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Aeroplan has functioned as Air Canada’s frequent flier loyalty program for over 35 years. However, the two have spent roughly half of that time as separate entities.
Over the past few years, Air Canada and Aeroplan have had quite a back and forth. When negotiations broke down, Air Canada threatened to create a brand new loyalty program.
Shortly later, the airline was able to re-acquire Aeroplan. But, true to its word, Air Canada went forward with creating a new loyalty program. So, while the name will be the same, Aeroplan is being completely revamped as of November 8, 2020.
- Key Facts of the New Aeroplan Program
- What to Know About the Transition to the New Aeroplan Program
- A Hybrid Award Pricing Approach
- New Aeroplan Program Award Mileage Pricing
- New Aeroplan Program Award Taxes and Fees
- Change Fee Impacts
- Stopovers Still an Option
- Points Pooling
- Our Take on the New Aeroplan Program
Key Facts of the New Aeroplan Program
- The refreshed program takes effect on November 8, 2020
- Existing Aeroplan points balances and account information and history will transfer to the new program
- The new award chart will be a hybrid of zones and distances
- All seats on Air Canada flights will be bookable with points
- Aeroplan is eliminating carrier surcharges, slashing the out-of-pocket costs for awards
- Aeroplan is adding a flat award surcharge for partner awards
- Popular Aeroplan stopovers are still possible
- Pooling of Aeroplan points with up to 7 family members will be possible
What to Know About the Transition to the New Aeroplan Program
In short: new program, new rules, same name, same account.
November 8, 2020 marks the start of a new Aeroplan program that will go by the same name as its predecessor. If you are already an Aeroplan member, nothing about your account will change this fall. Current points balances will move 1:1 from old program to new program. Your login info will remain the same, as will all of your account history.
Air Canada is a Star Alliance airline, meaning prospective award travelers can book flights on any of the other 25 full member airlines via Aeroplan. Additionally, Aeroplan members can book flights on select non-partner airlines as well. Brazil-based Azul Airlines and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways are two notable non-alliance partner airlines bookable through Aeroplan.
A Hybrid Award Pricing Approach
Along with the new Aeroplan program comes a new hybrid approach to award pricing. Most frequent flier programs follow either a region-based award pricing approach (like the legacy Aeroplan program) or a distance-based award pricing approach (think British Airways or Iberia). What Aeroplan will launch in November blends the two.
Splitting the World into Four Parts
Many of the zone-based award charts include a plethora of regions. For example, the American Airlines AAdvantage program uses eight separate regions just for the Americas.
Aeroplan has chosen simplicity instead, dividing the world into four parts:
- North America
- South America
Distances Matters, Too
At the same time, distance becomes a factor under Aeroplan’s new program. Between regions and within each region, total distance flown determines the ultimate mileage cost of flights.
Aeroplan provides 10 separate award charts to detail new award costs. However, that can be effectively be condensed to four — one for each region.
The charts above assume the lowest level of award pricing, whether on Air Canada flights or on partner airlines. In the new Aeroplan program, Aeroplan lists a range of prices for Air Canada flights.
There are two ways that Air Canada awards work differently than partner awards. First, Air Canada is the only airline where premium economy awards are possible. Second, every seat is available for awards on Air Canada planes. However, that flexibility comes at a mileage premium.
Related reading: How Many Miles Do You Need for a Free Flight?
New Aeroplan Program Award Mileage Pricing
The overall impact on mileage costs can be tough to quantify for some of the more complex awards made possible under the Aeroplan program. But, for simpler awards, impacts are easier to measure and understand.
To get the whole picture, Aeroplan’s existing and new award charts are needed along with one of my favorite award travel aids, the Global Circle Mapper. Alternatively, simply use Air Canada’s new Points Predictor Tool for award cost estimates.
Without running through every single combination of origin and destination cities, I’ll summarize briefly: award costs are, in general, increasing modestly.
Some Awards Prices are Increasing
One of my favorite awards under the old Aeroplan program was a one-way business class flight between the United States and Europe. Flights to Europe 1 (roughly Northern/Western Europe) in business class currently cost just 55,000 miles. Flights to Europe 2 (roughly Southern/Eastern Europe) cost 57,500 miles.
Under the new Aeroplan program, these flights will cost at least 60,000 points and can shoot up to 85,000 points or more, depending on the routing.
Some Awards Prices are Decreasing
Not all awards will experience an increase as part of these changes. For instance, consider the route between Vancouver and Tokyo. Below is a section of the existing Aeroplan award chart showing the current award redemption rates. Note that these figures are for a round trip journey.
Under the terms of the refreshed Aeroplan program, this particular route actually decreases in price at all cabin levels. One way awards between the two cities will decrease anywhere between 2,500 miles (economy) and 20,000 miles (business).
The distance between Vancouver and Tokyo comes in at 4,701 miles, keeping it just under the 5,000 threshold at which award levels increase between North America and the Pacific zone. That means partner awards will cost:
- Economy: 35,000 points (vs. 37,500 miles) each way
- Business: 55,000 points (vs. 75,000 miles) each way
- First: 90,000 points (vs. 105,000 miles) each way
New Aeroplan Program Award Taxes and Fees
It’s not all doom and gloom in the example above, or in general, for Aeroplan awards. Under the old program, travelers needed to be extra careful to avoid particular partner airlines that add exorbitant fees to awards. Flying the same transatlantic route on Lufthansa instead of on United in business class could add over $800 per person each way to the overall cost of the award.
Under the new Aeroplan program, these exorbitant carrier-imposed surcharges will no longer be assessed. Instead, a flat C$39 ($29) fee will apply for all partner awards.
For travelers looking to fly on airlines such as Lufthansa that impose hefty surcharges, this is great news. Award prices might be increasing, but paying 15,000 extra miles/points in exchange for paying about $800 less in cash out-of-pocket is a value of over 5 cents per point.
However, the opposite is true for travelers flying on airlines such as United, which impose no carrier surcharges. Not only will a transatlantic award on United cost more points under the new Aeroplan program but also will be subject to an additional C$39 fee.
Speaking of fees, a C$30 ($23) fee applies if you book an award by calling Aeroplan instead of online. And unlike with other airlines, this fee applies even if the award can't be booked online.
Change Fee Impacts
Especially in times of travel uncertainty, travel plans are liable to shift or change altogether with little notice. Some airlines allow more flexibility or charge less for the same flexibility compared to others. To best guard against travel uncertainties, it is important to understand each program’s change and cancellation fee structures.
The new Aeroplan program allows for fantastic flexibility as well as no-fee cancellation, but not at the same time. Awards can be changed or canceled up to two hours before departure, which depending on how close you live to your home airport, might be after you’ve already hit the road to get there. At the same time, the fees Aeroplan will charge for changes or cancellations to award tickets follow a sliding scale based on the timing of these actions.
If you’re looking to cancel within 24 hours of making an award booking, no fee will be assessed. However, if you wait longer than that to make any changes, expect to pay up:
Changes Made to Award Tickets
- 60+ days in advance: C$75 ($57) fee for standard award tickets
- 60 or fewer days in advance: C$100 ($77) fee for standard award tickets
- C$25 ($19) fee for flexible economy class award tickets
- No fees for flexible premium cabin awards or Latitude tickets
Cancellations Made to Award Tickets
- Phone: C$175 ($134) for standard award tickets
- Online: C$150 ($115) for standard award tickets
- Online: C$75 ($57) for flexible economy class award tickets
- No fees for flexible premium cabin awards or Latitude tickets
If you want to make a change or cancel an award ticket booked before the new Aeroplan program goes live on November 8, 2020, a fee of C$100 will apply. Changes will follow new award pricing and must be completed over the phone.
Stopovers Still an Option
Some frequent flier programs allow for stopovers, where travelers can “stop over” en route to their final destination. For just 5,000 points extra, Aeroplan’s new program makes this possible. Note that the option is not available within Canada or the United States.
Stopovers represent a very points-efficient way to visit more places in a single trip. An example would be flying from Chicago to Tokyo, staying for a week, and continuing on to Singapore after that. Paying just 5,000 extra points lets you tour Tokyo rather than just the inside of the airport.
Be advised that just because the stopover option exists, it may not represent the most value. For instance, flying in business class from Boston to Rome with a stopover in Lisbon would cost 75,000 points: 70,000 for the itinerary plus 5,000 for the stopover. However, European “business class” often is just economy with the middle seat blocked. Also, the cash cost of the roughly 3-hour flight between Lisbon and Rome is often under $100.
Instead, booking just the flight from Boston to Lisbon as an award would cost 60,000 points — as the distance between the two cities is just 3,192 miles. That means you'll pay 15,000 fewer points to just book this route and pay $100 out-of-pocket for a cash flight from Lisbon to Rome. Saving 15,000 points for a cost of $100 is well worth it in my opinion.
Come November 8, Aeroplan members can pool their points with up to 7 family members for future redemptions. For solo travelers, this new program feature might not make a big difference, but families traveling together could benefit greatly. This potentially lets groups of people work toward flight awards faster, which is always a welcome boost.
If you are thinking of creating or joining a pool, be advised that Aeroplan has some pool rules that could make you reconsider. Aeroplan members must stay in a pool they join for at least 3 months. Upon leaving a pool, you must wait 6 months before joining another pool.
Our Take on the New Aeroplan Program
Impacts of Aeroplan's program revamp will vary greatly from person to person. Most of the time when an airline makes changes to its loyalty program, award travelers aren't happy with the results.
In general, Aeroplan award costs will increase come November 8, 2020. However, some select routes might actually decrease under the new hybrid award chart.
Even with these increases in mind, the elimination of carrier surcharges in favor of a nominal, flat award fee comes as a major boost for those looking to redeem miles for travel on carriers known for such fees, like Lufthansa. Add to that easy, affordable stopovers on awards and the potential to pool points with others, and it’s easy to forgive modest award cost increases.
Before you transfer any points over to Aeroplan for an award, make sure to evaluate all booking options. Sometimes a stopover can be replaced by an inexpensive cash flight, or perhaps a different frequent flier program offers a better redemption option.
Will you be looking to book awards through the new Aeroplan program?
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