Aeroplan Backpedals on Fuel Surcharges ... Sort Of
Yesterday I wrote about Aeroplan (the independent frequent flyer program of Air Canada) imposing huge surcharges on Star Alliance partner flights. Many of us complained to Aeroplan and they recently released a short press release in response:
"Effective November 9th 2011 at 7pm, Aeroplan began applying, at Air Canada's request, fuel surcharges to flight rewards on Lufthansa. Members making voluntary changes after the effective date to existing bookings with Lufthansa flight segments will also be subject to the fuel surcharges.
With the increasing cost of fuel, many airlines have started charging fuel surcharges on redemption tickets. All fuel surcharge amounts applied by Aeroplan are passed through to the ticketing carrier for settlement. Fuel surcharge amounts are based on the operating airline's application of surcharges and may change from time to time. Aeroplan has applied fuel surcharges for flight rewards on Air Canada since 2004. The fuel surcharge amounts to be applied by Aeroplan for flights on Lufthansa will be the same as those applied by Lufthansa within its own frequent flyer program. Other Star Alliance member airlines will be added as applicable."
As Gary at View from the Wing points out, Air Canada is the ticketing carrier, so basically they are collecting this money for themselves. Continental/United don't collect this fee and I highly doubt they are paying Lufthansa $420 per roundtrip their frequent flyer members take.
So in general, this change still isn't good, but not as bad as originally thought. If anything it stresses the important of giving frequent flyer programs strong feedback when they make negative changes - especially with no advance notice.
While many people will say, "oh they are running a business, they can do whatever they want." That's totally true. However, we are customers and can influence decisions that affect us. If we allow negative changes to be implemented and simply throw our hands up in the air each time, then we all lose. Why not fight back?
If frequent flyer programs know they will be held accountable and have a possible uprising on their hands, they will think twice about devaluing our hard earned miles and points. What frequent flyer program executive wants to be known for making customer unfriendly decisions and causing an uprising among some of the airlines most loyal flyers?
One last point is that it's also important that we communicate our feedback to the airline credit card partners since they hold a lot of influence with the airlines. Airlines sell billions of dollars to credit card companies who then use those miles to encourage us to use their cards and spend more money. If the credit card company customers pitch a fit about these stealthy devaluations, then the credit card companies can put pressure on the airlines to fix such negative changes. Just think- if you were American Express and bought, let's say, $100 million in Aeroplan miles to use to promote the Aeroplan co-brands and to use towards Membership Rewards redemptions, but then all of the sudden Aeroplan enrages hundreds of thousands of Amex customers by tacking on huge, sneaky fees overnight, thus decreasing the value of Aeroplan miles. You have to imagine American Express might want to have a discussion with Aeroplan about devaluing the value of the miles they just purchased - especially when Chase' partners don't charge insane fees on Star Alliance awards.