Emirates inks deal with Canadian no-frills carrier

Agreement hints at improving diplomatic relations between UAE and Ottawa
Emirates inks deal with Canadian no-frills carrier
By Shane McGinley
Sun 02 Oct 2011 04:58 PM

Dubai’s Emirates Airline said Sunday it has signed an agreement with Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet to allow customers to fly between the two aviation hubs on a single ticket.

Emirates, Dubai’s flagship airline, flies three times weekly from Toronto to Dubai, while no-frills carrier WestJet serves 20 Canadian cities.The deal will allow passengers on either airline to travel on to any of Emirates 114 global destinations on a single ticket.

The move is a sign of fresh efforts by the UAE carrier to secure a bigger slice of the lucrative Canadian market, after Emirates and Etihad Airways were last year denied additional landing rights by Ottawa.

The refusal spiralled into a diplomatic spat, which saw the UAE shut down Camp Mirage, a secret military base located outside Dubai and used to supply Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

In December, the UAE Embassy announced Canadian citizens would no longer receive free visas. Instead, tourists must now pay up to $1,000 Canadian dollars to enter the country.

The Canadian government’s stance was, in part, derived from an attempt to protect flag carrier Air Canada from the ambitious expansion plans of the UAE’s wealthy, state-backed carriers.

Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad said in June it would press for further flights to Canada, while Qatar Airways said it hoped to secure daily flights to four cities in Canada in a bid to muscle in on Air Canada’s long-haul market.

The Doha-based airline launched its first route to Montreal on June 29.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper in January came under fire from ex-Canadian premier Jean Chrétien for failing to rein in the diplomatic feud between Ottawa and the UAE.

Jean Chrétien, who was prime minister of Canada from November 1993 to December 2003, said a quick solution was needed to defuse the row in light of the UAE’s strategic importance.

"I think this problem has not been well managed," Chrétien told Arabian Business on the sideline of a conference in Riyadh. “I hope they will resolve the difficulty because we need good relations with this part of the world.”

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