MONTREAL — Aeroplan's parent company saw its share price surge more than eight per cent Friday for its biggest boost since announcing a change in CEO in April after it unveiled plans for the loyalty program once its exclusive partnership with Air Canada ends in 2020.
Aimia Inc. shares closed up 19 cents or 8.3 per cent to $2.49 in Friday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Disgruntled shareholders caused the Montreal-based company's shares to plummet 62 per cent in May 2017 after Air Canada announced that it would not renew its 30-year partnership with Aeroplan and was launching its own loyalty program in two years.
Aimia announced Thursday evening that it plans to offer charter flights to its most popular destinations as it expands the program to broader travel rewards, including hotels, cars and entertainment.
The company's share price will build over time, CEO Jeremy Rabe told The Canadian Press in his first media interview since taking the helm.
"The first thing that I wanted to do was make sure that members knew that starting in July of 2020 we were going to have an incredible loyalty program," he said in an interview.
"That was job No. 1 and I think with this announcement we're going to provide a lot more assurances to our members in that regard."
The first test will come on Aug. 3 when it discloses its second-quarter results.
Aeroplan's five million members will be able to buy seats on any airline, any time, to any destination instead of being limited to Canada's largest airline and its Star Alliance partners.
The loyalty program's large member base and significant purchasing volumes should allow it to use bulk purchasing and preferred airline partner relationships to allow it to secure discounts of five to 40 per cent, it says.
Aeroplan is working to sign up preferred airline partners and is also introducing several new program features that will create a more flexible program and a better member experience.
Starting in September, Aeroplan will introduce a new online travel booking tool that will initially enable members to earn miles when they rent a car or book a hotel using cash.
Within two years, miles alone or in combination with cash will be redeemable for a variety of travel, leisure and entertainment experiences, including concerts, spas and private jets.
Additional digital tools, backed by the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, will enhance the experience by anticipating member preferences based on their travel history, Rabe said.
Aeroplan plans to offer redemptions starting at the same mileage levels for about 95 per cent of its flight redemptions. That answers one of the biggest questions he's heard from members about how Aeroplan will look after 2020, Rabe said.
It is also introducing a points transfer program in 2020 that will allow members to convert Aeroplan Miles to the loyalty programs of nearly 20 airlines covering several alliances, giving them wider access to flights and hotels.
Drew McReynolds of RBC Capital Markets called the details "directionally positive."
"Having said this, we believe it is still early days to be able to accurately gauge the extent to which the new Aeroplan program will resonate with members in an increasingly crowded loyalty sector in Canada, as well as the ultimate economics for Aeroplan under the new program," he wrote in a report.
Aimia is on the right track and investors should be more positive on the company's future viability, added Neil Linsdell of Industrial Alliance Securities.
Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press