The Final Information – Forbes Advisor

It’s not often that those of us in the points and miles world get a wholly new program, but 2020 is providing a rare bright spot. On November 8, 2020, the new Aeroplan mileage and elite status program will take effect. There are a lot of details of the new program to cover, so let’s dive right in.

Why is there a new Aeroplan program?

That’s a complicated story. Air Canada began the process of spinning off its mileage program in 2002, leveraging it for much-needed cash during the post-9/11 downturn. The Aeroplan mileage program has operated as a separate entity since then.

In 2017, contract renewal negotiations broke down between Air Canada and Aeroplan. In response, Air Canada announced that it would end its relationship with Aeroplan and would launch a new in-house loyalty program in 2020. That announcement caused the stock of the parent company of Aeroplan to crash. Shortly later, Air Canada launched a bid to buy Aeroplan back.

After a dramatic back-and-forth, Air Canada completed its acquisition of Aeroplan in 2019. Despite the acquisition, Air Canada stuck to its commitment to launching a new loyalty program in 2020. The new Aeroplan program launched on November 8, 2020.

If you’re an existing Aeroplan member, the transition from the existing Aeroplan program to the new Aeroplan program should be smooth. Current Aeroplan miles will transfer 1-to-1 to the new program’s points. Your Aeroplan membership number, profile and account password will remain the same. Your transaction history will roll over, and your Million Mile progress will be retained.

Earning Aeroplan Points

Currently, Aeroplan points are earned based on the flight miles and booking class for a particular flight. That’s regardless of if the flight is on Air Canada or a partner. However, that’s going to change “beginning in later 2021.”

Earn Aeroplan Points on Air Canada Flights

Aeroplan currently awards points based on the airline, flight distance, booking class of the ticket and—in some cases—even the destination of the flight. This is the same as before the new Aeroplan program launched.

Points are earned based on where the flight is to, distance flown and the fare class booked according to this chart.

In “later 2021”, Aeroplan will switch to a spend-based method of awarding points for Air Canada flights. This will mean flyers will earn less points on cheap, long-haul Air Canada flights. However, it will be a much simpler way than the current way of earning points.

How You’ll Earn Points Starting in 2021

On an unknown date in “later 2021”, Aeroplan will switch from a distance-based program to a spend-based earning program for Air Canada flights. That means you’ll earn Aeroplan points by multiplying the flight’s airfare by an earning rate. That rate is based on the fare type and elite status of the traveler.

Eligible spending for the sake of earning Aeroplan points includes the base airfare and any carrier-imposed surcharges. Alternatively, you can take the total cost of the flight and subtract government-imposed taxes, fees and other third-party charges. Either way, make sure that you’re calculating the spending amount using Canadian dollars.

General Aeroplan members will earn 2 Aeroplan points per Canadian dollar for basic economy flights. All other fare types—from standard economy to business class—will earn 3 Aeroplan points per Canadian dollar.

The switch to a revenue-based program will have winners and losers. High spenders will be rewarded with more earnings, regardless of which cabin they fly. Interestingly, budget travelers may come out ahead in the switch. Formerly, basic economy flights didn’t earn Aeroplan miles. That changed on August 11, 2020 when Aeroplan started allowing basic economy flights to accrue miles at a rate starting at just 10% of the flight miles.

Bonus Points for Air Canada Elites

Currently, Air Canada Altitude elite members must use a Select Privilege to earn bonus miles from flying. Even then, the bonus only applies to eligible flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express, Air Canada Rouge, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss and United.

Altitude members that choose this Select Privilege will earn the following bonuses on eligible flights:

Bonus Points for Elites Starting in 2021

Aeroplan elite members will earn an elite bonus on top of the base earning rate when flying on Air Canada:

That means that the earning rate for Air Canada flights will vary from 2 Aeroplan points per Canadian dollar for a general member flying in basic economy to 7 Aeroplan points per Canadian dollar for Super Elite members flying on a non-Basic fare.

Earn Aeroplan Points on Partner Flights

Currently, Aeroplan members earn points based on the distance and the fare class on partner flights. And each partner airline has a different earning chart. You can find these earning charts on Aeroplan’s website.

For example, here’s the current earning chart for United flights credited to Aeroplan:

If you’re booking a cheap United flight, it’s a good rule of thumb that you’ll earn 50% of the flight distance as Aeroplan points. For example, a round-trip nonstop flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Newark (EWR) covers 5,131 miles in distance. So, you’d earn around 2,566 Aeroplan points if you booked a basic economy or cheap economy ticket.

That’s not a lot of points. But, it could be your best option. United awards non-elite flyers 5 MileagePlus miles per dollar (before taxes and fees). So, if you paid $400 before taxes and fees for this hypothetical round-trip, you’d only earn 2,000 United miles when crediting the flights to MileagePlus. That means you’d earn more by choosing to credit the flight to Aeroplan instead.

As with many distance-based partner award charts, the sweet spot is premium economy. You’ll earn Aeroplan points based on 125% of flight miles for tickets booked in United premium economy. A round-trip nonstop flight from Newark (EWR) to Paris (CDG) is 7,298 miles in distance. So, you’d earn around 9,122 points by crediting these flights to Aeroplan.

How You’ll Earn Points Starting in 2021

At this point, it’s unclear exactly how Aeroplan points will be earned on partner flights in 2021. Aeroplan has only teased that it will “share more details on how you’ll earn Aeroplan points” in the coming months.

A similar distance-based system will likely be maintained, but the earning rates are a key variable of that system. It’s not feasible to offer analysis on the new system until we know how much members will be rewarded for partner flights. This guide will be updated when more information becomes available.

Earn Aeroplan Points Through Credit Cards

Currently, only Canadians can sign up for Aeroplan-branded credit cards. But, Americans aren’t out of luck when it comes to generating Aeroplan points for the great redemptions we cover below. That’s because Aeroplan partners with three major U.S. transferrable point programs:

  • American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer ratio)
  • Capital One Miles (4:3 transfer ratio)
  • Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio with a 5,000-point bonus for transferring 60,000 Marriott points)

That means there are plenty of ways to earn Aeroplan points through U.S.-based credit cards. For example, you can effectively earn 5 Aeroplan points per dollar spent on flights and prepaid hotels purchased through AmexTravel using The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Alternatively, you can earn 1.5 Aeroplan points per dollar spent on all purchases through the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card*. That’s because the Capital One Venture earns 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases and points transfer to Aeroplan at a 4:3 ratio.

Or, you can effectively earn 2 Aeroplan points per dollar spent at Marriott hotels and 1 Aeroplan point per dollar spent on purchases at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines using the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. And you can boost this rate by transferring Marriott Bonvoy points to Aeroplan points in increments of 60,000 points.

New Aeroplan Credit Card Benefits

Aeroplan is rolling out a new suite of Aeroplan-branded credit cards issued by TD, American Express and CIBC. There will be three levels of benefits, based on the type of card you have: silver, grey or black.

For now, the Aeroplan credit cards will only be available to Canadian residents. However, Aeroplan representatives have teased in interviews that U.S. credit cards are in the works. That will let U.S.-based members score these unique credit card benefits.

All three cards will offer “preferred pricing” for award flights and will ensure that you don’t have to worry about points expiring. Aeroplan miles used to expire after 18 months of inactivity, so this is a big win for cardholders.

Grey cards will also offer a first checked bag free, the ability to earn toward elite status and benefits will be shared with authorized users.

In addition to gray card benefits, black cards will offer the ability to spend toward a companion pass, rollover elite earnings, rollover upgrade credits and elite-like benefits including lounge access, priority airport services, priority standby and priority upgrades.

These benefits will apply regardless of whether you’ve paid for your flight in cash or points. You’ll just need to add your Aeroplan member number to your reservation.

Family Sharing

One of the frustrating aspects of loyalty programs is not being able to earn enough points or miles to be able to make a redemption. If you only travel periodically, you may only have a few miles in your account. Aeroplan is making it easier for families and friends to get enough points for an award with Family Sharing.

Up to 8 friends or family members can voluntarily pool their points. Then, the Family Lead will be able to redeem the pool’s combined Aeroplan points. Other members can be designated as either a contributor or a contributor and redeemer by the Family Lead. Points will be proportionally deducted from each pool member’s points based on how many points they brought into the pool.

Best of all, elite and credit card benefits will apply to all members of the pool. That can mean savings on award flights for up to 8 passengers from one credit card or elite status member.

To prevent pool-hopping, Aeroplan requires members to remain in a Family Sharing pool for at least 3 months. You won’t be able to join another pool within 6 months of leaving a pool.

New expiration policy

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aeroplan changed its points expiration policy. Effective July 20, 2020, Aeroplan miles expire after 18 months of inactivity instead of 12 months. This policy will be retained in the new Aeroplan program. Even better, your points will never expire if you have an Aeroplan-branded credit card.

Redeeming Aeroplan Points

The most valuable way to redeem airline miles is generally for reward flights. With the new Aeroplan program, you’ll have lots of options. Between Air Canada flights and Star Alliance partner flights, Aeroplan boasts that members can redeem points to over 1,300 destinations.

The award pricing to fly to these 1,300+ destinations is going to vary widely—from 6,000 points one-way for short hops in North America up to as much as 350,000 points one-way for Air Canada first-class awards over 11,000 miles in distance.

Unfortunately, rates are generally increasing from the current Aeroplan redemption rates. However, there are some positive changes too.

No Blackout Dates on Air Canada Flights

One nice aspect of the new program is that every available Air Canada seat is available with Aeroplan points. There are no blackout dates or need to figure out different award types.

However, it will pay to be flexible. As you’ll see below, Air Canada charges a range of prices for award tickets on its flights. Peak dates will likely be priced on the higher end of the range.  Considering that any available seat on an Air Canada flight is available with points, the maximum rates are actually quite reasonable.

Aeroplan Award Pricing

The new Aeroplan award chart breaks the world into just four “travel zones”: North America, South America, Atlantic and Pacific. Atlantic includes Europe, Africa and as far east as India. Meanwhile, the Pacific zone includes much of Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

The pricing for award flights depends on two factors: the travel zones and the actual distance flown between the origin and destination. It appears that Aeroplan is trying to combine the distance program model with a zone-based award chart. The result is that pricing an award will require both an atlas and the Great Circle Mapper.

To determine how much an award will cost, first check the award chart. Or, you can use the “Points Predictor Tool” to price out a nonstop itinerary. For Air Canada flights, you’ll see a range of prices. Award flights on partners have a fixed price.

The new Aeroplan program has some sweet spots, as we cover below. But, it also has some serious downsides. For example, a flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to New Delhi (DEL)—which is considered part of the Atlantic zone—starts at 70,000 in economy, 85,000 in premium economy, 100,000 in business class and 130,000 in First Class.

Several other loyalty programs charge less than 35,000 miles in economy for this route. American Airlines AAdvantage charges 40,000 miles for economy and 70,000 miles in business class between the U.S. and Indian Subcontinent. So, it seems the new Aeroplan program isn’t going to be competitive on these longer routes.

If you aren’t able to find award availability in a premium cabin for all legs of your trip, mixed cabin awards are available. However, award pricing is based on the highest class of service. So, make sure to check the flight details carefully before booking.

Aeroplan Redemption Partners

Speaking of Aeroplan partners, you can redeem your Aeroplan points on 34 partner airlines. This includes all 26 Star Alliance member airlines and 1 Star Alliance connecting partner:

  • Air Canada
  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA – All Nippon Airways
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • Ethoipian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • Juneyao Airlines (connecting partner)
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss
  • TAP Portugal
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

In addition, you can redeem your Aeroplan points on 7 “worldwide partners”:

  • Azul Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Cathay Dragon
  • Etihad Airways
  • GOL Airlines
  • Olympic Air
  • Vistara

The redemption rates are the same for all of these partners in the new Aeroplan program. So, you don’t need to refer to a different award chart for each. And, although there’s a range of award rates for Air Canada-operated flights, the award rate is fixed for partners.

You can find the full Aeroplan award chart here (caution: PDF link). Alternatively, you can use the Aeroplan Predictable Pricing tool to estimate how much a particular flight will cost.

However, there’s one noteworthy aspect that’s missing from the new Aeroplan program. Aeroplan members still can’t book premium economy awards on partners. Aeroplan premium economy awards are only available on flights operated by Air Canada.

New Fees on Award Bookings

The new Aeroplan program is adding a couple of new fees for booking award flights. The most noteworthy addition is a new C$39 fee ($29) for flight awards that include flights operated on partner airlines. That’s going to cut into the value members can get from partner award flights.

If you book flights online, there’s no (additional) booking fee. However, there’s a C$30 ($23) fee for booking through a call center. And this fee will not be waived for awards that cannot be booked online. That’s bad news for those that want to piece together complex itineraries with phone agents.

Fees for Changing or Canceling Awards

Awards can be changed or canceled up to two hours until departure. The fee depends on whether you’re making a change or canceling the flight and how long before departure you’re making a change. Aeroplan will allow members 24 hours after booking to cancel an award reservation with no fee.

For changes to awards more than 60 days until travel, you’ll pay C$75 ($57) for Standard awards, C$25 ($19) for Flexible economy awards. But there’s no fee for Flexible awards in premium cabins or on Latitude tickets.

To cancel and refund an award ticket, you’ll generally need to pay C$150 ($113) for cancellations completed on Air Canada’s website. Flex economy awards are subject to a reduced C$75 ($57) cancellation fee. If you cancel via the Contact Center, you’ll need to pay C$175 ($132) to cancel and refund many award tickets, reduced to C$125 ($95) for Flexible economy awards. There’s no fee to cancel Flex awards in premium cabins or on Latitude tickets. There is a reduced C$100 ($76) fee for changing or canceling an Aeroplan award booked before November 8, 2020. These changes must be made over the phone and changes will be subject to the new pricing.

No More Fuel Surcharges

One of the best changes of the new Aeroplan program is the elimination of carrier-imposed surcharges on awards.

Aeroplan’s European-based Star Alliance partners—like Lufthansa—are infamous for charging hefty surcharges on award flights. Under the old program, the taxes and fees on a Lufthansa business class award could be a whopping C$1,101. That’s about $839 at the time of writing.

Of this total, C$1,088.07 (or about $829) is the carrier-imposed surcharge:

Under the new program, that carrier-imposed fee will no longer be passed along. That drops the out-of-pocket cost down to around $10—at least before the new C$39 ($29) partner booking fee. That’s a net decrease of around $800 in out-of-pocket costs.

Although some award prices are increasing, that’s not the case on all routes. For this particular award, the award rate is still just 70,000 points:

New Stopover Policy

One of the greatest ways to see more than one destination on a trip is by using a stopover. Some award programs will allow you to build-in an extended stay in a connection city, and Aeroplan will continue to be one of those programs.

For just 5,000 Aeroplan points, you can add a stopover to your Aeroplan award. That can let you spend a few days in Brussels before continuing to Paris, or you can see Zurich on your way back home from Italy. Unfortunately, no stopovers are allowed within Canada or the United States.

Aeroplan Sweet Spots

With Aeroplan’s new zone- and distance-based award chart, you’re going to find the best sweet spots on short routes. That can be inside of a single region or short routes from one region to another.

For example, flights within North America that are under 500 miles cost just 6,000 points each way. That might not sound like a lot, but it covers a lot of potential routes.

That means the short hop between New York LaGuardia (LGA) and Toronto (YYZ)—one of the busiest international airline routes in the world—costs as few as 6,000 points in economy or 15,000 points in business class.

Flights within North America between 501 and 1,500 miles cost just 10,000 Aeroplan points in economy or 20,000 points in business class. That’s long enough to cover award flights from Chicago (ORD), Washington DC (IAD) or Houston (IAH) to Cancun (CUN).

The next distance band covers award flights up to 2,750 miles in distance. That means you can fly between the U.S. west coast and Hawaii on United for as few as 12,500 points each way in economy. Or, upgrade to business class for just 25,000 points each way.

If you want to head overseas, you can fly from the U.S. east coast to Europe for as few as 60,000 points in business class. You’ll need to keep your flight distance under 4,000 miles to get this rate.

For flights across the Pacific, you can book economy flights for as few as 35,000 points in economy or 55,000 points in business class if you keep the route under 5,000 miles in distance. That covers Air Canada flights from Vancouver (YVR) to Tokyo (NRT) or Osaka (KIX).

Aeroplan Elite Status

The new Aeroplan Elite Status program will be similar to the current Air Canada Altitude program. However, Aeroplan is adding a few additional perks to spice up the current program. Let’s recap how you earn Aeroplan elite status and some of the new benefits.

Earning Elite Status

There will be five different elite levels in the new Aeroplan program. To earn Aeroplan elite status, members need to meet a spending requirement and either the mileage or segment requirement.

Non-Canadian Aeroplan members will only have to earn half of the standard Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD) requirements.

If you aren’t able to fly enough to reach these thresholds, you can still earn elite status through Everyday Status Qualification starting January 2021. By earning at least 100,000 points through credit card spending, flying partner airlines or earning points through other partners, members will earn Aeroplan 25K elite status.

You can also use an Aeroplan credit card to help you toward earning and maintaining elite status. Grey and black cardholders will be able to earn Status Qualifying Miles (SQM) and Status Qualifying Segments (SQS) by spending on an eligible credit card. And, black cardholders will be able to rollover SQM and eUpgrade credits to the next year.

Earn Discounted Awards via Priority Rewards

Aeroplan elite status members can earn discounted awards called Priority Rewards. These vouchers can be redeemed to slash the price of an award by 50%—even on partners. You’ll need to redeem one voucher per traveler.

However, there are region and cabin restrictions based on your elite status level:

  • 25K and 35K elites can only redeem Priority Rewards for economy awards within the U.S. and Canada
  • 50K elites will be able to redeem vouchers for awards within North America, up to premium economy
  • 75K elites can redeem Priority Rewards worldwide in either economy or premium economy
  • Super Elites can redeem vouchers worldwide up to Signature / Business Class.

Elites will earn a Priority Reward voucher at set Status Qualifying Dollar (SQD) levels: 4,000 SQD; 7,000 SQD; 10,000 SQD and then every 5,000 SQD up to 50,000 SQD. That means that a member can earn up to 11 Priority Rewards vouchers per year. Vouchers are good for one year from the date earned.

On November 8, 2020, Air Canada Elites received Priority Reward vouchers based on their existing status:

  • 35K: 1 voucher
  • 50K: 2 vouchers
  • 75K: 3 vouchers
  • Super Elites: 4 vouchers

Gift Your Status with Status Pass

Starting in March 2021, Air Canada Altitude elite members will have the opportunity to gift elite status benefits through Status Pass. This Status Pass will let a friend, family member or colleague experience the benefits of Aeroplan Elite Status for a trip.

Benefits include priority check-in, up to three free checked bags per passenger, lounge access and priority security, boarding and airport standby. Even better, these benefits extend to up to nine passengers on the same reservation.

Existing 50K, 75K and Super Elite members will get a bonus Status Pass when the program is launched in March 2021. After that, 50K, 75K and Super Elite members will get to choose two, three or four passes, respectively, as a Select Benefit.

Alternative Uses of Aeroplan Points

In addition to using points for reward flights, Aeroplan members will have the opportunity to redeem points for travel extras. In December 2020, members will be able to start redeeming points for in-flight Wi-Fi. And Aeroplan members can use their points to bid for upgrades on Air Canada flights.

Aeroplan members will also have the opportunity to redeem points for hotels, car rentals and Air Canada Vacations packages.

Members will also be able to donate their Aeroplan points to charity or transfer points to another Aeroplan member.

Lap Infant Fees

The cost of a lap infant varies wildly between mileage programs. Some programs charge as few as 1,000 miles for a lap infant while others charge up to 25% of an adult revenue ticket. If you’re flying in a premium cabin, that can be extraordinarily expensive.

Aeroplan has always been one of the better options for booking award flights when traveling with a child under 2 years old. But, with the new program it’s even better.

The new Aeroplan program will charge no more than C$25 ($19) or 2,500 Aeroplan points for a lap infant. Even better, there’s no cost for flights within Canada or between Canada and the U.S. That’s the case no matter which cabin of service you’re flying.

Bottom Line

As you’ve seen, there’s a lot to learn about the new Aeroplan program. And there’s a lot to like about the program for all types of travelers—from discounted awards for credit cardholders and elites to reasonable lap infant fees. The new C$39 ($29) partner award booking fee is a pesky addition. However, this additional fee is going to be more than offset on most awards thanks to Aeroplan slashing carrier-imposed surcharges.

Overall, the new Aeroplan program is worth a look. That’s especially true if you have a stash of Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One miles or Marriott Bonvoy points. Whether you’re looking to fly within North America or overseas, it’s worth comparing the miles and cash cost of awards booked through both Aeroplan against other programs.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, please visit this page.

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