We can expect significant changes to Air Canada’s loyalty program over the next year or so. Initially Air Canada was going to form their own frequent flyer program in 2020, which came after their contract with Aeroplan was due to expire. In the end Air Canada acquired Aeroplan.
This means we can still expect a new loyalty program in 2020, but it may have more elements of Aeroplan than it otherwise would have.
In light of that, Air Canada has just announced some significant changes to flight awards with Aeroplan, which I’d consider to be mostly positive changes, though there are also a couple of negatives.
First let me note that award redemption rates aren’t changing, but these changes all involve the types of awards that are allowed, and the rules associated with them.
Positive Aeroplan changes
Air Canada is making four changes that are objectively positive, and which increase flexibility and peace of mind for members. These changes kick in effective immediately, so let’s take a look at them:
It will be easier and cheaper to refund award tickets
Free refunds within 24 hours of booking
Aeroplan members can now cancel and refund flight rewards for free within 24 hours of booking. If you do book via the call center then the 30CAD Aeroplan phone booking fee will not be refunded.
This is a fantastic development, as I’ve always been frustrated by them not allowing cancelations within 24 hours (for the US this is something that airlines don’t technically have to offer on award tickets, but rather it legally just applies to revenue tickets — nonetheless many airlines extend this as a courtesy on awards).
Refund award bookings within 21 days of departure
Up until now, Aeroplan hasn’t let you cancel award tickets within 21 days of departure. If you’re within 21 days of departure you could just apply those miles towards a future ticket for the same passenger, to be used within one year of when the ticket was initially issued.
With this new policy, Aeroplan awards can be canceled and refunded up to two hours prior to departure of the first flight.
This policy will even apply to bookings made prior to this new policy coming into effect. This is hugely useful for me, as I have a couple of tickets that were subjected to this restriction, and where it would be easiest just to have the miles deposited back in my account.
Reduced aeroplan.com refund fees
Aeroplan is lowering the fees for refunds completed on aeroplan.com to 125CAD. This even applies to bookings made prior to the new policy coming into effect.
The current fee is 150CAD, which will continue to apply by phone.
Free changes and refunds for Super Elite 100K members
Historically Air Canada’s top tier Super Elite 100K customers have enjoyed reduced change and refund fees, though they’ve still had to pay. That was presumably largely due to the distinction between Aeroplan and Air Canada — in other words, Super Elite 100Ks were Air Canada’s best customers, but not necessarily Aeroplan’s best customers.
Now Air Canada Super Elite 100K members will no longer be charged a fee for changing or refunding award bookings. This new policy will even apply to bookings made before the new policy came into effect.
Negative Aeroplan changes
Two negative changes are being made, as of September 1, 2019. Air Canada notes that these impact less than 0.3% of all flight rewards booked each year (though I’m guessing a disproportionate number of those are OMAAT readers). 😉
I also appreciate Air Canada’s honesty is in how they share these changes, at least acknowledging that they’re negative changes:
Being transparent is essential to us, so it’s also important to share that we’re temporarily suspending two features of the Aeroplan Program later this year. In both cases, these changes will allow us to make important system upgrades to deliver better service and offer new, more flexible stopover options with the launch of our new loyalty program.
So, what’s the bad news?
Say goodbye to round the world awards
New stopover restrictions
Currently members can book flight rewards that include two stopovers, or one stopover and one open jaw, in addition to the turnaround point.
As of September 1, 2019, members will be limited to one stopover or one open jaw on a roundtrip award. Furthermore, as of today travel within the same continent (except for travel wholly within North America) is limited to one open jaw, with no stopovers permitted.
Around the world awards being cut
As of September 1, 2019, Aeroplan is cutting around the world flight rewards. For context, currently round the world awards cost:
- 200,000 miles in economy
- 250,000 miles in premium economy
- 300,000 miles in business class
- 400,000 miles in first class
They allow a maximum of five stopovers and one open jaw, and must include one transatlantic and one transpacific crossing.
My take on Aeroplan changes
Everyone uses miles differently, so obviously some people will be disappointed by these changes, while others will be thrilled.
Aeroplan is one of my favorite programs for transferring points from Amex Membership Rewards and Capital One, given their very reasonable redemption rates. For one, I’m happy to see no negative award chart changes for the time being.
A vast majority of my Aeroplan redemptions are simple one-way awards from the US to either Europe or Asia, so in light of that, these changes are fantastic. I can cancel awards within 24 hours, I’m going to be paying less to refund tickets, and most importantly, I can refund tickets up to two hours before departure.
Booking one-way awards with Aeroplan just became even better
Personally I don’t think the loss of round the world awards is a huge loss. With virtually all airlines allowing one-way awards nowadays, it’s often much easier and more economical to just book awards point-to-point. So even as someone who loves booking amazing awards that maximizing miles, I just don’t see much value in these types of awards.
The loss of two stopovers on a roundtrip is negative, and it was one of the best ways to maximize Aeroplan miles. In reality I rarely used two stopovers, though, and the fact that they continue to allow one stopover makes them better than most programs.
So overall I’m very happy about these changes, at least based on my redemption patterns.
What do you make of these Aeroplan award booking changes?