Why I’m more excited than ever about Air Canada’s new loyalty programme

May 7, 2020

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It’s no secret that now’s not the best time to be devaluing loyalty programmes.

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 programmes 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 programmes.

There’s one programme 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 programme 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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In This Post

Aeroplan’s amazing response to the coronavirus

As I alluded to before, Air Canada’s current loyalty programme, 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.

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 programme.

If Air Canada has the same executives working on its new loyalty programme, get excited for a programme 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 programme, 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.”

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 Kingdom, it’s still really easy to earn miles with Air Canada.

For one, you can credit your Star Alliance flights to the new loyalty programme. But advanced users know that you can convert Marriott Bonvoy points to Aeroplan at a 3:1 rate.

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

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 programme, 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 programme, 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 programme.

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 programme. With all of its positive changes to Aeroplan during the coronavirus, I’m optimistic about what’s coming in the new programme later this year.

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

All photos by the author. 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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