Did you know: The Okanagan Falls in BC are named after a small twin fall on the Okanagan River where it empties from the lake. Flood controls work and a dam built in the 1950’s reduced the falls to a series of rapids.

Aeroplan - What's Happening?

Since Air Canada announced that it was going to abandon Aeroplan and bring its frequent-flyer program back in-house, there's been lots of concern from its customers, especially those who have chalked up a lot of points.  Some of our clients boast over a million Aeroplan points (think 10 business class tickets to Europe!)

Here's what is supposed to happen:

Some time in 2020, Air Canada will launch its own frequent-flyer program.  It already has the platform for such a program thanks to its status program, Altitude, which it has managed since Day One.  Right now, unless you already have status with Air Canada (eg. Prestige 25K, Elite 50K, Super Elite, etc.) you probably are oblivious to this.  But if you do have status with Air Canada, you have likely visited your page to keep up with your "AQM" and "AQD" and other esoteric concepts - all connected to what sort status you will achieve next year.

What is not clear is this: would there be a hard cut-off for redeeming your Aeroplan points for travel on Air Canada and the other Star Alliance airline partners as of that  launch date?  The reason it isn't clear is obvious: Air Canada and Aeroplan are duking it out in negotiations.  Clearly, it is in nobody's best interest for Air Canada to allow its best clients to be stuck with less valuable Aeroplan points in the post-Air Canada era.  My bet is that there will be a 'grandfathering' of Aeroplan points.  Ie. those earned prior to the launch date (of Air Canada's new program) will be entitled to continue to book on Air Canada (and partner airlines), and anything earned after the launch date will not.  Or there will be an extended phasing-out period where Air Canada continues to honour its Aeroplan deal. 

When will we know for sure?  Well, if all parties are smart, the sooner the better!  The longer there is uncertainty the more likely loyal Air Canada customers might look elsewhere for opportunities to earn points.  (Rumour has it United Airlines is about to launch its own branded credit card for Canadians.  Amex and RBC Avion Visa both have affiliations with some major Oneworld Alliance airlines).

What will Aeroplan look like after the divorce?  That we can answer because Aeroplan recently launched an advertising campaign which pretty clearly shows they will fall back to the alternative kind of loyalty program you see with most major travel-oriented credit cards.  The kind that claims you can book any airline, any time, anywhere in exchange for points.  While this has its appeal (everyone knows how hard it is to find an airline points seat), there are two difficulties here.  (1) That is already a crowded market: Aeroplan will have to find a unique gimmick to differentiate itself from the big players. (2) This sort of loyalty program works fine for economy and premium economy class; but it is dreadful for going after a business class ticket.  It just takes far too many points!

To sum up; I personally am not worried about the 2020 switch-over.  I do not believe Air Canada will leave its best supporters stranded with millions of unused Aeroplan points.  So, in my opinion your strategy should be "status quo" for now.


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