Air Canada Lowering Elite Qualification For Non-Canadians

Filed Under: Air Canada

In November I wrote about how Air Canada is following US carriers in adding a revenue requirement for status as of this year. In other words, if you want to qualify for status this year which is valid for 2017, you’ll not only need to fly a certain amount, but will also need to spend a minimum amount.


Here are the spending requirements for status this year:

  • Prestige 25K status requires 25,000 miles OR 25 segments AND 3,000CAD spend
  • Elite 35K status requires 35,000 miles OR 35 segments AND 4,000CAD spend
  • Elite 50K status requires 50,000 miles OR 50 segments AND 6,000CAD spend
  • Elite 75K status requires 75,000 miles OR 75 segments AND 9,000CAD spend
  • Super Elite 100K status requires 100,000 miles OR 95 segments AND 20,000CAD spend


I found the details of the actual thresholds to be interesting with Air Canada. While qualifying for Prestige 25K, Elite 35K, Elite 50K, and Elite 75K required an average of ~12 cents per mile of spend, Super Elite 100K requires ~20 cents per mile of spend (all the requirements are in CAD and not USD).

It’s an interesting statement by an airline, where they’re saying “if you want our top tier status you don’t just have to fly more, but also have to spend a lot more per flown mile.” As much as I don’t love that as someone looking to maximize value, I totally get why they did it — they’re doling out big benefits for top tier elites, and they feel someone should spend a lot with them in order to get those benefits.

It’s interesting to note that there has been an update to the requirements for Air Canada members with accounts registered outside of Canada. The Air Canada Altitude spend threshold will be lowered by 50% for non-Canadian members:

For non-Canadian residents, the Altitude Qualifying Dollars (AQD) will be 50% lower than the published amounts found in the chart above. Proof of address may be requested in order to apply non-Canadian resident AQD requirements. For eligible members, the AQD tracker at will be updated to reflect these new lowered requirements by March 1, 2016.

This means that for non-Canadians, the thresholds for elite qualification are as follows:

  • Prestige 25K status requires 25,000 miles OR 25 segments AND 1,500CAD spend
  • Elite 35K status requires 35,000 miles OR 35 segments AND 2,000CAD spend
  • Elite 50K status requires 50,000 miles OR 50 segments AND 3,00CAD spend
  • Elite 75K status requires 75,000 miles OR 75 segments AND 4,500CAD spend
  • Super Elite 100K status requires 100,000 miles OR 95 segments AND 10,000CAD spend


Bottom line

It’s pretty standard to see an airline decrease or waive certain requirements for those not based in the airline’s home country. For example, United MileagePlus waives their revenue requirement altogether for non-US based members. Air Canada knows they have a captive audience in their home market, while they have to go more out of their way to attract people based elsewhere.

In other words, I know quite a few Americans who regularly fly between the US and Europe or Asia on Air Canada, as they offer similar connectivity options to many US carriers. Air Canada doesn’t want to lose those customers, I’m guessing, which is why they’re cutting the requirements in half.

What do you make of Air Canada cutting the revenue requirement in half for those with addresses registered outside of Canada?

(Tip of the hat to Loyalty Lobby)

  1. I live in Canada and I fly Air Canada for business often because it flies where I want to go and their wide body aircraft are comfortable (with free movies, TV, music), even in economy. Over the years they’ve become so stingy and restrictive with award travel, status etc., that I don’t even keep track of my Aeroplan miles anymore. If you want reward travel on a “normal” and direct schedule (unless you’re a nocturnal zombie who enjoys multiple segments on multiple carriers that is), you pay 2 or 3 times the miles required for a “classic” reward AND there’s a creative list of “fees” and “surcharges” tacked on. End story – you effectively get the privilege of buying a slightly discounted flight and that’s it. Remember when a free flight was a free flight? It still is with hotels, so why not airlines?

  2. I’m not sure if they still do, but Air Canada used to offer an extremely generous benefit to top-tier elites whereby they could effectively get last-seat (or near-last-seat) award availability at saver prices, so it’s hardly surprising they’d want to thin out that group.

  3. I am a Canadian and was an Aeroplan member for many years… However – I moved to Asia and would only fly with Air Canada when I would go home to visit relatives. This was OK about 10yrs ago because you would qualify for Elite and Super Elite based on Star Alliance miles.
    Then – I moved to Austria – and flew with Lufthansa enough to easily qualify for Super Elite – but – Air Canada changed the program requiring 5 Air Canada flights. I only flew to Canada once that year – so – I did not qualify. So – despite being easily a top tier traveler – I did not qualify for Star Gold the following year.
    That Jan 1 – I enrolled in Lufthansa…

    So – what Air Canada is doing here with the non-resident canadians is BETTER than what I experienced – but still not great…

  4. For me this is somewhat intriguing. I am still on the fence about what my elite strategy will be this year since, probably not going to stick with AA – or at least am not going to strive for EXP since they cut the best benefit in half – and I have plans for at least two trips to Canada so I could get the requisite AC flights. This seems like a relatively low cost way to get to Star Gold.

    It does seem strange though that they are lowering the spending requirement at a time when the Canadian dollar is so low. A US resident can get Super Elite 100K by spending $7,200 but a Canadian resident needs to spend $20,000 – it seems like Air Canada has been unrelenting in its abuse of Canadians for about 15 years, ever since they acquired Canadi>n Airlines they’ve been pretty much flipping the bird to the whole country.

  5. @Another Steve

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with regards to the exact reason why they’re doing it. The timing is not a coincidence. Our plummeting Loonie has provided AC with a unique opportunity to market themselves to people like you and perhaps more directly, to UA elites who are sitting on the proverbial fence and unsure about their elite status.

    AC just made themselves the Aegian Airline of Star Alliance elite status in North America.

  6. I wonder how AC/Aeroplan will keep track of AQD for non-Canadian members and flights on *A metal. At least with DL and UA, the MQD/PQD calculation is too complex to be realistically implemented for everyone, right? (non-US members, tickets issued by others, partner metal, etc.) Does AC miraculously have access to all the spend information for all of its tickets?

  7. Tennen–you earn zero AQD for *A metal flights (unless you bought the ticket FROM Air Canada on ‘014’ ticket stock. In the later case, they know your cost basis, and they will post the AQD accordingly.

  8. @ Todd:

    AC is absolutely not like Aegean… couldn’t be farther actually.

    When flying on AC, contrary to what happens on UA for example, you only get 50% of distance flown in economy as elite qualification miles. 25% for Canada to Canada flights. If qualifying with economy tickets, you’ll need to fly 200 000 to 400 000 miles to get altitude 100. Probably just around 200 000 if you’re based in the US.

    This leaves the top status almost unreachable for people who don’t fly a lot on paid business tickets. Now if you fly a lot on paid business tickets you’ll qualify with any airline.

    I spend a lot on plane tickets, both economy and paid business, and I’m moving to United this year. They give me twice as much EQM for the same Air Canada ticket. Plus, redeemable miles are still based on distance flown when flying on a partner ticket.

    AC is smart… or not. They’re trying to get a bigger share of the US-Asia or US-Europe market by luring US customers with lower qualifying threshold (US carriers do the same) AND lower CAD. This will work to some extent. At the same time they’re alienating every middle to upper class local (that’s the vast majority of Canadian travellers) who travels often. Many smart ones are moving to other programs, many of them US based, or others just move on to a combination of carriers (think Porter-West Jet and paid tickets on whatever other airline is cheaper).

    When the CAD gets better, the US based customers will have little reason to stay.
    When the CAD gets better, the Canadian customers who left because of the loyalty program will have little reason to come back.

    It’s a very bad long term strategy. Imagine if in the meantime another Canadian Carrier emerges, of if West Jet actually starts hubs in YUL or YYZ. Ouch…

  9. Can you clarify whether it is (A or B) and C or is it A or (B and C). That is, is the miles enough, or if you don’t get the miles you have to get both the segments and spending? Or is it you must spend that amount and then you need to either fly the miles or the segments?

  10. I am 100K SE member with AC since 4 years, but this year 2017, I got only 75K inspite of maing 110 K miles, but no 20K AQD which is absurd.

    The main benefit of 100K SE is that you get upgrades without paying Add on $$ and If it is available. Otherwise, 50K,75K and 100 K is same.

    So Since I can not get 100K SE,I am downgrading myself to 50K and switch over to other alliance or airlines, so that I can have 2 GOLD card for 2 different alliance or airlines.

    This year, only those traveler, who buy business class tickets, could get 100K SE.I know many travelers have moved to other airlines and many are doing it this year. AC standard also detoriated over the time. Flights to Europe are going half full compared to LH or other airlines..

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