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Back in 2002, Air Canada decided to spin off its internal airline mileage program named Aeroplan. The mileage program was sold to a separate company named Aimia that received a 15-year exclusivity agreement. In the time since the spin off, the mileage program has been a fan favorite of Canadians and non-Canadians alike due to some great redemption options.
But in May 2017, Air Canada announced it would launch its own loyalty program in 2020, meaning Aeroplan would be dumped as the Star Alliance airline’s loyalty program.
Almost a year later, in April 2018, Aeroplan unveiled its plan to try to stay relevant after the June 30, 2020 breakup. While the plan was vague, there were a few solid commitments like the promise you’ll be able book any flight with Aeroplan miles:
“Starting in July 2020, you won’t be limited to seat inventory from one airline or one network when you want to redeem valued miles. Instead, you’ll be able to choose any available seat from more airlines to more destinations than today.”
Now, we are getting even more details of how this plan will be put into practice. In an interview with Aeroplan’s new CEO and updates to the Aeroplan’s Program Updates webpage, the mileage program discussed more of what’s to come.
Starting in July 2020, Aeroplan plans to add the ability to transfer Aeroplan miles to “nearly 20 frequent flyer programs covering all major airlines and many hotel loyalty programs.” That’s quite a bold claim.
It’ll be interesting to see which airlines make the cut for “all major airlines,” and whether or not that includes Air Canada. If so, this would mean that Aeroplan members would be able to transfer points from Aeroplan to Air Canada’s new in-house mileage program.
While the ability to transfer Aeroplan miles sounds good, the critical piece of missing information here is the transfer rates. At 1:1 rates, this would make Aeroplan a valuable transferable currency. However, one can assume that the transfer rates will be much worse.
Mileage Levels Unveiled
With all of the vague promises and commitments, we are finally seeing some numbers. For redemptions starting in July 2020, Aeroplan is “committed to offering” awards at the following round-trip flight rates:
- 15,000 miles for North American short-haul
- 25,000 miles for North American long-haul
- 40,000 miles for Mexico and Caribbean
- 60,000 miles for Europe
- 75,000 miles for Asia
These numbers match the current Aeroplan award chart for economy flights to/from “Canada & Continental USA,” and hopefully the continental US will continue to have these same rates. Keeping these same mileage rate for years into the future is a significant commitment from Aeroplan. However, the value of Aeroplan miles isn’t found in economy awards, and we have no promises that business class awards won’t be decimated in the new program.
According to the video interview:
“When we look at where members redeem their miles, about 95% of redemptions happen to North America, Mexico and the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. On these popular destinations, we are absolutely committed to offer redemptions starting at the same number of miles as today.”
While this is encouraging, Aeroplan leaves itself flexibility here. After its recent devaluation, Flying Blue still offers awards “starting at” low rates. But actually finding those rates are incredibly hard and incur high fuel surcharges. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if that’s what ends up happening to Aeroplan.
Award Charter Flights
Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects is that Aeroplan plans to operate charter flights for members. In the CEO interview video, which one must remember was produced and posted by Aeroplan, the interviewer “pressed” the CEO about how the program would be able to remain profitable with all of these flyer-friendly policies.
He responded that Aeroplan will arrange bulk fare discounts from airlines and utilize the program’s data history on members to purchase airfare from airlines when it’s cheap. Where those efforts don’t work, the program will charter flights: “On some key routes, we will even have charter flights where the whole plane will be available for Aeroplan redemptions.”
Currently, no mileage program is doing this broadly, although Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles just announced four all-mileage charter flights.
What does all of this mean for Aeroplan mile holders? I’d still recommend spending your miles before this new program kicks in — especially if you value Star Alliance and/or premium-cabin awards. For most general Aeroplan users, the commitment to keep the award rates the same might be reassuring. However, remember that airlines can make sneaky devaluations by adding complexity to mileage programs, which Delta has been doing for years and as we’ve seen recently with American Airlines and Flying Blue.
Know before you go.
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