Kudos: Air Canada Aeroplan Extends Status (Again)

Filed Under: Air Canada

Air Canada has just become the first major airline in North America to extend status in 2021, and make it easier (for some) to earn status in 2022. On top of that, Air Canada is extending the expiration of Aeroplan points. As the airline describes it, “loyalty is a two-way street,” and that sure is a refreshing concept.

Let’s get into the details of what has been announced today.

Aeroplan elite status will be extended in 2021

Air Canada Aeroplan will be automatically extending whatever elite status members hold in 2021 by a further year, through the end of 2022. This marks the second year that Air Canada is extending status, as a similar extension was announced in 2020.

Like last year, Air Canada will also allow members to choose Select Benefits in early 2022, so that members can get additional benefits, like eUpgrade credits, bonus Aeroplan points, and Status Passes. It’s generous that the program is not only extending status, but also offering the additional perks that usually come with qualifying.

Air Canada Aeroplan is extending status by a further year

Aeroplan elite status will be easier to earn in 2022

Air Canada Aeroplan is doing something special for those who do qualify for status in 2021. Consider it a modified form of rollover status. Last year when airlines extended status, some people said “not fair, I qualified anyway, and other people are getting it for free” (which I don’t consider to be very good logic, especially in a pandemic, but I digress).

To address that, members who earned any Air Canada Aeroplan elite status in 2021 through flight activity on Air Canada, Star Alliance member airlines, and other eligible airline partners, will have their 2021 Status Qualifying Miles (SQMs), Status Qualifying Segments (SQSs), and Status Qualifying Dollars (SQDs) extended to 2022, meaning it will be easier for those members to earn status in 2022.

This only applies for those who actually earn any status in 2021, which means members would need to earn at least 25,000 SQMs or 25 SQSs, and at least 3,000 SQDs (1,500 SQDs for non-Canadian residents).

Just to give an example, if you’re an Aeroplan 75K member, you’ll have that status extended through the end of 2022. Then if you earned 26,000 SQMs, 15 SQSs, and 3,500 SQDs (enough to earn Aeroplan 25K), all of those would roll over to 2022, making it easier to earn status next year.

Those who earned Air Canada Aeroplan status in 2021 will roll over activity to 2022

Air Canada Aeroplan extending points expiration

Air Canada Aeroplan is further pausing the expiration of Aeroplan points through January 31, 2022. As of then, the normal expiration policy will apply, which is that Aeroplan points expire after 18 months of inactivity.

This updated expiration will reflect in member accounts beginning later this month.

The expiration of Air Canada Aeroplan points will continue to be paused 

Will other North American airlines follow?

With Air Canada having announced an extension of status, should we expect something similar from US airlines? I wrote in the past about why I think most airlines absolutely need to extend status in 2021 (which isn’t to say that they will, but…).

I have a few different thoughts on this:

  • In fairness, Canada is way behind the United States when it comes to a travel recovery, both in terms travel restrictions, and in terms of vaccine distribution; US airline passenger numbers are somewhere around 60% of 2019 levels, while that’s nowhere close to being the case in Canada
  • The way I view it, at a minimum airlines in the US have to write off the first half of 2021 in terms of expecting people to qualify for status, since many people haven’t felt comfortable flying without being vaccinated, and that has to be respected
  • Even once people are vaccinated, that doesn’t mean business travel will suddenly recover, and it’s counterproductive to be punitive to these travelers

So yeah, US airlines absolutely should extend status, or at a minimum make it easier to earn, but they very well may not. The reality is that Air Canada Aeroplan’s leadership gets it when it comes to loyalty (and it’s important to differentiate the loyalty program’s leadership from Air Canada’s refund policy during the pandemic).

Meanwhile American Airlines has literally been trying to cold-call AAdvantage members to sell them bundles of elite miles. That’s possibly the most short-sighted, one-sided approach to generating revenue through a loyalty program that I’ve ever seen.

How does that call go? “Hey, so I realize there’s a pandemic and you probably haven’t felt comfortable flying, or you haven’t had any business travel. And your business may very well be struggling. We’re not going to extend your status, but maybe we can sell you some elite miles so you can keep your status? Thanks so much for your loyalty, we really appreciate it!”

Bottom line

Air Canada deserves credit for being the first North American airline to extend status in 2021, and make status easier to earn (for some) in 2022. On top of that, the expiration of Aeroplan points is further being paused.

Here’s to hoping we see something similar from Air Canada’s North American rivals… though I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

What do you make of Air Canada’s status extension, and do you think we’ll see other North American airlines introduce similar initiatives?

Comments
  1. I am a United 1K based in London. Right now it’s illegal to leave the UK until June 30. I have a UA flight to LAX for July 1 which I hope will go. Until then it’s impossible for me to go anywhere. A status extension through 2022 would be very welcome to those of us outside the USA.

  2. “As [Air Canada] describes it, “loyalty is a two-way street,” and that sure is a refreshing concept.”

    Oh, but we reserve the right to illegally confiscate your money, and then to lobby the government to retrospectively change the law in our favour so we can swap it for a worthless voucher…

    Shouldn’t you have a bottom line sentence for every posting about an airline, about how they treated their customers during the pandemic? That strikes me as likely to be a much more accurate reflection of their values — much like the Dr Dao case still tells you everything you need to know about United.

    Incidentally, my OWE status has been extended yet again by BA, to October 2022.

  3. American should not extend elite status in 2022. If they lower the requirements fair enough. First prove you’re willing to return to travel. You chose to listen to CNN and stay at home for 15 months. Plenty of people have flown during the pandemic.

  4. Most US airlines likely to sit on their hands a few months. Canada is way behind on vaccine roll out, as is Europe. And that’s not likely to change soon. United is the most likely to move because of its dependence on international travel. Delta and American are more likely to wait to see what happens to biz travel. They may move in early June once broader vaccine roll out is done and biz travel may have started to pick up, but then we’re into summer, so I’m guessing they’re more likely to move in Aug/Sept after summer is over.

    While the US is significantly ahead, biz travel still way down. e.g. book a ticket today for the coming weeks and many preferred seats are wide open i.e. people who have status – biz travelers – are not traveling, while leisure travelers are. Evidence of domestic leisure travel picking up is all over e.g. flights to/from Orange County, CA or looking at midscale hotel room rates for popular tourist places in June/July e.g. Oregon often $300+ p/n, some midscale places are sold out and some are even over $700 p/n.

  5. A couple of issues

    1) A lot of people ARE traveling now, and many more will be traveling later this year. Airlines need to find a way to extend loyalty to customers that are actually flying

    2) If you just keep extending status, along with awarding status to current fliers, there is going to be a glut of elites in 2022 and 2023 across all of the major US airlines. Delta will see the biggest increase due to their rollover policies and credit card policies.

    Its hard to see status just extended into next year without some kind of flying activity in 2021

  6. @Anthony

    There isn’t going to be a “glut” of anything. “Too many frequent fliers” will be a problem airlines will be glad to have, while the reality is lucrative biz travel won’t go back into full swing for quite some time.

  7. David – There definitely will be a glut of Gold/Platinum on Delta next year due to rollover and credit card promotions (Diamond less sure of). Delta has been giving away elite qualification miles for two years.

  8. Yes, US is ahead in leisure travel.
    But thats not important for status extensions. There still isnt much OPM flying.
    If it stays that way, US airlines will have to extend.

  9. The bottom line is this “act of loyalty” masks the elephant in the room which is Air Canada not refunding passengers for flights they cancelled during Covid-19. If they truely wanted to display loyalty they would put their money where their mouth is. This is just pathetic… (An Australian perspective)

  10. @Ben
    In fairness you *did* reference it, but in such a way that you seemed to exonerate Aeroplan (a wholly-owned part of Air Canada) by implying they’re all lovely, and somehow that separates them from the company of which they are a part which — frankly — stole their customers’ money?

    I dunno. I’m probably too cynical. I don’t forget crap like Dr Dao or customer theft very quickly; for example, I didn’t fly BA for more than twenty years after the “dirty tricks” revelations, at some cost to myself, because I didn’t want to reward executives who behave outrageously badly.

  11. I agree with the commenter above that if US airlines don’t extend status to everyone, I hope they will at least consider non-US customers. I earned 10 years of UA 1K status and haven’t flown in 13 months. While I can get to the US, it is a problem to come home to Canada due to the quarantine requirements. I live in Canada’s capital city and we no longer even have any international flights here; the only places I can fly direct are Toronto, Montreal and Iqaluit!

  12. I’m with The nice Paul – your coverage of Aeroplan and Air Canada is far from neutral Ben. They are one company and continue to treat customers with contempt and disdain throughout the pandemic. Not sure why always act as a cheerleader for them?

  13. Air Canada gets it when it comes to loyalty? They’ve been refusing peoples refunds for over a year and are tantamount to a criminal enterprise.

  14. Many airlines including Air Canada have been holding on to customers money during pandemic by issuing flight credit, including Qatar Airways and Lufthansa in my direct experience. Personally I have always had good experience with Air Canada, and I appreciate them extending status once again.

    I look at it like is a flight credit better than an Airlines bankruptcy where you may lose it all.

  15. @Daniel Politeski
    Curious: I had some big money trips booked with Qatar and when I cancelled everything was refunded swiftly. But I also got fast refunds from BA and KLM, so maybe I was lucky?

    I’m not sure having points is lower-risk than a voucher. As you wrote, vouchers can disappear with bankruptcy; but points also disappear with bankruptcy *and* can also be — and often are — devalued at the drop of a hat. Multiple times. Neither of them is anywhere close to being as secure as cash in your pocket.

  16. I have mid-tier elite status split across three US carriers right now, based in Canada there’s likely no international travel until at least Q3 at this juncture, and while booking flights for the last 4 months of the year, I pretty much determined that even consolidating all my flying with one of the carriers, there’s no way in the last 4 months of the year that I can requalify for Elite Status in that short time.

    So unless one of those carriers extends elite status (for Canadian or Intl members at least) then I have no motivation to be loyal to any and will just book the best schedule/fare combination on any carrier as there’s no realistic chance to requalify on any of them.

    If one of the carriers extended elite status, this would be a big determining factor in consolidating my flying around that carrier.

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