Air Canada Super Elite 100K: The Best Top-Tier Airline Elite Status

Filed Under: Air Canada

Is Titanium more valuable than Platinum? Does a HON outrank a Senator? Is an Explorist more or less important than a Discoverist? The world of travel status has all sorts of absurd names that seem designed to blur the lines between levels so that low-tier and mid-tier members feel important.

Air Canada has no time for such subtleties, straight-up dividing its Altitude program into the Elite, and the Super Elite.

Sitting at the pinnacle of Air Canada’s Altitude program, Super Elite 100K offers travelers a pile of benefits in return for a significant amount of miles flown and dollars spent. Our family had the status from 2013-2018, and we benefited from it immensely. Less flying in 2018 meant we don’t have it this year, and we’re feeling the loss enough that I’m making plans to get it back for 2020.

Supers get a lot of great benefits, buckle up.

Air Canada Concierge

Supers have access to a dedicated team of Air Canada Concierge staff in airports around the world for any travel issues they have. They can be reached through a dedicated phone line, or in their offices, and are most often used to assist with check-in, flight changes (especially for IRROPs) and finding lost items.

In the hubs, these teams are huge, proactively tracking the travel plans of hundreds of Supers every day, whereas smaller outstations may only have two staffers. My home airport of YYC has a team of eight amazing concierges who know all the regulars by name and are like a second family at this point. My kids beeline for the office when we get to the airport to see who’s on duty and get check-in rolling.

That’s very pleasant and all, but the real value of the concierge becomes obvious when things go really off the rails – they have saved my bacon too many times to count.

Once upon a time, I stayed up too late prepping for a court appearance in one of the territories and slept through my alarm. By the time I threw on my suit and got in an Uber from my house, 30 minutes from the airport, my flight was 40 minutes from departure. I wasn’t even checked in, and the flight had already closed.

I made a panicked call to the concierge line and was quickly transferred to Anthony at YYC, who re-opened the flight, checked me in, printed my boarding pass and met me curbside to walk me to the front of security, smooth as silk. When my flight pushed back on time, I was on board, albeit with a very elevated adrenaline level.

Similarly, my husband has been met by concierge staff planeside to ensure he makes a tight connection, without any request for assistance, on a number of occasions. More than once, he’s been the only person to make a connection, and the concierges are always a key part of the story.

Same for the (multiple) times he has left his wallet in the seatback pocket. A team of fantastic people dedicated to getting me home to see my kids on schedule is one of the reasons our family is loyal to Air Canada.

While this level of service might be offered to American Concierge Key or United Global Services members, it’s unheard of at their equivalent 100K status levels, and it helps Air Canada Super Elite 100K stand out as the top status in North America. 

‘Select Privileges’

Like all Air Canada Altitude members, Super Elite 100K members get to choose some of their benefits based on what makes sense to them. For 2019, Supers were allowed to choose two of:

  • 100% redeemable mileage bonus
  • 50 eUpgrade credits
  • Lower requalification level (95K AQM or 90 AQS)
  • Elite 50K Status for a friend
  • 12 months of free onboard wifi

As a family who uses a lot of points and doesn’t always book business, we’ve always chosen the 100% mileage bonus and 50 eUpgrade credits, though we may find a use for the Elite 50K status gift in the future.

The lower requalification benefit only affects AQM/AQS, which means that you would need to be spending even more per mile/segment to hit the AQD requirement, which we already consider the trickier element of the status, so that one’s off the table.

Priority boarding, preferred seats, and London arrival lounge

For those Supers stuck in the economy, Air Canada offers a few benefits. First, Super Elite 100K is the only status to receive Zone 1, boarding with Business Class passengers.

Second, Supers receive free Preferred Seats at the time of booking, for everyone on the booking, for all fare types (including rewards). This is a great family benefit, giving free extra room for kids and car seats.

The only downside is that the Super must be on the booking, so it doesn’t work for situations where the Super is on a purchased ticket and the rest of the family is on points. We’ve booked everyone on points a few times when we wanted to buy one ticket, because the Preferred Seat savings were more than the ticket would cost.

Lastly, Supers and one guest can access the Arrivals Lounge at LHR regardless of fare, enjoying a quick breakfast and shower before heading into London. 

Aeroplan ‘Priority Rewards’

One of the most frustrating parts of the miles and points game can be finding good flights to redeem on, especially when you need 4 seats! Air Canada gives its Supers a boost with Priority Rewards, including access to all unsold economy seats and significantly more business class seats, at regular reward prices.

Each Super can use this benefit on up to 10 bookings a year. Generally, it can be used to book a ticket for anyone, however, the benefit is limited to immediate family members for overseas business class tickets.

We’ve used this benefit on all sorts of tickets, each one of which was a trip that would otherwise have broken the bank, if it could have happened at all:

  • Same-day tickets to see sick family members
  • Calgary to Sydney, Australia in business, booked 7 days out (that time I got cold and took the baby to Australia and New Zealand by myself)
  • 4 people to Europe in business, over Christmas/New Year
  • 4 people from Washington DC to Halifax in economy, when paid tickets were $1,500 each
  • 8 people from Calgary to Orlando in business (it was neat to have ⅔ of the cabin)

Benefits are often focused on frequent flyers alone, but this one is aimed squarely at families, making it easier for Supers to take the vacations they want, when they want them.

No fuel surcharges (YQ) on Air Canada reward flights

This benefit is simple and combines nicely with Priority Rewards: Supers don’t pay fuel or carrier surcharges when they redeem Aeroplan miles for Air Canada flights. On overseas flights that can easily be $500+ per ticket in savings, and has made overseas vacations with our kids much more affordable.

Fuel surcharges are a common, and much-hated, part of the miles and points world these days, so relief from them is an awesome benefit. 

No change or cancellation fees on Aeroplan tickets

Again, pretty simple: Supers don’t pay change or cancellation fees on Aeroplan tickets redeemed from their account (regardless of who is actually flying). This is a new benefit since Air Canada took over Aeroplan this spring, and was a very welcome change. 

The benefit can also be used to avoid the $30 phone booking fee if you’re trying to book a reward that’s not available online. Just book a reward ticket to anywhere online, and then call in to change it to the booking you actually want. They’ll still charge you the proper miles and taxes, but because changes are free, you don’t have to pay the $30. 

Upgrade Benefits

Upgrades on Air Canada flights are processed based on the status of the passenger and their fare, giving Supers priority for upgrades over other members with similar tickets. Additionally, as Air Canada uses a credit system for its upgrades, Supers also have access to more upgrades based on the higher number of credits available to them.

Supers can also nominate one person each year who can use their upgrade credits, even when traveling without the Super. This is a way for travelers who travel in paid business class to share their benefits with a friend or family member.

Lastly, Air Canada charges eUpgrade Add-Ons (aka a co-pay) for certain upgrades, in particular, upgrades to business class for overseas flights. Supers are exempt from most of the co-pays, with the exceptions being economy reward tickets and most tickets booked in “Standard” fares (both of which weren’t historically upgradable at all).

Guaranteed reservation in economy

As long as the flight is more than 6 hours out, Super Elite 100K members can book any flight, even if it’s oversold. This is an expensive benefit to use, as you have to pay the full-Y fare for the ticket (Calgary-Toronto one way will run you around $3,600), but if you need to be on a specific plane, this benefit ensures you are.

Conclusion

Air Canada set its requirements for Super Elite 100K high, and in return, they deliver a suite of benefits that’s unparalleled in North America, and frankly, most of the world.

Super Elite status saves frequent flyers time, money and frustration; what more could you ask for?

Now your turn, Altitude Super Elite 100K: Great Status or Greatest?

Comments
  1. Super Elite for 5 years, my number one benefit would be Air Canada concierge benefit. I was heading to a wedding from YVR to MXP via yyz and I left my suit for a wedding at home. It was 60 mins before departure for my flight to YYZ. The concergie agent offered that she can bring the suit to me, if I can arrange someone to bring it to the curbside from my house. The agent brought me my suit with 10 mins before gate being closed.

  2. Amazing benefits – real shame about the spend requirements… but reading your primer on the spend requirements being 50% for non Canadian domiciled… looks like a real benefit for Americans that travel to Asia from the West Coast

  3. Thanks for the write-up, Kate! All true, and we look forward to improving these (and other tier) benefits with the Aeroplan relaunch next year!

  4. I was expecting sarcasm but got a well informed post. Didn’t realize the extensive “soft” benefits that AC provides!

  5. This is a great “What one gets” piece. As a defiant AC “hub captive” who rarely flies AC, I learned much I didn’t know.

    I hope Kate will soon provide the “How to Get it” piece, perhaps including different angles, approaches or “hacks”, if any.

  6. “Our family had the status from 2013-2018, and we benefited from it immensely.”

    I wasn’t aware AC awarded status to families.

  7. Oh for the days when SEs got access to last seat availability in business class for award redemption…!

    I’d point out a couple of benefits top tiers are offered from other programs, to at least consider whether Air Canada’s is truly best…

    * Malaysia Airlines Platinums receive airport meet and greet. A porter unloads bags from the member’s car, takes them to first class check-in, escorts them through VIP immigration and to the lounge and then waits at the lounge until their flight is ready. Members receive an escort to the gate, to the front of security, and onto the plane — putting bags away in the overhead bin.

    * China Eastern offers unlimited domestic upgrades; 4 international upgrades on any paid fare nearly always available; guaranteed award seats for member and nominees; account overdraft; and a choice benefit of 3 free hotel nights, flight simulator time, or a medical exam (!)

    * Hong Kong doesn’t have priority security lines, but when a Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club Diamond member checks in at first class they’re given a ‘courtesy channel‘ invitation which allows them to use the security lines for airline crew.

  8. Very informative, thank you Kate. I have just returned to Toronto after 14 years in Sydney (have been ow emerald with QF for the past 10 years). Learning what benefits AC provide is immensely helpful as I will now be flying mostly with them. Thanks for your insights and I look forward to more posts from you.

  9. @Kate

    Fantastic post. I’m former Canuck but have been stateside for 40 years.

    I use aeroplan mostly to book flights IAH to Asia, buy hey maybe worth looking up to see how to qualify and arrange flights through YYZ

  10. So what exactly are the mileage, dollar (USD or CAD?) and segment requirements for a US citizen living in the USA to achieve the 100k or Super Elite status? I’m United Platinum but I’m reconsidering my commitment lol. Air Canada is a good option as I travel to YYZ from LAX often, and next year I’m moving to Portugal and Air Canada has nonstops LIS to YYZ. Plus it’s a member of the same global partners program as TAP and UAL Often I fly on Air Canada tho ticket it through United to get the Premier miles and dollars

  11. @Gary
    For MU Platinum, the upgrade certificate requires an available award seat but with the guaranteed award seat access it’s fairly easy to snag one. The guaranteed award seats are only for the platinum member him/herself only but still incredibly useful. Medical exam is gone this year I think and the hotel offerings are not very attractive (iirc there is a St. Regis in the list but the price is cheaper than usual and review is soso). The flight simulator is absolutely worth it especially on the triple 7 simulator. Better have some experience before so you can save the practice time and go creative mode since you have 60 min to enjoy. Only wish the service can be a little better but meh that’s just day dreaming for mainland airlines.

  12. These are indeed great benefits. And of course that’s on top of the usual things one expects like Star Alliance Gold status benefits, priority baggage, priority check-in, priority security, three free checked bags, lounge access in any Star Alliance lounge (including LH Senator lounges).

    I’ve been SE100K for 4 years, heading into year 5. It’s a much nicer way to fly. Even in economy.

  13. The concierges make minimum wage and lack training with high turnaround in the position. It’s only a good program on paper.

  14. Benefits sound nice but not much better than other top-tier programs.

    Comparing with the HON program as a sample, I think the benefits are on-par + you can enjoy Lufthansa’s + Swiss nice First Class lounges even when traveling in Economy.

    Getting up to 4 award seats whenever one seat is for sale is also a nice benefit there which saves me a lot of money when flights are expensive.

    And if you’re really needing to fly you’ve got confirmed seats even on booked flights also for Business seats (e.g. BA only confirms this for Economy seats which is useless for the long-haul business traveler)

  15. Lovely read and completely accurate….glad you are helping with the cancon perspective…hugs from da rock….tj

  16. As a Super myself, I can confirm all the great features Kate calls out above. The Concierges are really great…even in a mega hub like Toronto Pearson, they make travel a little more tolerable. Another benefit which has recently been added (though not guaranteed) is on tarmac transfer in a BMW SUV from check-in to the Signature Suite when originating in Toronto and travelling in paid J on a long haul overseas flight. On my last flight to Doha via Zurich they called me that morning to advise that I could get that service, previously only available for those making connections. I’ll be interested to see if I get it again in a week when I fly to Tokyo. I’m not sure it saved much time, but it was fun and the Signature Suite is easily the best airline lounge in North America…although this comes only with a paid J ticket regardless of status.

  17. Nice post but it completely ignores Air Canada’s many warts, including the steady erosion of its hard and soft product and the consistent devaluation of its frequent flier program. The concierge program used to be good, but today most staff are poorly trained and in any case almost impossible to reach when IRROPS occur. The value of this perk is now highly questionable.

    The post also ignores the simple fact that Air Canada’s fares are frequently quite a bit higher than those of competitors. I regularly find business class seats on competing airlines for less than Air Canada charges for economy. Not just now and then, but all the time. So why should I fly on Air Canada and play upgrade roulette when I can just buy the J seat on the competitor for less and be done with it?

    Add Air Canada’s aforementioned industry-worst on time performance and there is little reason to fly with them at all when alternatives exist.

  18. Great article Kate and yes I concur. I surely miss the SE status when I had it for so many years & the concierge at YYC was simply the best!

    I’m grateful that Air Canada has finally stopped saying “Improvements” to the program when they were taking away benefits. Couldn’t believe they really think we (consumers) are that gullible.

    A couple of comments/responses:
    – Yes the AQD is in CAD$ (base fare of ticket)
    – Note for the our USA friends, if you want to jump on the SE bandwagon, know that the benefits are really more geared towards Air Canada planes, thus Air Canada will not allow you to fly USA to USA destinations. So it will limit your choices if you are mainly a USA domestic flier.
    – Since Air Canada is usually not the lowest fare option out there, it may help you attain the AQD requirement faster than other airlines with the same requirement.

  19. I was an SE for maybe 10 years and seldom if ever had a use for a concierge, and the one time I needed help due to a delayed arrival and connection, nothing was done for me, nobody met me off the plane and I got handled in the huddle with dozens of other misconnects.

    As for better benefits as top tiers in other programs, OneWorld Emerald elites from any member airline get extra legroom seating on partner airlines that offer it at no charge, and if flying AA they get comp’d alcoholic drinks and on domestic flights anything off the buy on board menu . They also get access to First Class lounges where offered…ever try to get into SQ or LH F lounges if you’re not flying that class of service as an ACSE?

    50 eUpgrade credits don’t go very far (even after earning a few more through the year) and hardly compare with the top tier elite benefit of comp upgrades offered by AA, UA and DL on North American flights (albeit space available).

    I certainly would not rank ACSE as the best top tier elite status around given it lacks in so many other areas and benefits offered by other airlines.

  20. I would say right not its the Worst Airline for frequent flyers. They have treated their most loyal customers ie Super Elite they didnt matter. This is one of the Harvard Business review cases how not to do things. This is paid writeup but avoid Air Canada for now if you can.

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