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Canada seeks to attract U.S. frequent flyers with perks on Air Canada By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Air Canada aircraft are seen parked at Toronto Pearson Airport, Mississauga (Ontario), Canada, April 28, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File Photo

By Allison Lampert

MONTREAL (Reuters) -Canada is trying to use the lure of travel perks to convince America’s frequent-flying elite to fly north on Air Canada, as the country steps up efforts to revive crucial traffic from the United States, a Canadian official said.

COVID-19 is a major threat to travel in Canada, the largest tourist market. The government has reported that Canada saw only 17.8 million overnight Americans arrive in Canada during 2021’s first half, as compared to 6.8million who arrived the following year.

Destination Canada, the government’s tourism agency, launched Monday its first campaign to target frequent travelers from the United States, and partnered with America’s biggest carrier.

This campaign is part of larger, C$14 million ($11.2million) tourism commission efforts to improve traffic following Canada’s recent opening to immunized travellers. Costs for the particular frequent flyer campaign are not known.

Destination Canada’s chief commercial officer Gloria Loree stated to Reuters before the launch that she was extremely focused on reaching frequent flyers.

The plan allows up to 20,000 frequent flyers from the United States with airlines like American Airlines (NASDAQ) and Southwest Airlines (NYSE) Co, as well as Delta Air Lines (NYSE) Co, to receive matching status for flights northbound on Air Canada.

American Airlines and Delta refused to comment.

Southwest, which doesn’t serve Canada directly said that it supports the industry’s collective effort to “restart substantial air travel.”

The frequent-flier status allows travelers to enjoy perks such as priority board, but this is usually at a higher cost or for a fee.

Destination Canada says this is the first use of status-matching by a tourism organisation to bring tourists to Canada.

Loree explained that “this is the push for them to come to Canada.”

According to Loree, eligible U.S. frequent flyers will continue their status with AC for the entire 2022 if they book northbound travel on AC after Jan. 15, 2022.

With the United States set for reopening in November, it will be possible to travel to the United States from 33 different countries. This is as countries relax restrictions on international travel.

Loree explained that frequent-flyer matching funding is not different from other incentives provided by Destination Canada. For example, this year’s campaign was with WestJet Airlines.

Loree stated that the aim is to restore travel routes to Canada from the United States and to encourage travelers to return.

Air Canada, which was in financial crisis last April, received C$5.9 Billion ($4.7 Billion) of government assistance. The country gained a roughly 6% stake in the airline.

Canadian’s high vaccine rate may reassure travelers. However, some travellers might be dissuaded by the COVID-19-PCR testing requirements. Frederic Dimanche is the director of Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University.

Loree stated that targeting frequent travelers from the United States is an advantage because they are familiar with these requirements.

Loree explained, “They know how to travel.” So we hope they will consider Canada their next destination.

Air Canada shares rose 3.48% in Toronto trading.

($1 = 1.2652 Canadian dollars)