New Air Canada Aeroplan Program Debuts November 2020

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Two years ago, Air Canada promised a new Aeroplan loyalty program in 2020 and despite the unusual circumstances many travel-related companies find themselves in at the moment, they’re sticking to their word.

THE BACKGROUND

Photo Courtesy of Air Canada

For a bit of context, Air Canada owned the Aeroplan loyalty program but spun off the loyalty program to improve the airlines financials more than a decade ago (this is very common for many airlines). The contract was due to end in 2020 and Air Canada initially did not have any intention to renew it.

However, in 2018, Air Canada began talks with Aeroplan to acquire the program…Yup, they wanted to purchase their loyalty program back. Long story short, at the beginning of 2019, they acquired the program.

Well, now that they have full control of the loyalty program, they have completely revamped it so let’s take a look.

TL:DR VERSION

The program is unlike anything we have seen from any program but presents some interesting options. Personally, I think the program is a net win but there are some negatives aspects. If you just want the major highlights, I’ve complied a TL:DR version (below) just for you.

POSITIVE:

  • Stopovers will be available on one-ways, costing 5,000 miles
  • You can’t backtrack but can transit (and stopover within) a third region. Note: Routing rules aren’t fully clear (more on this later).
  • Fuel surcharges are being eliminated.

NOT SO POSITIVE:

  • Award pricing is going up ~12% on average
  • There will be a $39CAD ($30USD at the time of publication) for flying on a partner
  • Free stopovers on round trip awards have been eliminated
  • Variable pricing on Air Canada awards
  • Variable pricing on awards that mix Air Canada and partners

TRAVEL ZONES

If you’re interested in the finer details, let’s dig in a bit more.

The new Aeroplan award chart is split up into four regions or what Aeroplan calls “Travel Zones:” North America, Atlantic, Pacific and South America. Each of these regions has distance-based awards for flights departing from one region and arriving in another and for flights within one region. In other words, a flight from Toronto (YYZ) to London (LHR) will cost less than a flight from Houston (IAH) despite being in the same “zone.”

REDEMPTION TIERS

Below you will find the flight award chart for the new Aeroplan.

Within North America:

Between North America and Atlantic zones:

Between North America and Pacific zones:

Between North America and South America:

Within Atlantic zone:

Within Pacific zone:

Between Atlantic and Pacific zones:

Within South America:

Between Atlantic and South America zones:

Between Pacific and South America zones:

Clearly, this is a new program so it will take some time to dig through and find the “gems” but if you Aeroplan also supplied a mileage calculator to compare with the chart above.

One glaring positive for this new chart is the elimination of routing restrictions. In the past you may have encountered routing restrictions, based on the “Maximum Permitted Mileage” (MPM) for a certain route. It will now be much easier to piece together flights to take advantage of award availability. Anyone need to fly from the US to Bali, Indonesia (via Australia)? I do! And thanks to the stopover program, that side trip to Sydney is in reach.

Its worth noting Aeroplans old award chart:

STOPOVERS FOR 5,000 MILES EACH (ON ONE-WAYS)

The new Aeroplan program allows stopovers on one-way awards for 5,000 miles each.

For context, Aeroplan used to allow a free stopover on a roundtrip, but instead you can now pay 5,000 miles for a stopover in each direction. Personally, I enjoyed the free stopovers on roundtrips, but I prefer the new system more.

AWARD PARTNERS

Air Canada Aeroplan is a Star Alliance partner therefore you can redeem Aeroplan miles on the following Star Alliance airlines:

Aegean AirlinesAustrianEVA AirSWISS
Air CanadaAviancaLOT Polish AirlinesTAP Portugal
Air ChinaBrussels AirlinesLufthansaTHAI
Air IndiaCopa AirlinesScandinavian Airlines (SAS)Turkish Airlines
Air New ZealandCroatia AirlinesShenzhen AirlinesUnited
ANAEGYPTAIRSingapore AirlinesJuneyao Airlines
(Star Alliance
Connecting Partner)
Asiana AirlinesEthiopian AirlinesSouth African Airways 

Additionally, Aeroplan partners with several non-Star Alliance partners including Etihad, Azul, and Vistara if you are interested in redeeming your miles there too.

HOW DO I FIND AWARD SPACE?

If you’re interested in find award space on any Star Alliance partner, you can use Aeroplan to search for it as their website is one of the better ones. Another option is to use United Airlines’ flexible date search option as you’ll be able to see award availability across two months of dates.

Caveat: United is infamous for showing phantom award space.

Once you have located award space, simply login to Aeroplan and confirm availability.

It’s worth noting that if your routing has connections, you may have to search segment by segment with Aeroplan as it’s not the best search engine if you need connections. But Aeroplan is promising a new robust redemption website so we’ll see what happens.

CALL CENTER IMPROVEMENTS

Another big promise from Air Canada is that they have made considerable investments to improve their call center performance. If you haven’t dealt with their call center in the past…it was THE WORST! But the airline has said they are have comprehensive training for all agents, so it shouldn’t be a problem going forward.

But if for some reason, things don’t go according to plan, give Aeroplan a call (1-800-361-5373) to book.

HOW CAN I GET AEROPLAN MILES?

If you don’t live in Canada, haven’t chosen Air Canada as a program where you want to credit your miles from a Star Alliance partner, or make transfers from a credit card to Aeroplan, it is unlikely that you have any Aeroplan miles presently in your account. But there’s no need to worry, there are several options that will aid in boosting your Aeroplan balance, including;

  • The American Express Gold Card [READ MORE]: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • The Platinum Card from American Express [READ MORE]: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card [READ MORE]: Earn 100,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months. Limited Time Offer!
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

And the transfer rates are as follows:

  • American Express Membership Rewards: 1:1
  • Marriott Bonvoy: 3:1 (Note: There is a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred)
  • Capital One: 2:1.5

As reported by One Mile At A Time, Aeroplan is offering 2,500 bonus miles if you join Aeroplan through THIS LINK and earn your first mile by September 30, 2020.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM (IF THERE IS ONE)

One of the more annoying changes, depending on which route you’re trying to fly, is the addition of a partner booking fee. When the new programs goes live, members will pay $39 CAD (~$29 USD at the time of publication) whenever they book flights on one of Air Canada’s partners.

Here is a visual to explain the challenge:

Route
(in business)
Old Price
(one-way)
Old SurchargesNew Price
(one-way)
New
Surcharges
On United:
Newark (EWR) – London (LHR)
55,000$7.32 CAD
($5.60USD)
60,000$34.74
On Air Canada:
Vancouver (YVR) – London (LHR)
55,000$584.16 CAD
($446.81USD)
70,000$38.98
On Lufthansa:
New York (JFK) – Frankfurt (FRA)
55,000952.61 CAD
($728.62USD)
60,000$166.45
On EVA:
Chicago (ORD) to Taipei (TPE)
75,000$7.32 CAD
($5.60USD)
75,000$34.75

Previously, flying certain partners didn’t contain any surcharges and now they do. A prime example is EVA. In other circumstances, the mileage redemption rate has increased but the surcharges have decreased significantly.

FINAL STAMP

You’ll notice that I focused more on the actual program details and their new approach to award pricing (which is unlike any other airline loyalty out there) rather than where the “sweetspots” are.

The truth is that the new Aeroplan loyalty program is, both, a zone and distance-based chart. Though we have an idea of how it works, we won’t know EXACTLY how the computer will price trips. Often, when a new program debuts, there are a few gems in plain site, but we’ll have to wait until November to find them.

Understanding the program has eliminated fuel surcharges and introduced stopovers even on one-way tickets gives me great hope for the new program.

What are your thoughts about the new Aeroplan program?

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