Buckle Up: Major Air Canada System Migration Starts Monday

Filed Under: Advice, Air Canada

Air Canada will be starting a major conversion of its reservation system next week, which will temporarily affect bookings, same-day changes, and upgrades, in some cases for a few months. This will impact Aeroplan as well, so even if you don’t typically fly Air Canada, you’ll want to be aware of these timelines for any potential award bookings.

Here’s the lowdown on what they have planned, although with a major software overhaul like this transition to Amadeus, the planned outages are often only part of the story.

No bookings whatsoever on November 18-19

Starting at 8pm EST on November 18 until “midday” on November 19 (or, if we’re being honest, potentially beyond), all booking systems will be down.

This includes aircanada.com and the call centres for both Air Canada and Aeroplan. No reservations can be made or modified during the blackout. Even on the ground at the airport there will likely be nothing an agent can do to ticket your reservation or make changes to your ticket.

This will be true regardless of if you are on a paid or award ticket, and whether you are flying Air Canada or a partner airline. In case of IRROPS, Air Canada’s operations will likely quickly become a mess, though if you’re slated to fly a Star Alliance partner, the operating carrier should still be able to make accommodations.

The official Air Canada line on what you should do if it’s an emergency and you NEED to make a booking during this period is “contact a Travel Agent”, which we can likely read, in the circumstances, to mean “try WestJet”.

Additional impacts to Altitude members

Given the broad scope of this system migration, there are additional considerations for Air Canada Altitude members, including those with Super Elite status.

Changes to eUpgrades

While the booking outage should *knock on fuselage* be short, eUpgrade services will be limited for up to a few months, though the airline still says the changes are temporary.

First of all, eUpgrades must be requested no less than 24 hours prior to departure. They will not be available at the airport, and in fact any eUpgrade that has not cleared prior to check-in may not be processed by boarding even if a seat is actually available. I foresee some very dirty looks from status fliers walking past empty business class seats on their way to economy.

If you do request an eUpgrade, and then opt to standby early and the eUpgrade clears for your original flight, the credits may not be automatically refunded to your account, although you will be able to request a refund. Basically: track your credits, kids.

Finally, if you have a nominee registered on your eUpgrade account, you may need to re-register them after the November 18-19 system outage.

Other changes

Confirmed same-day changes will not be available online, in the app, or through self-serve kiosks at the airport for an indeterminate period. If you want to do a same-day change, you will need to talk to an actual human agent (the horror!).

Recognition of Altitude status changes may be delayed in the system by up to 72 hours. So don’t panic if your shiny-new SuperElite achievement doesn’t show up right away.

Finally, while status fliers will continue to have access to free or discounted preferred seating, this benefit will not be available to your travel companions.


Fear not, Altitude fliers, Air Canada is at least trying to soften the blow by offering you a few perks.

In addition to ensuring that the upgrade window for all flights starts at least 72 hours prior to departure to accommodate the 24 hour cut-off for eUpgrade requests, status members will be receiving a gift of additional eUpgrade credits (good through February 2021) by the end of the month.

The gifts start at 5 credits for Prestige 25K members, going to 10 for Elite 35K and Elite 50K, 15 for Elite 75K, and 25 for SuperElite 100K members.

Bottom line

I’ve covered the main concerns, but for further details Air Canada has a FAQ on the system conversion for the general flying public.

Historically airline system conversions, particularly those at this scale, have not been seamless, no matter how well-planned the transition ostensibly was.

I’d expect Monday at minimum to be quite bumpy, so would suggest giving yourself extra time (and patience!) at the airport.

If you have reservations or awards to finalize, you’ll want to get those buttoned up on Sunday, as it could be a few days before systems are fully online. We’ll be keeping an eye on the new system rollout, so stay tuned.

  1. They keep referring passengers to a travel agent during the outage. A travel agent won’t be able to do anything , therefore Air Canada may as well say book another airline
    What is their plan in case of delays and cancellations? Passenger misconnects and they tell them there’s nothing they can do

  2. First Lins77, this is not just a first world problem, in the traditional sense of the phrase. This is not whining about not getting an upgrade (although there was mention of upgrade issues, but not the point of the post), it is about a complete shutdown of a booking system for a major piece of the Canadian transportation system. This is about people trying to get to business meetings, people trying to get to family emergencies and any number of other possibilities and there will be, in many cases, no other options.
    Now to what I was actually going to write about before that silly comment caught my eye!
    We will be flying Edmonton to Dubai (connecting in Toronto) on the 21st and I am concerned about what this might do to us. I left a 10 hour connection and 10 other possible routings that they could switch us to and still make our connection, but if our flight gets cancelled and they can’t move us to another that day, we are screwed. (yes, Lins77, in our case, this is a first world problem!)
    For them to do it in the winter (in Canada), when there are very likely to be delays, misconnects and cancellations, seems ill planned. They are already unable to even put your calls into the hold queue much of the time, so I don’t imagine anybody will be getting through to them when this hits. Yesterday, I had to call them because they had somehow, because of a 9 minute schedule change, decided to leave 5 members of my family on the same flights, but to switch my flights to completely different ones. My first call was terminated because the hold queue was too long and they could not put anyone else into it. My second call (2 hours later) was picked up after roughly 75 minutes. This is pretty much the experience that everyone can expect all winter in Canada, so to add this mess to it doesn’t make much sense to me. I have to assume that on the 21st, if there are any problems, our only option will be at the airport and even that may not be of any use. September, October, April, May sure seem like better times to try this experiment.

  3. If anyone needs to contact Air Canada urgently during this phase, try calling their priority line phone number: 1.888.609.8676

  4. @Grimex That may assist leading up to the conversion, but to be clear, during the Nov 18-19th shutdown phase there is no phone number that can help you. Even the normally amazing concierges will be unable to assist, as there will not be a reservation system for them to log in to, it flat out won’t exist. The airports’ departure control systems (DCS) will be operational, using the information in the reservation system at 2000 EST Nov 18, to handle check-in, bags & boarding during the outage, but that’s it.

    Hopefully, it’ll go better than the WestJet conversion 10 years ago, though short of something actually catching fire, it probably can’t go worse.

  5. lol travel companions of super elites on same PNR sit in the back in middle seats.

    How bad can this joke of an airline get?

  6. Wow. They do this on a MONDAY? Seriously? Why don’t they do it on 12/23 or 12/26 or 12/31? I mean, if you want to be mean, might as well do it all the way.

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