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WestJet, Emirates ink ‘interline’ pact

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Emirates has signed a co-operation pact with WestJet Airlines Ltd. (WJA-T), making it easier for passengers to connect to the Dubai-based carrier’s flights.

Frustrated by Ottawa thwarting its growth strategy for Canada, Emirates said Thursday that the “interline” agreement paves the way for travellers departing on a WestJet flight for Toronto to connect to Emirates’ service at Pearson International Airport. Bags will be transferred for passengers making such bookings.

“Emirates’ partnership with WestJet will allow travellers to explore our vast network of diverse and remarkable destinations with added ease and seamless connections,” Emirates Canadian manager Don McWilliam said in a statement Thursday.

Emirates and Calgary-based WestJet are independent carriers that don’t belong to an airline alliance. By contrast, Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance, which includes Germany’s Lufthansa.

Emirates and the United Arab Emirates feuded last year with Air Canada and Ottawa over the Dubai airline’s quest to gain more access to Canada. The foreign carrier operates three round-trips a week between Toronto and Dubai, but wants to boost its Pearson schedule to a minimum of daily service, as well as targeting Vancouver and Calgary in the long term.

WestJet and Emirates said their new deal means that consumers will be able to make reservations more easily through one booking instead of separate itineraries.

“The new arrangement makes global travel more accessible for outbound passengers who can now connect to the Emirates network via WestJet, travelling to Dubai and beyond to any of the 114 destinations that Emirates flies,” the carriers said.

Consumers can also book flights that connect from Emirates to WestJet’s Canadian network.

WestJet noted that passengers will need to take the train at Pearson between its Terminal 3 and Emirates at Terminal 1.

WestJet already has interline pacts with Air France-KLM, Delta Air Lines, British Airways, China Airlines, Dragonair and, as of last week, El Al Israel Airlines. The Calgary carrier has forged even closer partnerships through “code-sharing” deals with American Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

Ottawa refused demands by Emirates and Etihad Airways for new landing rights at Pearson last October. The UAE responded by ousting Canadian soldiers in November from Camp Mirage, a staging base near Dubai that had been used for nine years to supply the Afghanistan war.

Last December, the UAE imposed visa fees of up to $1,000 US on Canadian visitors, further escalating tensions between Canada and the Arab country.
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