Partnership agreements between Aimia Inc. and two more Canadian airlines have taken flight, slated to take effect after the Montreal-based company's current agreement with Air Canada ends in July 2020.
One of Aimia's new partners is Air Transat, a long-established airline owned by Montreal-based travel and leisure company Transat AT.
Aimia's other new partner is Flair Airlines, which began operating no-frills scheduled services to several cities last year from a hub at Edmonton International Airport.
They join Toronto-based Porter Airlines as recent partners in the Aeroplan points system, which Air Canada has said it will replace with its own loyalty points program when the Aimia contract expires.
Aimia's three new preferred partner fleets add up to a fraction of Air Canada's, but Aimia has also been in discussions with the Oneworld airline alliance, whose members include British Airways, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
Air Canada led a consortium of bidders, which includes the key Aeroplan credit card partners Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Visa Canada, to buy the loyalty program for as much as $325 million plus $2 billion of points liabilities, an offer that Aimia rejected last week.
Aimia has said it remains open to negotiating a fair deal with Air Canada and indicated that it would consider an offer of at least $450 million.
On Monday, Aimia's largest shareholder bristled at the $325-million bid, which was originally $250 million. Christopher Mittleman, chief investment officer of New York-based Mittleman Brothers LLC, called the offer "coercive" and "blatantly inadequate" in an open letter to Aimia's board.
Mittleman recommended that Aimia, in which Mittleman Brothers has a 17.6-per-cent stake, accept no less than $1 billion, "especially not with a gun held to its head by its key commercial partners."
Aimia CEO Jeremy Rabe said his plan aims to open up destination options for Aeroplan customers after July 2020.
"This is an exciting step toward our goal of providing Aeroplan Members with great value when both earning and redeeming miles on travel bookings to popular holiday and transatlantic destinations," Rabe said in a release Tuesday.
For smaller airlines, a preferred partnership arrangement offers the promise of access to Aeroplan's more than five million members.
"Our passengers will now be rewarded for their loyalty with the ability to earn and redeem Aeroplan Miles for flights," said Flair CEO Jim Scott. "This partnership strengthens our value proposition, giving more people the ability to fly to their preferred destination."
"We are thrilled about this agreement in principle," said Joseph Adamo, chief distribution officer at Transat.
Air Transat, which flies to about 60 destinations, says Aeroplan points will be earned and redeemed on all the airline's flights and vacation packages.
Aeroplan and Air Canada have each assured their customers that the Aeroplan points will be honoured as usual until their long-term contract expires in two years.