Air Canada's chief executive has apologized to a parliamentary committee in his first comments since his poor grasp of the French language raised a huge outcry last fall.

Speaking in laboured French, Michael Rousseau told the standing committee on official languages that he made a mistake by not learning to speak the language when he joined the airline but is now taking lessons.

Rousseau says his comments last November were "insensitive" when he said that he managed to live 14 years in Montreal without speaking French, which is "to the credit" of the city.

The CEO was also criticized for giving a business speech in Montreal only in English.

Under questioning from Bloc MP Mario Beaulieu, Rousseau says he studies French every morning with tutors from reputable firms.

Rousseau also told the committee that Air Canada, which is subject to the Official Languages Act, understands its obligation to communicate with its customers in the official language of their choice.