It’s big news nearly two years in the making: Air Canada has finally unveiled the details of their brand-new Aeroplan loyalty program in an announcement we’ve been anticipating since August 21, 2018 when the national carrier acquired the popular loyalty program for a cool $450 million.
The new Aeroplan program is officially set to launch November of this year, and will introduce a slew of changes to how you can earn and redeem points (that’s right, they’re now officially points, not miles).
Here’s an overview of some key facts:
- The revamped Aeroplan program will launch on November 8, 2020. If you’re an existing Aeroplan member, your miles will be honoured on a one-to-one basis, making for a seamless transition into the new points program.
- Additional fuel surcharges (a major pain point of the current program) will be completely eliminated, which can add up to huge savings on flight bookings (we’re talking potentially hundreds of dollars).
- Aeroplan has released a new rewards chart that breaks up destinations into four Travel Zones: North America, Atlantic, Pacific, and South America. There are an additional 10 routes for travel between or within these four zones, each requiring a range of points.
- Points can be redeemed for any Air Canada flight with no seat restrictions.
- Aeroplan’s popular stopover policy will continue, but with some tweaks. While previously you could add one stopover on just roundtrip flights, you can soon add a stopover on each one-way flight for an additional 5,000 Aeroplan points (excluding travel within Canada and the US).
- The new Aeroplan Family Sharing feature will allow members in the same household to pool their points together and redeem sooner.
- New co-branded Aeroplan credit cards are to be released, with beefed-up perks like preferred pricing on flights and travel upgrades. If you’re a current Aeroplan credit card holder, anticipate an update from your bank regarding your credit card soon.
- Flights on Air Canada now include “dynamic pricing”, meaning a flight can be redeemed for a range of points (i.e. a one-way ticket from Toronto to Vancouver may require anywhere from 12,500 up to 17,500 points). In terms of value, that could mean you would require a slightly higher number of points within the range depending on factors such as whether it’s a popular route or if you’re travelling during high season.
- Points on inactive Aeroplan accounts will expire after an 18 month cut off date, instead of the current 12 month deadline.
- There will be an additional $39 partner fee per passenger on flights booked on one of Aeroplan’s two dozen Star Alliance partner airlines, a change designed to incentivize Aeroplan members to stick with Air Canada over Aeroplan’s other airline partners. While this is a drawback, the removal (and savings) of fuel surcharges far outweigh this con.
- Aeroplan will let you bid on incremental upgrades like free on-flight wifi using points. Plus, Aeroplan is set to offer expanded redemption choices starting in 2021 including more hotel, vacation packages, car rentals, and merchandise options.
- You will be able to use a mix of points and cash to book a flight, a new feature which adds some redemption flexibility.
- Starting in 2021, Aeroplan will introduce a more intuitive earning model where you’ll earn points based on the price of airline tickets – rather than the number of miles flown.
Aeroplan changes – pros and cons
Many of the changes introduced as part of Air Canada’s new Aeroplan program are positive. Particularly the elimination of surcharge fees, the ability to maximize your rewards by adding a stopover on each one-way flight for an incremental 5,000 points (outside of Canada/US), and the fact you can book flights without seat limitations – which is a departure from Aeroplan’s current Fixed Mileage Rewards policy that limits your options to a fixed number of seats per plane.
The elimination of surcharge fees alone can add up to hundreds in savings on flights booked on Air Canada using points. Plus, with the new stopover policy, you can add multiple stops and extend your trip for an incremental 5,000 points per stopover, which is solid value and something that’s sure to be taken advantage of by savvy Aeroplan members and world travellers.
There are also exciting upcoming changes with the release of new credit cards, more redemptions options, improved Aeroplan Elite Status perks, and an enhanced search engine for booking flights.
In terms of drawbacks, there are a few. Namely, the additional $39 fee you’ll owe on flights booked outside of Air Canada on any of the other two dozen Star Alliance partner airlines. There’s also the fact that stopovers can’t be booked within Canada or the US. Additionally, if you’re looking for a simple and super straightforward travel rewards program, Aeroplan still isn’t it. That said, the program will offer great value, particularly for frequent flyers and points optimizers.
A preliminary glance at Aeroplan’s new redemption chart also indicates there are some marginal increases in the number of points required to book flights (specifically to the Pacific and Atlantic Travel Zones, however, there are some bright spots for travel within North America). That may sound like a major negative but calculating redemptions values are more nuanced and when considering the elimination of costly surcharge fees, you could actually come out ahead with the new program even if some flights theoretically cost more points. It’s worth noting these are just early assumptions and we’ll be doing a deeper dive into points values in the very near future.
Let’s say you want to book an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Vancouver. Since you’re travelling within the North America Travel Zone and the distance between those two destinations is roughly 2,600 miles, you’d need approximately 12,500 – 17,500 points to book an economy seat for a one-way flight. The specific number of points you’ll need (whether it’s 12,500, 17,500, or anywhere between that range) will depend on factors such as whether you’re travelling during peak season, taking a particularly popular (or less popular) route, and if you’re carrying a co-branded Aeroplan credit card.
You may have noticed that unlike Air Canada, Partner airlines require a fixed number of points instead of a range. However, booking with a Partner airline will cost an extra $39 booking fee per person and you can only choose from a restricted number of seats per plane that have been designated for Aeroplan members (you won’t have the same restriction on Air Canada and can use points to book virtually any seat on any flight from the airline).
We’ll be doing a deeper dive into the new Aeroplan program, points values, travel sweet spots, and announcements about the new Aeroplan credit cards soon. Stay tuned!