documents will need to be correct. Your name on your identification documents must perfectly match the name on your ticket.

Traveling through Canada doesn’t have to be a hassle. The United States and Canada are part of the Trusted Traveler Programs that allow for expedited entry into and out of their respective countries. Canada uses a program called NEXUS. For the U.S., it’s Global Entry. Learn more about Global Entry here.

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