It’s not often that an airline reintroduces its loyalty program. Yet that’s exactly what Air Canada is doing with the new Aeroplan that launches on Nov. 8.
When the carrier announced that it would launch its own loyalty program in 2017, Air Canada promised to create an industry-leading program that’s more rewarding than its competitors.
And after the three-year journey, the new Aeroplan is loaded with 11 traveler-friendly changes that are worth the hype — and surpass the competition.
Removing carrier-imposed surcharges
Historically, some Star Alliance partners like Lufthansa were subject to hundreds of dollars of carrier-imposed surcharges on award redemptions.
With the new Aeroplan, that’s gone. There are no longer any carrier-imposed surcharges for redemptions — both for Air Canada and partner flights. You’ll still be on the hook for the taxes, but you can bid farewell to the sky-high fees for select partners.
Flexible routings for award tickets
Stopovers allow you to nest two trips into one. And they can be one of the best ways to unlock more value from your award tickets.
While the old Aeroplan had a limited free stopover option, the new Aeroplan greatly improves on that foundation. Almost every award ticket can include a stopover for just 5,000 points each. One-ways can have one stopover and roundtrips can have two. Note that you can’t add a stopover within North America.
In addition to stopovers, you’ll also be allowed to design custom routings and transit a third region on your way to your destination. An example of this would be flying from Los Angeles to Bangkok via Sydney. Since award pricing is distance-based, you may be on the hook for some additional points, but at least you’ll have the flexibility to create your own route.
Family sharing makes it easier to rack up points
Only a handful of frequent flyer programs allow you to share points for free between family members. Come Nov. 8, the new Aeroplan can be added to that list.
Up to eight family members can join a group and combine their existing points. Once points are pooled, you can redeem them for anyone you’d like. Plus, if you’ve got Aeroplan elite status or hold a co-branded credit card, everyone in your family group gets preferred award pricing.
The minimum participation in a Family Pool is three months and you’ll need to wait six months after you leave to join another pool.
Points + Cash offers solid value
With the new Points + Cash feature, you’ll be well on your way to your next redemption even if you don’t have the full number of points available.
Points + Cash is available for all flight rewards. You’ll have four combinations available ranging from 60% to 100% of the points required. Aeroplan states that the average Points + Cash redemption value should range from 1.5 to 2.0 cents per point. As before, you can still use points to cover taxes and fees — but this time at a better rate.
Award chart survives the transition
This move bucks the trend of most major loyalty programs.
Aeroplan has promised not to pull its award chart — and that’s a huge deal. Of course, you can use the chart to find the best sweet spots. But you can also rest assured that Aeroplan isn’t planning to introduce dynamic pricing for partner flights like many of its Star Alliance competitors.
Earn elite status without flying
During the pandemic, Air Canada launched a successful limited-time promotion that allowed you to earn status from home without flying. Come Jan. 2021, Everyday Status Qualification will become a permanent feature of the new Aeroplan.
With Everyday Status, members will earn entry-level 25K status after accruing 100,000 Aeroplan points from eligible transactions, including base and some bonus points earned from travel, credit card spending and other partnerships, like online shopping portals. Sadly, points transfers from Amex Membership Rewards won’t count.
Sharing your elite status with friends
Air Canada is doing what Hyatt did for the hotel industry with the Guest of Honor program.
Status Passes — available beginning March 2021 — allow you to designate someone to enjoy status perks for a single journey. All 50K status members and higher will receive one pass when the program launches in March, and, going forward, are able to earn additional certificates as Select perks.
Your designee will receive priority check-in, three complimentary checked bags, lounge access, priority boarding and more. And if your designee is traveling with friends, everyone on that reservation (up to nine passengers) will receive the same benefits for their journey.
Priority Awards are a first-of-its-kind
With Priority Awards, elites can receive 50% off award prices for a single flight reward.
These vouchers can be used for any date, including peak travel times on Air Canada or partner flights. You receive a Priority Award for crossing each of the 11 Status Qualifying Dollar (SQD) thresholds. As you progress up the ladder, each voucher will be applicable to a wider range of cabins and regions.
In my mind, this is a great idea — and one that I’d love to see implemented by U.S. airlines. Perhaps elites could even exchange existing (or expiring) upgrade certificates for an award ticket discount.
Elites with co-branded cards get more value
All elites and co-branded credit cardholders will have access to Preferred Pricing for Air Canada awards.
The discounted pricing will vary by cabin and date and your elite status tier. But what’s really innovative is that you can double-dip if you’re both an elite member and a cardholder.
If you’ve got both, you’ll have more Preferred Pricing options than if you just had status or were a cardholder.
This is a great idea to drive more engagement with the loyalty program. United should consider doing something similar with its expanded award availability for elites and cardholders. If you’re a Premier member and United co-branded card holder, you should have access to even more availability.
Booking awards becomes much easier
Booking complex awards with the old Aeroplan wasn’t simple. Most of the time, you’d need to call in.
Along with the new Aeroplan comes a brand-new award search engine that’s rebuilt from the ground up. Not only is it expected to reduce the instances of phantom award availability, but it will accept custom routings and greater filters (beginning next year).
Plus, you’ll be able to redeem awards directly on the Air Canada app — a key feature missing from the old Aeroplan.
Customer service should be fixed, too
Earlier this year, I waited over three hours to speak to an Aeroplan representative.
When the program relaunches, the call-center woes should hopefully be a thing of a past. According to the carrier, agents are getting retrained with the new program and backend tools. Plus, with self-serve online booking and reservation management tools going live at the end of the year and into 2021, the call volume should be greatly reduced.
Time will tell if that’s the case, but me (and my phone battery) are certainly optimistic.
The new Aeroplan ushers in an exciting era for Air Canada flyers and points and miles aficionados across the globe.
It’s loaded with innovative features that’ll make flying with the carrier more rewarding and redeeming points even easier — and potentially more lucrative than before.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy