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Why I'm more excited than ever about Air Canada's new loyalty program

May 06, 2020
5 min read
Air Canada Boeing 777 ZRH Zach Griff
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It's no secret that now's not the best time to be devaluing loyalty programs.

With the travel industry at a standstill, people are going to remember the companies making negative changes during these times. Plus, when the industry inevitably recovers from the pandemic, it's going to be a slow process. Loyalty programs are one of the best ways to drive business to an airline or hotel. Why would anyone want to give their business to a provider that's using this downtime to make customer-unfriendly changes?

Well, this hasn't stopped American, United and IHG from making negative adjustments to their programs.

There's one program though that's done the exact opposite, and that's Air Canada's Aeroplan. It's been introducing creative and generous promotions for the past few weeks.

Air Canada Airbus A220 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Interestingly, the Montreal-based carrier is expected to debut a brand-new loyalty program this year. And now, in light of the current climate, I'm more excited than ever about it. Let me explain why.

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Aeroplan's amazing response to the coronavirus

As I alluded to before, Air Canada's current loyalty program, Aeroplan, has been nothing short of amazing when it comes to adjusting to the realities of the pandemic. In addition to its generous award ticket cancellation policy, it's used this time to introduce a lucrative offer to earn status without flying.

In April, Air Canada extended elite status for all its current members. If your status was already extended and you end up reaching the applicable thresholds again this year, the carrier will let you share that status with a friend or family member.

Related: Complete guide to airline elite status during the coronavirus outbreak

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This response to the coronavirus is in stark contrast to that of American and United. Instead of imposing new fees and making it harder to earn status through partner flying, Aeroplan is thinking creatively and actually improving its program.

If Air Canada has the same executives working on its new loyalty program, get excited for a program that actually cares about its members.

Promise of an award chart

United has used the coronavirus as a time to remove Star Alliance partner award charts, and then immediately raised award costs across the board by about 10%.

Based on our inside look at Air Canada's new loyalty program, TPG was told that the award chart will survive the transition. Though there's no telling what the new award prices will be, I'm fairly confident that the Air Canada won't eliminate all of the sweet spots.

Air Canada Signature Suite Toronto (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In fact, when speaking to TPG, Mark Nasr, Air Canada's Vice President, Loyalty and E-commerce acknowledged that there's value in offering "special rewards."

Related: Your guide to airline partners and award charts

Even if Air Canada does indeed raise prices like United, at least it's committed to offering an award chart. These fixed tables tell us what to expect from prices, allowing us to clearly analyze whether we're getting a good deal. With United, there's no longer a cap on award prices, making it much harder to score incredible redemptions.

Great earning opportunities

Though most of us are based in the United States, it's still really easy to earn miles with Air Canada.

For one, you can credit your Star Alliance flights to the new loyalty program. But advanced users know that you can convert American Express Membership Rewards (at a 1:1 rate) and Capital One Miles (2:1.5) to Aeroplan.

Air Canada Airbus A220 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

By taking advantage of these transferable currencies, you can easily multiply your Aeroplan earnings by using the best Amex and Capital One cards. Though it's not yet official that the new program will be a Membership Rewards and Capital One Miles transfer partner, odds are quite high that the partnership will transfer over, since these agreements are quite lucrative.

Related: How to redeem American Express Membership Rewards for maximum value

Aside from converting transferable points, you can now buy Aeroplan (and soon-to-be Air Canada) miles. And in light of the coronavirus, we're seeing an incredible sale on Aeroplan miles. If these promotions transfer to the new program, we're in for a treat.

You can't build trust with devaluations

As they say, you only get one shot at a first impression.

When Air Canada debuts its new program, people around the world are going to be poring through the details and analyzing every last change. Though it's tempting to add in some sneaky devaluations along the way, all of Aeroplan's prior actions points to this being a fair and rewarding program.

Plus, if you start out with devaluations, how are you going to get members to trust you?

I'm sure we're going to see some of the best redemptions eliminated or some new restrictive policies, but my money is that most partner redemptions will look quite similar to where they are today.

Bottom line

Air Canada has a unique opportunity to shape the future of its loyalty program. With all of its positive changes to Aeroplan during the coronavirus, I'm optimistic about what's coming in the new program later this year.

An award chart coupled with great earning opportunities is all this points collector can ask for.

All photos by the author.

Featured image by Air Canada Boeing 777 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)