Aeroplan Award Redemption Changes

Filed Under: Air Canada

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 refund fees

Aeroplan is lowering the fees for refunds completed on 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?

  1. You could refund tickets within 21 days before, you just had to rebook it 21 days out and then cancel. Obviously this means more change/fees but it was possible to get the points back. This is just better now.

  2. No more mini-RTW?!?!? I have one booked in September and was looking to do another next year.

  3. I am SuperElite 100K and love that I am now able to change or refund a ticket with zero charge. I had 3 changes to my Aeroplan ticket in April which was $$$ after it was all said and done.

  4. Previously, Hawaii was treated differently than North America for the purposes of stopovers. Do you have a sense of how the stopover rules will impact flights to Hawaii?

  5. The loss of the Mini-RTW. I remember the days of the 120k Mini-RTW in in F without YQ if you avoided AC metal.

    Remember those days Ben?

  6. I’m confused by the refund policy. So moving forward, if I want to cancel an award ticket, I have to pay $125 CAD and use the miles within a year of when the original ticket was booked?

  7. “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.”

    I find this confusing. If I understand correctly, stopovers and open jaws were only allowed in the same region. I.e., you couldn’t have a stopover in Europe on your way from North America to Aisa.

    Was I wrong about this before? What exactly do the new rules mean in regard to “same continent?”

  8. In the paragraph I quoted above, it says “as of today,” but on the Aeroplan website it says “as today,” which implies the no stopover, only open jaw within a continent is not actually changing.

    Can you clarify this, as well, please?

  9. So I called Aeroplan, and while the agent seemed pretty confused, she came back saying that yes, from today on, it would no longer be possible to book flights with stopovers for flights originating and ending in the same continent. (That means there is a typo on the Aeroplan website, that completely changes the meaning of the sentence.)

    For example, departing London to Rome, then returning Paris to Rome is OK. But London to Paris, stopover in Paris, Paris to Rome (destination), returning Rome to London is not OK. However, as mentioned before, the rules are different in North America. Also, this doesn’t apply based on the mileage chart region (ex: Europe 1, Europe 2), but on the continent. So, in theory you could do London to Budapest, returning Rome to London, assuming you would be paying the higher points level, if it applies as such in continental Europe flights. I don’t even think they really know. For intercontinental flights, the new rules do indeed take effect on September 1, 2019.

    I suspect they are doing this primarily because booking these complex multi-city flights has always required booking through the call centre, as they were not bookable online. So instead of updating their online booking tool to handle the complex itineraries, they are elminating the option to book complex itineraries through the call centre, and limiting all itineraries to what the current website is capable of. Basically just three legs, and that’s all.

  10. What a shame. The changes will really only benefit a tiny amount of reward bookers. I will use up much of my Aeroplan points now.

  11. I am looking for news that that they are going to not add surcharges to flights that currently lack them and remove the ones from Lufthansa, AC and others. Plus, offering good redemption rates means nothing if there is no availability.

  12. The call centre is a complete joke. I called them today and was told by a rude agent that it is no longer possible to book two stopovers on an award ticket from North America to Asia Zone 2. Which was obviously a lie. I called back and another agent confirmed that it was still possible to book two stopovers but that management strongly discouraged it. Finally, when I was trying to book a flight on Turkish Airlines from Bali to Istanbul, I was told that the flight was not available even though it appears online on their website. What a waste of my time. Unfortunately, I still have over half a million miles with these scammers…

  13. Ben, I have almost 100K miles and am looking for a one way from KHI to YYZ for mid August and all sold out. So tried Business/First and it showed some. What amazed me is Air China to SFO or YVR takes you in J to Beijing and F to your final destination for 105K. With the new changes and just one stopover allowed from Sep 1st does it make sense to burn these now and so the Air China stint :). Or would keeping these for a Mini-RTW which I think still exists be better. Would truly love your response.

  14. That being said, you can only book flights about 11 months out, and even then, the availability is not great, so I guess 10 or 11 months is the realistic time limit between your outgoing and returning flights.

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