It ain’t easy being an airline these days. The sector has been pummeled by the pandemic in almost every possible way – from fewer customers to restrictive regulations and perceived lack of support from government. In some cases, airlines haven’t helped themselves with confusing refund and voucher capers. Indeed, most carriers could use a friend.
Perhaps with this mind, Air Canada hopes to find a few with the long-awaited unveiling of its new and transformed Aeroplan program, which the carrier re-acquired in 2019 from Aimia. The airline is said to be hoping to add two million more Aeroplan members to its existing 5 million card holders by 2024.
To that end, the new Aeroplan will launch on Nov. 8 with a host of new and revised policies that airline president and chief executive Calin Rovinescu says will make the program “among the best travel loyalty programs in the world.”
“This is more important than ever as airlines compete to earn and retain customer loyalty in a rapidly changing environment,” he said.
Overall, Air Canada, which canvassed 36,000 existing Aeroplan members for feedback and benchmarked against loyalty and frequent flyer programs from around the globe, says the new program will offer customers more personalized, flexible and easier-to-use features, and provides better value for Aeroplan credit card holders redeeming flights on Air Canada than the value provided by major Canadian bank travel programs.
Among the benefits and new features are:
• No restrictions – Points can be used to purchase any available Air Canada seat.
• No cash surcharges – Additional airline surcharges, including fuel, will be eliminated on all flight rewards with Air Canada. Members will pay cash only for taxes and third-party fees (and can even pay for those with Aeroplan points).
• Predictable pricing – Points needed will be based on actual prices in the market. Trips can be planned through the Points Predictor Tool, which provides an estimated range in Aeroplan points that members will need for their flight rewards.
• Global reach – Points can be redeemed on over 35 airlines flying to 1,300-plus global destinations.
• Points + Cash – Members can pay with a combination of points and cash.
• Family Sharing – Members will be able to combine points for free with others in their household.
• More points – Points are awarded with every Air Canada flight booked in cash on the website or app, now including Economy Basic fares.
• Upgrades – Members can redeem points to upgrade to Premium Economy or Business Class whenever seats are available. Members can also bid for upgrades.
• Extra perks – Points can be used for popular extras, such as in-flight Wi-Fi or lounge access.
• Enhanced rewards – Members can put points toward car rentals, hotel stays and vacations packages.
• More merchandise – A wider range of reward options including electronics and housewares is available. Additionally, gift cards will be delivered digitally (i.e. faster).
Six membership levels remain: entry-level Aeroplan Debut plus Elite Status levels: 25K, 35K, 50K, 75K, and Super Elite. Most existing benefits remain, along with some improvements starting in 2021:
• Priority Rewards – Elite Status Members can earn Priority Rewards vouchers entitling them to 50% off the price in points (excluding taxes, third-party fees, and where applicable, a partner booking fee) on eligible flight rewards with Air Canada and its airline partners. Members with Aeroplan 35K status or higher will automatically receive Priority Rewards when the program launches in November.
• Status Pass – Eligible Elite Status Members can share their benefits, such as priority boarding and lounge access, with friends and family members, even if they are not travelling together.
• Everyday Status Qualification – Points can be earned daily from eligible retail, travel, and Aeroplan credit card partners.
Members who hold eligible co-branded credit cards issued from card partners TD, CIBC and American Express will earn rewards more quickly and have access to new benefits:
• Entry-level credit cards offer preferred pricing on flight rewards, meaning primary cardholders can often redeem flights for fewer points. Also, when these members shop at popular categories, they’ll earn bonus points. Members earn even more when they spend directly with Air Canada (through the app, at aircanada.com or vacations.aircanada.com) and pay with their Aeroplan credit card.
• Main-level credit cards offer the above benefits, plus a free first checked bag when travelling on Air Canada flights – regardless of whether the ticket was redeemed with points or purchased with cash. Additionally, up to eight companions travelling on the same reservation can also receive a free first checked bag.
• Premium-level credit cards offer the above benefits, plus new airport perks including Maple Leaf Lounge and Air Canada Café access, priority boarding, and priority check-in.
• Eligible secondary cardholders will receive a free first checked bag, lounge access, and priority airport benefits when travelling on their own – an industry first.
• Top-level cardholders can tap into new benefits like rollover eUpgrade Credits and priority upgrade clearance at the airport.
On Nov. 8, current Aeroplan accounts will seamlessly transition to the transformed program, including existing Aeroplan membership numbers. Aeroplan miles will be known as “Aeroplan points,” and existing balances of miles will be honoured on a one-to-one basis. Also, all Aeroplan credit cards will continue to earn Aeroplan points.
The Bottom Line
The relaunch will allow all members to book seats on any Air Canada flight using Aeroplan points, a change from the current model where seat inventory is limited.
It will eliminate the fuel surcharge, which can cost less than $25 or into the high hundreds, and other additional charges on flights purchased with points, and members will also be able to share points with family members, combining them to put toward a trip.
The new system will base the number of points earned for a given flight on airfare rather than distance, which currently provides the baseline – meaning the points gap between a flight to Asia and a flight across the country will likely narrow, since the difference in distance is often greater than the difference in price.
The new, more flexible pricing model also means more popular routes and times will cost more points than under the current fixed system, while off-peak times and less popular routes will be cheaper, says National Bank analyst Cameron Doerksen.
“We see this as margin-enhancing for Air Canada,” Doerksen wrote in in a research note, “as it will be able to effectively charge market prices for rewards seats for more popular flights. In addition, it will allow the airline to enhance load factors on less popular flights.”
Further program details can be found HERE.
Source: Travel Industry Today
SCORING POINTS:A guide to Air Canada’s new-look Aeroplan