The 1989 purchase of a crippled Wardair was financed largely by debt the airline could ill afford and the major economic recession in the wake of the first Gulf War had a crippling effect. Canadian had inherited a relatively elderly fleet built mainly around the Boeing 737-200 (which had been operated by all 5 of the original constituent airlines) and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. The 737-200 fleet was so large that in fact the few series 300s operated were returned to lessors in favour of the older model. Indeed Canadian would operate over 70 737-200s, at one time or another, and never successfully found the funds to replace the type.
In the long haul fleet a small number of Boeing 747-400s and larger numbers of 767-300ERs gradually supplemented and eventually replaced the DC-10s, but for domestic and cross-border operations Canadian had its eye on Airbuses' new A320. Eleven aircraft were leased between early 1991 and mid-1992 from Guiness Peat Aviation (GPA) and ILFC in a rough 2:1 ratio. GPA itself would meet its own Waterloo in 1992/93 and many of its aviation assets including the GPA leased Canadian A320s would end up being owned by GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS). The majority part of GPA's business would eventually become AerCap.
The A320s were used by Canadian to compete against the better financed Air Canada, which itself had a substantial fleet of A319s/A320s and was making greater headway replacing its DC-9s and 727s than Canadian could manage replacing its 737-200s. The A320s were especially useful for funnelling traffic to Canadian's Vancouver hub for onward transport on the airline's Pacific network - its primary money maker. The 1991 recession forced Canadian to cancel at least one of its 747-400 orders and also put pay to receiving many more A320s. One of the ILFC leased aircraft, C-FLSF, was returned to the lessor in 1993 but a further pair were leased from GPA in early 1994.
Canadian lurched through the 1990s never making a profit but surviving through government assistance, investment by American Airlines and employee concessions. The end for the airline loomed again in 1996 but a major restructuring brought it more time in which it expanded its international route network. This had some success and after years of stagnation some 'new' aircraft were leased - mainly 767s but also in May 1999 a single A320. This aircraft was again C-FLSF - the same aircraft that had flown with Canadian in 1992. In the meantime she'd operated with Monarch Airlines (as G-MONY) and in the Winter months switched over to Canada 3000 (as C-GVNY).
Unfortunately Canadian Airlines International could never catch a break and the airline's Asian strategy was destroyed by the 1997 Asian financial crisis. By the end of 1998 Canadian was once again in a desperate condition but was determined to make a fight of it. On January 13, 1999 the airline showed a new face to the world when a 747-400 was unveiled wearing the Canada Goose themed Proud Wings scheme.
C-FLSF was returned to ILFC in July 2006 and has had a varied career since. She has served with EirJet (EI-DOZ), Mandala Airlines (PK-RMA), Strategic Airlines / Air Australia (VH-YQB), SmartLynx (YL-LCJ) and CAA Compagnie Africaine d-Aviation (9Q-CPB). Retired from service this frame now serves as a ground trainer at Nantong Institute of Technology in China. Of the other Canadian A320s 4 still operate with Air Canada mainline and 4 are now with the Air Canada Jetz division.
The Proud Wings are now a memory but despite the crisis Canadian Airlines went out looking good.
1993. Madore & Shaw. THE CANADIAN AIRLINE INDUSTRY: ITS STRUCTURE, PERFORMANCE AND PROSPECTS. Parliament of Canada
1996, December. Canadian Airlines struggles to stay aloft. Historica Canada
1999, January. Proud Wings Airline design by Landor. Design Week
Piggot, P. Aviation Pioneers of Canada 7-Book Bundle: Brace for Impact / Air Canada.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: