Air Canada and Emirates announced a new partnership which could eventually make Aeroplan even more valuable. But we’re not there yet. Let’s breakdown the news and the implications of this new relationship.
Air Canada + Emirates Form New Partnership
Under a new “strategic” partnership agreement, Air Canada and Emirates will:
- Establish a codeshare relationship in late 2022, which will allow Emirates passengers to book connecting flights on Air Canada within Canada and Air Canada passengers to book connecting flights beyond Dubai on Emirates.
- Both Air Canada and Emirates offer Toronto (YYZ) – Dubai (DXB) service 5x per week
- Beyond the YYZ-DXB route, neither carrier offers additional service between Canada and the United Arab Emirates
- Establish reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and reciprocal lounge access for qualifying customers
While we await further details, the implications for Air Canada and Emirates passengers are positive, as this arrangement will allow them to take their preferred carrier on the longhaul segment but link to their final destination without having to book a separate ticket.
Will Air Canada (And Aeroplan) Take An Etihad Or Qatar Airways Approach?
Air Canada has hinted at reciprocal loyalty benefits on Emirates, but that remains a way off. It should be noted that Air Canada already partners with both Qatar Airways and Etihad, though in very different ways.
Air Canada serves Doha (DOH) from its Toronto hub and codeshares with Qatar Airways on routes beyond DOH, just as Qatar Airways does beyond YYZ. But that is the extent of the relationship. There is not currently frequent flyer reciprocity between the two carriers.
Etihad, on the other hand, is an Air Canada and Aeroplan partner. Aeroplan members can use their miles for travel in economy, business, or first class on Etihad, which is rebuilding itself after years of decline.
It is too early to say whether Air Canada will take an Etihad or Qatar Airways approach to Emirates. I am hopeful that if reciprocal redemptions are introduced, we can mix Emirates flights with other partners and avoid fuel surcharges, which would mark a huge value add to the already-valuable Aeroplan program.
On the other hand, I would not expect first class redemptions on Emirates to ever be available to Aeroplan members. Those are currently restricted to Emirates own Skywards members and hard enough to book even with Skywards miles.
Does This Strengthen Or Weaken Airline Alliances?
The old model of loyalty within Star Alliance, oneworld, or SkyTeam no longer exists. In their present dispensation, alliances serve as an important marketing tool and encourage loyalty, but in a much looser way than codeshares or joint ventures do.
We routinely see partnership and codeshares outside alliances and while that theoretically weakens the power of alliances, it actually gives more options to consumers without taking away the value of alliances in reciprocal loyalty recognition.
Emirates has shied away from joining a major alliance while Etihad tried and failed to form its own alliance of airline brands. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways has matured into a strong oneworld member and Oman Air recently announced it would join the oneworld alliance.
Is there a chance that Emirates will join Star Alliance, plugging a notable gap within the Middle East region in the Star Alliance network? Perhaps, though I’d think Etihad or Gulf are more likely contenders. In any case, we will continue to see more partnerships of this nature that augment alliance partnership when it makes commercial sense to do so.
Emirates and Air Canada have announced a new strategic partnership that will offer passengers codeshare options beyond Toronto and Dubai. Although details are limited at this point, talk of reciprocal frequent flyer and lounge benefits make me hopeful we might see Emirates one day added as an Aeroplan redemption partner.
I think Qatar is giving EK a bit of a handful these days. Especially given Qatar’s far superior J product. I am thinking this is the first date with Star Alliance to see how things develop. Also, given Oman joining One World, EK is quickly going to get boxed out. Neither Etihad or EK will want to the the lone ME carrier without a firm strategic alliance…and I bet neither wants to get stuck with Sky Team. The race is on.
“Aeroplan members can use their miles for travel in economy, business, or first class on Etihad…”
Does this also mean that if one books a ticket on an Air Canada flight, any miles earned can be credited to the person’s Etihad account? Unlike Qatar Airways where there “is not currently frequent flyer reciprocity between the two carriers.”
Emirates would be a great addition to Star, but I’m guessing Turkish would be strongly opposed. They offer very similar coverage.
Given that Qantas and Emirates have a long-standing JV, I would be surprised if EK joined Star. I imagine it’s more likely for Etihad to join Star (I think they already have partnership with a few Star airlines), but I would expect Turkish to be unhappy about that…
Isn’t the Canadian government very protective of domestic carriers, of which, internationally speaking, there is only one. I’m sure EK would love to operate more flights to Canada, but with the heavy regulation in place, this seems to be the best way for them to maximize their presence in the Canada-South Asia market. As much as I’d love to see EK-F awards bookable under the current Aeroplan scheme, I don’t think EK really has any incentive to do that. They’re looking for efficient ways to sell tickets from Amritsar to Winnipeg.
I wouldn’t mind it if you can book a EK J flight through Aeroplan without massive fuel surcharges