Air Canada is looking for a financial services company to partner with it on a co-branded credit card, as part of its plans to launch a new loyalty program by 2020.
The airline said Tuesday it is initiating an official Request for Proposal from any banks or other financial services companies to come forward with their pitch to handle the financial side of the program, which will be linked to a credit card and see members accrue points they can use for Air Canada flights when they use the card, or buy airline tickets.
The company shook up the industry in May when it announced it would be ending its more than 30-year relationship with Aeroplan, which began as a division of the airline in 1984 before being spun out in an IPO in 2008. However, Air Canada will continue to make Air Canada flights available for Aeroplan redemptions, as it does for other rewards programs.
The airline says its as yet unnamed program will have a net present value of between $2 and $2.5 billion over 15 years.
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In conjunction with the news on its loyalty program, Air Canada also revealed its new financial targets for the next three years, including its expectation of having $2 billion to $3 billion in cumulative free cash flow.
"With several years of record results and profitability...we're confident in saying that we are on the right trajectory towards a sustainably profitable and investable company with an improved cost structure, improved debt rating, strong free cash flow and great prospects for the future," Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu told analysts as part of the airline's annual investor day.
Doug Taylor, an equity research analyst at Canaccord Genuity, said the loyalty card returns imply another $7 to $9 per share.
"Air Canada remains our favoured way to play the Canadian airlines as we believe the company's free cash flow ramp and its focus on deleveraging and margin expansion over the coming years will lead to multiple expansion and attract new investors," Taylor wrote in a report.