Air Canada Aeroplan: Everything you need to know about their innovative new program

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Air Canada has unveiled details of their new loyalty program coming November 8th, 2020.  Not interested?  Think again.  Air Canada Aeroplan points can be used to fly any Star Alliance airline (United, Lufthansa, ANA, etc.) or non-alliance partners (Etihad is particularly notable) with no carrier-imposed surcharges (as of Nov 8).  And you don’t need to fly Air Canada to earn those points.  Points are transferable from Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Marriott Bonvoy.

The following guide details what you need to know about the new Air Canada Aeroplan program.

Air Canada Aeroplan Overview

  • Aeroplan Points: Unlike programs which continue to call their rewards “miles”, the new Aeroplan refers to their rewards as “points”.
  • Every seat, every flight awards: Every Air Canada seat that’s available to buy in cash, you can redeem for with points. No restrictions. No blackout periods. (this does not apply to awards on partner airlines).  Flights with higher cash prices will cost more points.
  • No cash surcharges (except $39 CAD for partner awards).  No fees for booking awards on Air Canada flights.  Partner flights no longer incur carrier imposed (fuel) surcharges.  Air Canada does charge a $39 CAD partner booking fee for awards that include partner flights.
  • Revenue based earnings: Earn points based on the price you pay rather than the miles flown.
  • Hybrid zone/distance based award charts: Award pricing is mostly distance-based, but with different award pricing depending upon which zones you fly between or within.
  • Family sharing: Combine points across your family.

Recent posts about Air Canada

Air Canada Aeroplan Pros and Cons

Pros

  • No carrier imposed fuel surcharges
  • Add a stop-over on a one-way award for 5,000 points
  • Flexible award routing rules
  • Family sharing makes it easy to share points
  • Points + Cash awards may offer great value
  • Innovative elite perks such as status sharing (similar to Hyatt’s Guest of Honor awards) and 50%-off awards.

Cons

  • $39 CAD award booking fee for partner flights
  • Point earning on paid flights is very low (starts at only 2 points per dollar)
  • Distance based award charts sometimes lead to overpriced awards compared to competing programs.

Earn points

Flights

Currently, points are earned based on the number of miles flown, but later in 2021, earning will be based on the amount paid.  Exact earnings depend on fare class and elite status.  Basic economy flights earn 2 points per dollar and all others earn 3 points per dollar.  Your status can increase your point earnings, as follows:

Elite Status Basic Economy
Points Per Dollar
Other Fares
Points Per Dollar
No Status 2 3
25K 3 4
35K 3 4
50K 4 5
75K 5 6
Super Elite 6 7

Compared to other North American airline programs (such as AA, Delta, and United), points earning through flights is very weak with Air Canada.

Partner Flights

When booking paid flights with Star Alliance airlines or non-alliance partner airlines, it’s usually possible to assign your Air Canada Aeroplan number to the reservation in order to earn Aeroplan miles and status.

I recommend using Where to Credit to see if Air Canada is a reasonable option for the flight you are purchasing.

Transfer from other points programs

You can transfer points from transferable points programs as follows:

Non-flight options for earning points

Air Canada lists these non-flight options for earning points:

  • Hotels: Many hotel chains offer the option to earn Air Canada miles for your stay. Note that it is usually more rewarding to earn the hotel program’s own points intead.
  • Car Rentals: Several car rental companies offer the option to earn Air Canada Aeroplan miles.
  • Airport Parking
  • Aeroplan eStore shopping portal.  Earn bonus miles when shopping online or at select merchants in-store.

Spend points

Award charts

Air Canada Aeroplan offers different distance based award charts depending upon which zone you are traveling within or which zones you are traveling from and to.  The image above shows the four zones: North America (red), Atlantic (blue), Pacific (purple), South America (tan).

The complete set of award charts can be found here.  Award charts specific to flying from or to North America are also shown below.  The following award charts show one-way award prices.  Prices are based on the actual distance flown on all segments (not just the distance from the origin to the destination).

Flights on Air Canada itself show a range of prices because all seats are available for awards. Presumably saver-level awards will cost the price at the bottom of the range.

Partner flights are available only when that partner makes seats available as partner awards. With most programs these are known as saver-level awards.  For example, when United shows a saver-level award available on one of its flights, you should be able to book it with Air Canada Aeroplan.

The image above shows a search result from United.com. When results show the words “Saver Award,” it should be possible to book the same flight with Air Canada Aeroplan miles.

Within North America

Between North America and Atlantic Zone

Between North America and Pacific Zone

Between North America and South America

Stopovers

Air Canada allows adding a stopover to a one-way award.  They charge 5,000 points to add a stopover.  Stopovers are not available in Canada or the United States, regardless of itinerary, origin, or destination.

Points + Cash Awards

While I haven’t found much information about Points + Cash Awards online, View from the Wing has the scoop:

All awards can be priced as ‘points plus cash’ letting you buy up to 40% of the points required for an award. There will be four options every time you redeem, including spending extra points to cover taxes and fees. And the cash cost will be reasonable at 1.5 to 2 cents a point Canadian (1.5 Canadian is currently ~ 1.12 US cents, a great deal for buying miles).

Waitlisting

Waitlisting awards is not permitted.

Infants (Lap Children)

For international awards, Air Canada Aeroplan charges only $25 CAD or 2,500 points per direction of travel for a lap infant.

The following is quoted directly from Air Canada’s new flight rewards policy (found here):

Infants under the age of 2 and not occupying a seat may accompany an adult
travelling on a Flight Reward and will require a separate ticket for travel, subject
to the below:

  • For travel wholly within Canada, no fare will apply and the infant requires a ticket.
  • For travel between Canada and the United States, no fare will apply and the infant requires a ticket.
  • For all other itineraries, a discounted fare of CAD25 or 2,500 Points will apply per direction of travel and the infant requires a ticket.

Where applicable, taxes, fees and charges will be assessed and must be paid in
cash.

Only one infant under the age of 2 not occupying a seat is permitted per adult
travelling. Children over the age of 2 will require their own seat and Flight Reward ticket.

Award Change Fees

  • Cancel within 24 hours for no fee
  • Up until two hours before you fly, you can cancel or change any flight reward. While a fee does apply, in the case of a cancellation, you’ll get a refund of all of your points back into your account, along with any eligible third-party taxes, fees and surcharges associated with the unused value of your travel.
  • Fees for changes and cancellations depend upon the fare class booked (see the image above).  In most cases you’ll incur the following fees for making changes online:
    • Change itinerary at least 60 days prior to departure: $75 CAD
    • Change itinerary less than 60 days prior to departure: $100 CAD
    • Cancel award for a refund of miles and fees: $150 CAD
  • The above fees are waived for 100K “Super Elite” members.

In-flight spending points options

Bid on upgrades

Air Canada previously allowed bidding cash for upgrades, but now they allow bidding Aeroplan points as well.  When you purchase an Economy or Premium Economy Class ticket on an eligible flight operated by Air Canada or Air Canada Rouge, or under the Air Canada Express banner, you can make an offer for an opportunity to be upgraded to a higher cabin class.

At any time up until 56 hours before your flight, you can:

Around 48 hours before your flight, Air Canada will send you an email to let you know whether your offer was accepted.

  • If it is accepted, your credit card or Aeroplan account will be charged for the amount you bid. Your upgrade will appear on your boarding pass.
  • If your offer is not accepted, you won’t be charged and you’ll keep the seat you have.

Pay for in-flight wifi

Expected December 2020.  We will update this section with more information once it is known.

Non-flight spending points options

These options usually do not offer good value for your points:

  • Hotels
  • Car rentals
  • Air Canada Vacations
  • Aeroplan eStore (merchandise, activities, gift cards)

Aeroplan Elite Status

Air Canada calls its elite program “Aeroplan Elite Status”.  We don’t yet have full details about the program, but I’ve done my best to figure out the key pieces based on marketing hints and info about the prior program.  I’ll update this section when I learn more.

Elite status requirements

Air Canada Aeroplan offers five elite status levels.  To achieve each level of status you must earn a set number of status qualifying miles (SQMs) or status qualifying segments (SQSs) and status qualifying dollars (SQDs).

Elite qualifications are based on calendar years.  In other words, you must earn at least 25,000 SQMs or 25 SQSs plus $3,000 in SQDs within a calendar year in order to earn 25K status for the rest of that year and all of the next.

If you earn more Status Qualifying Miles than are needed for the level of status you’ve achieved, Air Canada will rollover those SQMs to the next year provided that you have an Air Canada credit card that provides that benefit.  Same is true for unused eUpgrade credits.

Elite Earning on Flights

The above qualifying currency earn criteria on Air Canada flights are effective beginning January 1, 2021

Elite Status Benefits

The following are the top benefits available at each status level.

Select Benefits

As you achieve each status level, Air Canada makes available “Select Benefits”.  In other words, you get to pick which benefits you want.  Some of the selectable benefits are shown in the elite benefit chart above.  These are the benefits marked with asterisks.

I’ll update this section once I have access to the 2021 Select Benefits details.  Note that “Select Benefits”was previously named “Altitude Privileges”.

Priority Awards

Aeroplan Elite Status makes it possible to earn vouchers for 50% off flight awards (including partner awards).  Unfortunately, you have to have “Super Elite” status to earn a voucher that works on business class international awards.  Vouchers are earned each time you reach a SQD threshold and the type of the voucher you get depends on your status at that time.

Status Pass (share status)

This benefit begins March 2021.  Those with 50K Status and above will be able to choose Status Passes as Select Privileges.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Give a status pass to anyone you want – a friend, a family member, or even a colleague. They can use a status pass when they’re traveling without you.
  2. Travelers with a status pass enjoy premium travel services when on flights operated by Air Canada.
  3. They can even share the love – the premium travel services they get with a status pass extend to up to 9 people on their reservation.

Status Pass benefits include:

  • Priority Check-In
  • 3 complementary checked bags with priority baggage handling
  • Priority security clearance
  • Maple Leaf Lounge access
  • Priority airport standby
  • Priority boarding

Shortcuts to elite status

Earn 25K status with 100K points

Starting January 2021, earn bottom tier elite status (25K status) when you earn 100,000 Aeroplan points within a calendar year through everyday transactions such as spending on Aeroplan credit cards, flying with Air Canada and partner airlines, and with any other travel and retail partners.

I believe that point transfers from other programs (such as Amex Membership Rewards) will count towards this total.

Manage points

Aeroplan Family Sharing

Aeroplan lets you share points with others through their Family Sharing option:

  • Up to 8 family members can group together.
  • All points earned by members are added into a shared balance, including their existing points balances.
  • Redeem for rewards using points from your shared balance.
  • If you have an Elite Status Member or a primary Aeroplan Credit Cardholder in your group, everyone gets to benefit from their preferred pricing (meaning that you can often redeem for Air Canada flights at reduced award prices).

How to keep points alive

  • Points expire after 18 months of inactivity.
  • Reset clock by earning or burning points. (transferring points from another program like Amex or Capital One should work)

Credit cards

Air Canada advertises the following credit card benefits:

Status Accelerator

You can earn Status Qualifying Miles (SQM) and Status Qualifying Segments (SQS) just by spending on your eligible credit card.

Rollover SQM and eUpgrades

Have additional SQM above your qualification threshold, or unused eUpgrade credits about to expire? We’ll roll them over if you have an eligible credit card.

Get higher priority at the airport

As a credit cardholder, many premium airport services will be available to you with priority, ahead of a member with the same status who doesn’t have an eligible credit card.

This section will be expanded soon.  Please check back later!

Questions?

Please comment below.  I’ll change this to a Q&A section once we’ve accumulated a few.

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