Hmm… Interesting: Air Canada launches partnership with Emirates


I have to admit that I didn’t see this one coming. Air Canada and Emirates have teamed up to announce a future strategic partnership. The strategic partnership will allow for reciprocal travel privileges between Air Canada and Emirates airline and benefit customers travelling across their respective networks.

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News: Hmm… Air Canada Launches Strategic Partnership with Emirates

Air Canada an Emirates have announced that they intend to form a strategic partnership to create more options for travellers travelling on their networks.

The Essentials of the Partnership:

Air Canada and Emirates have announced that they intend to form a partnership “later” in 2022.

  • Air Canada and Emirates have indicated the intention to offer “enhanced” consumer travel choices for its travellers.
  • Air Canada customers will enjoy connecting travel on Emirates aircraft when connecting beyond Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
  • Emirates customers will enjoy collecting travel on Air Canada aircraft when connecting beyond Toronto, Canada.
  • Travellers will have the ability to book connecting travel on both networks on a signal ticket, along with baggage transfers to their final destinations.

It was further announced that there is an intention to have Air Canada and Emirates establish reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and reciprocal lounge access for qualifying customers.

The announcement states that further details of the partnership, along with specific codeshare routes will be announced “when finalized” and subject to regulatory approvals and final documentation.

Air Canada and Emirates Announce a Strategic Partnership

About Air Canada and Emirates:

This announcement is an interesting proposition as both carriers offer some pretty decent travel opportunities.

Air Canada offers a terrific International Executive Business Class on it’s long haul Boeing 777-200, Boeing 777-300 and Boeing 787-8 aircraft.

Air Canada Executive Business Class Boeing 787-8 Seat
Air Canada Business Class B787-8 Cabin

Emirates also offers a pretty consistent International Executive Business Class on it’s long haul Boeing 777, and Airbus A380 aircraft.

Emirates Business Class Cabin Airbus A380-8

The Emirates First Class Seat is still pretty excellent. There’s nothing really not to like about this cabin; except for some interesting colours in cabin appearance.

Emirates First Class Cabin – Airbus 380-8

Having a bar available on board their Emirates A380 isn’t something to complain about either. It’s probably among my favourite features on any aircraft anywhere.

Emirates A380-8 First and Business Class Bar

The Past History between the two carriers:

Traditionally, the two carriers and countries have not had a great working relationship, which has been fraught with geo-political consequences.

Emirates (and Etihad) have always wanted more access and frequency to Canadian cities, but had been capacity blocked by Canadian regulators.

This led to the Government of Canada being expelled from military operations at Camp Mirage in the United Arab Emirates over this issue. The Camp Mirage was being used by Canadian Military Operations as an advanced operating base for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan between the years 2001 and 2010.

This relationship deteriorated to a point where it further complicated visit and visa relations between the two countries. The arrangements made Canadian travellers wanting to visit the United Arab Emirates pay $250 USD per entry for a visa, or fly on Emirates or Etihad for a subsidized visa entry. This was reportedly reciprocated by the Government of Canada for visa entries into Canada for United Arab Emirati Visitors.


Frequent Flier Partnerships:

For a partnership announcement of this scale, it’s natural to think about frequent flier opportunities. After all, Emirates offers a terrific first class cabin that’s accessible to many destinations around the globe.

Air Canada operates its frequent flier program under Aeroplan. It’s part of the Star Alliance network, but also hosts a number of other strategic out of alliance partnership with Air Mauritius, Gulf Air, Etihad and Oman Air to name a few. It operates under a variable pricing scheme, with a base line saver level award availability that is available on some select routes.

Emirates operates it’s frequent flier program under Emirates Skywards. It does not operate within an alliance and offers the opportunity to earn miles on Emirates, flydubai, along with other partners that include an odd assortment of partners including Air Mauritius, Bangkok Airways, Jetstar Airways, Japan Airlines and Tap Portugal to name a few.

It’s hard to say whether there will be any frequent flier opportunities with Aeroplan or Emirates Skywards. It seems likely that there will be an ability to earn miles on each carriers flights, assuming ticketing occurs subject to certain terms and conditions.

Air Canada’s Aeroplan currently partners with Etihad Airways who is a competitor to Emirates. It’s hard to see them ditching (or adding) Emirates to their stable of airlines partners. Despite this, Air Canada’s Aeroplan has been on an expansion campaign in the last few years by adding as many partners as possible.

Emirates Airways has typically only added strategic partners that are of high value to it’s global network. It’s recent large scale partnership with Qantas Airways is a terrific example of this when they took over a lot of flights from Qantas’ other One World partner of British Airways by routing flights through Dubai instead of through Singapore.

This Partnership will Assist those Travelling Between the Americas and the Middle East

We’ve also seen Emirates escalate reward prices, and ultimately sever some of it’s reward availability from past partners (such as Alaska Airlines) to the point where there is no longer a relationship between the two carriers.

My Thoughts on the Announcement:

This announcement is similar to when politicians make an announcement. It a big news day, but it’s really scant on hard details.

There has been an intention to form a partnership, but there are no real details announced or hard facts on when this will occur. We can expect some form of co-operation, but it’s not clear when or how deep this relationship will be.

The Emirates First Class Lounge Reception at Dubai International Airport

While it will be nice to be able to share lounge access and through baggage and flight connections, it’s not clear today on when or where this will be announced.


The Bottom Line: Air Canada and Emirates Announce a Strategic Partnership.

Air Canada and Emirates have announced their intentions to form a strategic partnership.

The news release has limited information. It’s not clear how far this relationship will extend or whether there will be a reward opportunity play here to be had.

It’s also not clear whether there will be any real advantages from Air Canada’s Aeroplan and Emirates Skywards customers.

All to say, we will have to keep this in the category of “developing” and we will have to stay tuned to see what this yields for travellers.

What do you make of the Air Canada / Emirates Partnership?

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