Air Canada launched the new Aeroplan program in August 2020, promising a revamped enhanced experience for members. As Aeroplan users for close to 20 years some of the changes are not surprising while some are and just like every program, you have to get to know it to find the best value and sweet spots for deals. We are fairly new at using the new Aeroplan program but our past experience dealing with the old program and other frequent flyer programs has been helpful. In this post, we share 5 things we have experienced navigating the new Aeroplan system.
Availability Pros and Cons:
Availability is all over the place and changes all the time. You can login and find nothing then come back 15 minutes later and space will be there on both Air Canada and partner flights. Dynamic availability can make it hard to predict what will be available and when. Overall though, there is much more availability showing for Air Canada flights.
The verdict: Compared to the old program, it may be more difficult to figure out when seats will be available, how many and when. The best thing to do is login each day and keep a spreadsheet for routes you are interested in. Unfortunately, erratic flight schedules due to COVID make it even more difficult to assess this. It will take quite some time until we can analyze availability enough to figure out when and how availability is released.
With the new Aeroplan, the number of points required varies between flights operated by Air Canada and those operated by partner airlines. Air Canada flights have a reward chart with a range of points that could be required based on distance, cabin class and the cost of revenue ticket (similar to Aeroplan Market rewards). Partner flights have a set reward chart based on cabin class and distance flown.
You can find all the rewards charts on the Air Canada site. For example, here is the reward chart for North America.
There is also a points predictor tool you can use to get an idea of what to expect. As you can see, depending on the fees and itinerary and product, you may want to consider using your points on a partner reward.
One big pet peeve with Aeroplan were those fuel surcharges that were added to each ticket and had to be payed for in dollars. While it is good news that fuel surcharges have been eliminated due to dynamic pricing, it just means you will pay for them with points instead of cash. Either way, you pay for fuel surcharges but most people seem to want to pay for them with points.
The verdict: Like the old program, it does appear that there are deals to be found if you are flexible with destinations, dates, and air carriers. AND you can still plan a layover to maximize a one-way redemption like we did in in 2010 to stop in Istanbul and then head to Singapore on Turkish Airlines.
Since the program is so new, as is the website, there are glitches to work through. If you need to cancel or change a booking, it can take a long time to get your points back. What’s worse is that we clicked the cancel button hoping to see what change options were and just like that, our reservation was cancelled and the points were not returned. Since then, Air Canada has fixed the website so that when you click the cancel button, you get a prompt to make sure that’s what you want to do.
We have also called about the points being refunded ASAP so we could rebook and that was done right away (even if we had to wait on hold for a long time). If you cancel and the points are not returned, be prepared to call and ask for them to be returned ASAP if you need to book something else and don’t have a lot of points.
We were alerted via email that one of our flights booked with points was cancelled and they did not rebook us; we had to call. We suspect it had to do with us requesting to be re-routing which would add 7 hours to our journey because non-stop is not available. That being said, we did call and ask to be re-routed on specific flights and the agent commented they were full even if the website was showing availability but after speaking to a supervisor, she was able to complete the booking due to our status with Air Canada.
The verdict: Overall, we really like the new sleek look and points predictor tool. The system also has new features part of the new program and other than the delay in getting points back and accidentally cancelling our booking, it’s easy to use. We also don’t know if not being offered new tickets on new flights is a system glitch or program policy.
Booking Different Fare Classes:
Unlike the old Aeroplan program that was purely cabin class based with ticketing (economy, premium economy or business class), the new Aeroplan program allows you to book tickets in various fare classes, i.e Latitude. When you book a Latitude flight reward, it more or less gives you the perks associated with that fare class, so things like preferred seat selection, extra baggage allowance, lesser cancellation fees, etc.
Other blogs have noted that you are able to get access to the Air Canada Signature Suites lounges in Toronto and Vancouver which was only available on a paid business class ticket in the past. We have no evidence to support his claim and Air Canada states on their website that rewards tickets are not eligible. We booked the highest fare in business class and it was ticketed as “I”, an excluded booking class. To be determined….
The verdict: We personally found this to be a waste of points. We booked a Latitude reward hoping for an immediate upgrade as per Air Canada’s benefits for elite members but it was not eligible. That being said, unless you are a Super Elite 100K, the higher fare class does allow you to book refundable rewards which is a big perk that can save you money when airlines tighten up generous cancellation/change fees.
In addition to earning points through qualifying flights, purchases, and credit cards, one neat feature is the family pooling of points option. A new Aeroplan feature allows up to 8 members of a family to transfer points at no cost. In the past it was not easy to transfer Aeroplan points like this and so when people gifted points, it had to be a lot of points and they either had to complete the booking for you or let you login to their account (thank you mom and dad!). We encourage any young avid travelers to ask their parents for their allowance in Aeroplan points!
The verdict: We have not had the chance to use this feature yet but think it will be useful in the future to share and receive points.
There are many good guides online about the new Aeroplan program and we do recommend reading the one posted by the Prince of Travel. Like any rewards program, there will be good deals and less good deals and it is up to the traveler to figure out how to best use their points.
Due to travel restrictions, Canadians are travelling less and so when these travel restrictions are relaxed, it will be interesting to see how it affects availability and the pricing model. We do believe the new program gives Air Canada more control over how many points are required at any given time and for all the new perks, it does appear that the program is less generous than in the past. If you’ve got points and want to pay, then yes, the options are limitless. We will be looking for the best deals as we have in the past and will keep updating this post as we learn more about the new Air Canada Aeroplan program.
Do you have a positive or negative experience with the new Aeroplan program to share?
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