I’m Excited About The New Aeroplan Program

Filed Under: Air Canada

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 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.

Bottom line

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?

Comments
  1. Why would I choose to fly with an airline that refuses to return my money when it cancels my flight?

    Ain’t no loyalty programme in the world that’s gonna make me trust such an appalling company.

  2. @ The nice Paul — Air Canada has done an awful job with refunds during the pandemic. I’ve acknowledged that many times. However, surely you recognize that the people running the loyalty program likely have nothing to do with that? Quite to the contrary, Aeroplan has been great with free cancellations and refunds throughout the pandemic.

  3. Unrelated but asking the experts on here from NY for any info they might have. During the mandatory 14 day quarantine can I fly to NY from a quarantine state for 7 days, and fly out 7 days later if I spend those 7 days quarantined at home? Thanks

  4. Given the values in a program, especially the recent addition of Etihad – which I have taken advantage of, as well as the recent points sales and other promotions. I expect there is going to be a large devaluation

  5. @ David F. — Interesting assumptions. The programs most aggressive about selling miles are Alaska Mileage Plan and Avianca LifeMiles. It has been a long time since we’ve seen a widespread devaluation from either program, but we constantly hear people say “I bet there’s a devaluation coming soon.”

    As far as Etihad being added as a partner goes, the reality is that partner redemptions are generally really low cost for loyalty programs. I guarantee you Aeroplan is turning a profit when they sell you miles and you turn around and then redeem those miles at Etihad. For a sense of how much airlines reimburse one another for award tickets, see this post from a while back:
    https://onemileatatime.com/much-airlines-compensate-award-tickets-insight/

  6. Sounds like you were paid to make this post. You can count on a huge devaluation will be coming soon given all the miles they printed and sold during the recent promotion. There is nothing honourable about Air Canada. It always races to the bottom and I expect more of the same going forward.

  7. @Ben Sure, the people running Aeroplan right now isn’t the same people making Air Canada’s decision on refunds. But if Aeroplan is being brought back into Air Canada, I imagine we’ll see more of Air Canada’s legendary service extend to the new Aeroplan. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see longer hold times, emails into a black hole, unexplainable IT issues (although AP already has those), inconsistencies in policies, etc.

  8. There will be no good coming from Air Canada getting their paws on Aeroplan.
    If you think otherwise, you are dellusional.
    Even without the refund debacle, and stealing of millions from pax over the last 3 months – this airline was absolute garbage long before the pandemic. Last in the world in OTP for the last 2 years, non-existant customer service, black hole emails, etc.

    Maybe 2nd stopover will return…. but along with a 25% increase in mileage required.

    They’ve already announced there will be chart increases, how bad – we’ll see.

  9. Ben, are you able to share some mileage redemption cost data from Anonymous from years ago? I believe you requested that info through e-mail.

    Aeroplan may have some bright spots in the revamp of the program, but I am not as optimistic as Ben.

    Thank you.

  10. I have to say Aeroplan has been good to me during the pandemic. Because of all the uncertainty, I’ve had to book and cancel my flights numerous times, all with full points refunds and surcharges returned. It’s certainly been very helpful to me and earned my extended loyalty.

  11. In addition to the above mentioned details of engaging members during the pandemic, I’ve also received two issues of En Route, Air Canada’s in flight magazine, by mail during the pandemic. It’s a small gesture, to be sure, and very probably related to keeping circulation numbers up for ad revenue purposes, but still appreciated.

    Now, if Air Canada would just send a couple of branded reusable masks to Altitude status holders…..

  12. Ben – your fawning and obsequiousness to AC in recent months has been unbelievable. Why are you doing this?

    Aeroplan has already widely hinted of a huge devaluation and the removal of fixed price awards within N. America – that a number of bloggers have reported on. In what way will a devaluation of N. American awards be a good thing?

  13. Mark Nasr and Scott O’Leary (former ‘COInsider’ on flyertalk) are great guys who know what value seeking members want and now run the AC program

  14. All these years Aeroplan has changed many times! .every 2to3 years,points has been devaluated!!!! I dont think new changes will do good to this programme especially when its owned by Greedy company AirCanada ,but one thing is for sure traveling by points are getting worst and worst each year.There is an example: year 2010 aeroplan 2stopover business class roundtrip ticket from North america to anywhere in europe did cost around 75.000miles+ taxes and fees. year 2020 same class ticket is 115.000miles+taxes and fees.
    When air canada fully merge with aeroplan and so on the miles will be devaluated one more time for upcoming future trips! minimum 150.000miles for business class same type of ticket.So We aren’t really excited 🙂

  15. Such cynicism. Aeroplan was completely absorbed into AC almost a year ago with the management team referred to coming from AC so there won’t be any changes (other than possible C-19 related staff reductions as a part of the airline’s overall downsizing). While unlikely, I’d like to see less selling of miles and reliance on credit card partners (and particularly non-Canadian cc issuers) so those of us who actually fly AC don’t have to complete with Amex miles transfers from US cardholders and award bookers. AC had already taken its elite tier program back from Aeroplan to better serve its own fliers so let’s hope this is reflected, perhaps by lower redemption levels for elites, or at least elimination of most fees.

  16. Will never fly AC again , thief’s, no refunds allowed your articles are like a pig with lipstick on it.
    All consumers should boycott your product , we won’t forget how we were treated!

  17. The potential “devaluation” i foresee coming is a move away from fixed mileage redemptions for flights within NA on AC metal toward variable pricing. This seems to be the way programs are going these days, and one that they can accomplish now being in control of both sides of the program. And this is largely what most users in Canada likely redeem for so would represent good economics for the airline. An elimination of fuel surcharges would be an acceptable give and take, as given the choice, I’d part with a few thousand more miles for flights within NA and save a hundred or two on YQ any day.

    Having said that I hope and pray that they maintain fixed mileage and a published award chart for partner redemptions! While on the subject of hope, stopovers on one ways? 🙂

    For the same reasons you mentioned, it gives me good hope the new program will indeed be engaging as the recent promotions certainly have gotten me engaged more into the program.

  18. @Ben,

    So is this sponsored post or did they make marijuana legal in Florida and I just don’t know about it ?

    In the past 10 years… give me a few examples of “positive” changes to airline programs…. And when I say positive- I mean to the audience on this site.

    Sure, the revenue based mileage earning programs are positive for people flying expensive short haul flights but you know what ? Most of those people don’t care about miles and don’t even add a FF number to a ticket.

    Most customers (Hollywood like) flying full fare F- don’t care about miles either. I know this from personal experience as I’ve dated the type and was shocked my ex wasn’t collecting any AA miles and was flying in paid F back and forth between NY and LA. Now if AA would award her Instagram followers- that would be a different story.

    I can’t see a positive change coming. Yes, Life Miles and Alaska haven’t made serious changes to their program- but times are different and as I’ve mentioned many times life miles hinted at changes in their last promo:

    “ Even though we do not intent to change our award rates, for the members who purchase this promotion we will honor these award tables until at least January 2021.”

  19. AC has lost my family as a customer! I had 4 round trips to Taiwan booked and paid for. AC cancelled and now holds my money! $5000.00. I will not fly with out empty middle seats. The airlines pack passengers in like Cattle in their quest for profits! Then refuse to return our money! No consideration for their clients! I will fly Air Japan to Taiwan from now on! Hey AC, smart people will fly a different carrier because of your abuse! And my family will not fly the death plane 737max!!

  20. I have to say Aeroplan at least has done one thing right – it is the first major program to introduce fee-waived online cancellation of awards in March, and then subsequently extended the period you could do so. We were able to cancel our ZRH-MIA flight to travel in late May when our Mid Apr TATL cruise was canceled by the cruiseline in first week of March. It was THE Easiest cancellation among all the reservations that were to cancel / being canceled, and to get the full refund back without any hassle. In fact when I was still on the last screen of Award Cancellation Confirmation, the points were already refunded to the account. Cash payment on the taxes was refunded to the CC in a few days.

    That said, I believe Ben’s view is way too optimistic. I am with others that the program will see a major devaluation esp on the North America – EU chart.

  21. @Mia,

    Unless he knows something we don’t and can’t just publicly announce it yet.

    Looking at the glass half full- the airlines might have to do something to incentivize customers to spend on co-branded cards (spend is way down) and/or travel.

    Who knows

  22. The air canada canceled my flight to Austria twice. Still charged me $600 cancellation fee per person. Loyalty to them?
    Keeping people for 3 hours waiting to answer the phone calls?
    That is an air canada at its finest spirit…

  23. I agree with your positively Ben, Aeroplan/Air Canada have been great and gone above and beyond in many ways during the past 5 months. Let’s reserve any bad feelings for if and when they announce any devaluations. Otherwise they very much deserve to keep my loyalty as an SE.

    With regards to some of the difficulty in getting refunds, other airlines have been far worse. Aegean refused to refund me a supposedly refundable fair that I had purchased two days before last week.

  24. @AdamC
    “With regards to some of the difficulty in getting refunds, other airlines have been far worse”

    So you’re another whose mommy didn’t teach you that two wrongs don’t make a right? My house was burgled but, hey, the burglar who robbed my neighbours stole much more, so my burglar was relatively decent?

    Air Canada ignored many of the contracts they entered into with their customers and, for their own convenience, refused refunds. AC needed the money? Sure. But as well as acting unlawfully*, they couldn’t care less that their customers might also have needed *their* money, and might have needed it more.

    It was sociopathic behaviour that was utterly unethical.

    And Ben argues that Aeroplan’s managers have been decent. So what? Aeroplan is owned by AC: I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could spit them.

    You bet I’m angry.

    * Yes, I know regulations were subsequently changed. Couldn’t care less. My contract was what it was when I entered into it.

  25. @ Lucky

    Re your response to @ The nice Paul — Air Canada has, pre pandemic been brutal with accommodating Aeroplan members with cancelled flights. I’ve had aeroplan flights booked and been on the lay over and flight 2 was cancelled. Air Canada said too bad, you’ve been rebooked in 6 days time (while on the hook out of my pocket for 6 nights in a hotel). Aeroplan refunded me 1 segment worth of flights and couldn’t rebook my flight for even longer.
    I had to buy tickets on another airline to make the trip and avoid paying for the 6 nights in a hotel.
    I hope they are better when the program is fully in house.

  26. Aeroplan will finally eliminate fuel surcharges on award redemption’s – wouldnt that be nice.?Right now I am booking away form AC metal at all costs. Coming back to YYZ from CMB was less than CAD 175 on SQ/BR but over CAD 550 on EY/AC. Fuel surcharges suck!

  27. If they drop the fuel surcharges I’m all in. Finding all the routes but avoiding AC metal was a pain in the but. If I can avoid that hassle I’m all for it .

  28. @Al @John G

    I assume Lucky got invited to the Aeroplan media event scheduled for July 28.

  29. Glad to see you’re being paid by airline shills for your insanely bias analysis.

    Thanks! Dipshit.

  30. I have had Aeroplan for 15 years, but just used the last 51,000 points to buy a golf bag. In 15 years I was NEVER able to book a flight to Florida unless I wanted 4 stopovers and 24 hours to get there. I only used the points for car rental and that is overvalued.

  31. It will be interesting to see whether the new loyalty scheme will be based on loyalty or revenue, but I am not convinced that we can assume that the bias will lean to loyalty, especially with these headwinds . Airlines are now in survival mode and that heavily leans to cost-cutting by the bean counters, but there is a case for using loyalty schemes to fill bums in seats and maximising passenger loads. However ,in these uncertain times, there are those that will want to take advantage of emptier planes, and those who will avoid them like the (covid) plague.

  32. After reading this I really regret buying all those Aeroplan Miles back in the big 90% bonus giveaway.

    Unfortunately those 170,000 miles I have in AMEX Gold points (Canada Inc) are useless as well as in Canada the only airlines you can transfer to are AC and Cathay (at a discount). Sure wish I could transfer them to a US Amex account.

  33. Very much doubt anything good will come out. Mark Nasr is not someone who is respected in the airline industry and for good reasons. His colleagues at Continental in particular weren’t fans of his as he became known as someone who often missed deadlines and just wanted to fly for free.

  34. This article failed to mention anything about Air Canada’s Altitude program. The program where status is actually earned and Star Alliance Gold can be obtained. While Aeroplan is/was the redemption side, there were two levels of status; Aeroplan and Altitude. With Aeroplan status essentially being redundant for many travelers.

    I am interested in how these two legacy programs will merge into one future program.

  35. I fear Air Canada might have picked up a few tricks from the BA dictionary. You know – “enhance”.

    When was the last time a frequent flyer programme actually improved? It’s been devaluations, restrictions etc across the board. It will be a while before business travel starts rebounding post-pandemic, and how many leisure travellers travel enough to reach elite status?

    Did you enjoy a little too much nice Turkish wine before posting this? 😉

  36. Hello..could you please tell me when air Canada international planning to resume in india.

  37. I don’t know how anyone can expect generally positive changes at a time like this when the program is looking to sell as many points as possible, the aviation industry is in a generally very turbulent time, and the owning airline is relying on deceitful practices to ensure it has cash on-hand at the cost of possibly damaging it’s customers’ lives–people who may need those cash refunds to survive these times. Mind you, this is from a FF program owned by an airline with absolutely piss-poor performance across the board. It would be no surprise if they see the outstanding miles as a giant liability, and treat the Aeroplan as a cost center.

    How does any of the above point to a generally positive change for the program?

    I expect devaluations, I expect cookie cutter approaches to “making changes that will benefit the customer” to only a small segment of Aeroplan members.

    Either you know something we don’t, or you’re naively very hopeful, Lucky.

  38. This will probably be the end of the 55k one way in business class TATL sweet spot(with no fuel surcharges on many of the airlines like Swiss)

  39. I don’t share the optimism. Regardless of how bright the people are who are running the loyalty program, it is likely they will be overruled by the fools running Air Canada. Based on its history, pretty much Air Canada touches turn to crap.

  40. They lost me when they stooold my +40k miles when I didn’t use my account for one year. Yes, they sent me ONE email stating I had to have activity within the next 3 months or I would lose the miles. Good for them, they covered they buttts. The laughable part was they sent me a survey six months after draining the account asking for feedback on their program. I completed the survey and asked them they to contact me if they would like to discuss my feedback. Crickeeets …..

  41. I hope they eliminate fuel surcharges. It was because of this that I completely abandoned Aeroplan years ago, and it’s not easy since I am from Toronto and that’s my main departure city. But I just could not be loyal to a program that charged my over $600 to redeem a business class ticket from my own points. I will keep a close eye but I don’t have much faith in Air Canada.

  42. AC remains a disappointing airline that’s best known for consistently miserable customer service, a second-rate hard product with J seats that regularly deflate in flight, consistently filthy aircraft and among the worst on-time performance of any major airline in the world. Since its creation the Aeroplan program has brought one devaluation after another and there is absolutely no reason to believe anything will change now, especially with AC being cash-strapped (like all airlines) as it deals with Covid-19.

    Give your head a shake, Ben. People only fly AC because Westjet doesn’t yet represent a strong enough alternative.

  43. @Jan

    I have been a customer of AC since 1953 (TCA DC3). Mostly reluctantly.

    Although I hate them with a passion for putting Wardair and Canadian Airlines out of business by using their government subsidized operation to undercut any possible profitable route, most of what you say are vile mistruths.

    I have enjoyed J flights to Australia, Asia the UK with a very acceptable 777/767 hard product and soft product.

    I avoid them as much as possible only because of YQ surcharges. Otherwise their product is competitive and has been superior to others on many routes. Their shutdown product lately is crap unfortunately.

    But compared to EAST-JET they are definite winners. East Jet only services Eastern Canada properly and with reasonable fares, has no loyalty program and is twice the price. They only have a premium cabin on 787 and the rest of their premium service is a bad economy+.

    So unfortunately I think your comments are actually due to either being an employee or someone with a grudge.

  44. A few comments from a 75K Air Canada customer, who is generally a solid supporter of the airline. Hating Air Canada is practically a national pass time, but comments are rarely fair. The inflight service is quite good and the company did a great job of expanding its network over the past 10 years, with a good range of products (i.e. mainline, Rouge) for its range of customers and customer missions.

    That said, what people commenting above have to say about call center customer service at Air Canada IS fair: It’s atrocious, and I hope that the new Aeroplan will not see this deteriorate. It’s no fault of the hard working agents who staff the call centers; they’re just poorly resourced. Nobody should ever have to wait on hold an hour to get a human on the phone. Quite frankly, imposing service standards on this would have been a much more useful “passenger right” from the Canadian Transportation Agency than what they ultimately published. But I digress.

    One other major way that I hope Aeroplan will be better access to seats, and better access online. If seats are not available on Air Canada itself, it’s hard to find inventory on other Star Alliance carriers online whereas other Star Alliance program members at other airlines I know seem to have a better time. It’s also well known among members that calling the call center seems to be worth the effort versus just navigating the web site. Hopefully this will change

  45. Sounds like this article was commissioned by Aeroplan/AC. And the so-called highlights of the “brand new” Aeroplan program sound like a big nothing-sandwich. With all the fluffy build-up in the beginning of the article I had expected to read about something interesting that might be coming for Aeroplan.

  46. I have flown all over the world in AC business class using the fixed rewards scheme. It sounds like this will now be out of reach under the new Aeroplan. Fixed rewards will be available for partner airlines, but these flights have always been harder to find and book. I think there is a whole new topic to explore here – how to keep yourself in the business cabin under the new plan. I don’t really want a new, fairer, more logical plan. I want the old one I know how to exploit!

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