In the past few years we’ve seen so many airline loyalty programs make changes for the worse. Every time I hear about major changes coming to an airline loyalty program, I dread the announcement and expect the worst. Unfortunately I’ve been proven right just about every time.
Call me naive, but for once I’m excited and intrigued about changes coming to an airline loyalty program…
Air Canada’s new loyalty program launching soon
Air Canada is launching it’s all new loyalty program in 2020:
- It’s expected that details about the new program will be unveiled in the coming weeks
- The new program is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2020 (it was initially supposed to launch this summer, but has understandably been delayed)
For a bit of context:
- Aeroplan has historically been Air Canada’s spun off loyalty program, but the contract between the airline and loyalty program was expected to end in 2020
- Air Canada was planning on fully taking control of its own frequent flyer program once again
- However, Air Canada ended up acquiring Aeroplan, presumably to eliminate a potential competitor, get valuable data, and use some of Aeroplan’s technology to make the transition easier
- Despite the acquisition, Air Canada is launching a completely reimagined loyalty program, still with Aeroplan branding
The new Aeroplan program is launching in a few months
Why I’m excited about the new Aeroplan
As I said at the beginning of the post, I’m genuinely excited to learn the details of the new Aeroplan loyalty program, and I think it might be a positive development for members. That completely counters the industry trend in recent years, so let me provide a bit of context.
Why loyalty program changes have disappointed me
It probably makes sense to share why other airline loyalty program changes in recent years have disappointed me. My fundamental frustration is that airline loyalty program executives seemingly haven’t believed in their own programs. They haven’t believed that loyalty programs can move the needle when it comes to consumer behavior.
The focus has been entirely on finding new ways to monetize programs and cut costs, rather than finding ways to make programs more engaging for loyal customers.
Just look at how the people running loyalty programs have changed — in the past it was almost entirely people with backgrounds in loyalty and marketing, while nowadays many loyalty programs are run by people with backgrounds in revenue management.
Ultimately I can’t necessarily argue that this trend is a terrible business decision, since many of these programs are worth more than the airlines that they belong to. Furthermore, airlines haven’t exactly needed much help filling seats prior to the current pandemic. However, I do feel like a lot of value (for both programs and consumers) is being left on the table.
Why I think Air Canada’s new program will be different
Do I think every aspect of the new Aeroplan program is going to be industry leading? No, absolutely not.
But I can say one thing with certainty — Air Canada has some of the brightest people in the industry working in loyalty, and they’re truly passionate about the program. They have more aviation and loyalty program geeks working there than any other airline I can think of. These are people who have largely done mileage runs and have redeemed millions of miles themselves. And that’s something that’s really exciting.
Sometimes I talk to loyalty program executives and am in shock at how little they know about their own programs, or about the competitive landscape. That is not the case at Air Canada.
In many ways I think Aeroplan’s track record in the past few months gives us a good sense of what we can expect:
- Aeroplan has added both Azul and Etihad as partners, giving Aeroplan members new redemption opportunities
- Aeroplan has done better than any other airline loyalty program when it comes to engaging members while at home, from launching amazing new promotions to purchase miles, to offering opportunities to earn elite status easily, to giving members the ability to gift status, to extending the expiration of miles
Aeroplan has done a good job engaging members at home
What am I hoping for from the new Aeroplan program?
- I think the Aeroplan program will engage members in unique ways we haven’t seen other airline loyalty programs do, with some creative perks (maybe things along the lines of Hyatt’s awesome “Guest of Honor” perk?)
- I think it’s more likely than not that Aeroplan will finally eliminate fuel surcharges on award redemptions (this is purely speculation on my part)
- I think Aeroplan will come up with unique, mutually beneficial ways to offer members value, from generous stopover policies, to adding more airline partners for great redemption opportunities
You can now redeem Aeroplan miles on Etihad
Look, I’m not delusional. I understand Aeroplan needs to balance economics with having a robust loyalty program. Furthermore, Air Canada has no global competition in Canada. However, I also believe that there are all kinds of ways that a more rewarding program can be a win-win even beyond Air Canada’s typical customer base.
In the coming weeks we should learn the full details of the new Aeroplan, with the program launch expected for the fourth quarter of 2020. I remain confident that the new Aeroplan program will be innovative and engaging, unlike what we’ve seen from so many loyalty programs in recent years.
“Innovative and engaging” doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the most generous in every way, but rather to me it means it will be a program that will offer value even for those of us who like to maximize. I would guess there will be several creative aspects to the program that we’ve never seen tried before.
I could be completely off base, though I hope not. And if I’m wrong, I’ll absolutely eat my words when the full details are announced (and won’t be shy in expressing my disappointment). 😉
What are your expectations of the new Aeroplan program?