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Will U.S. Carriers Follow Air Canada?

As for shedding a secondary airline like Jazz, "no way would that happen south of the border," he says. "What would you do, spin off Comair? Who would want it?"

The Aeroplan spinoff hurt Air Canada, which lost both revenue and control, says consultant Robert Mann.

"After they spun it off, they made it unattractive to be a member," he says, because it came to be viewed as a profit center rather than a tool to attract passengers. Now, it takes more miles to claim seats and there's a mileage expiration period. Additionally, travelers have a deadline for using miles and they get smaller rewards for discounted tickets.

"Investment bankers can construct a PowerPoint that could sell the Brooklyn Bridge," Mann says. "They don't realize how tenuous the hold these programs have on customers is, especially when the airline has a limited product differentiation vs. its competitors."

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