Launched in November 2020, Aeroplan Elite Status is Air Canada’s refreshed elite program and the successor to Air Canada Altitude.
While we’ve previously covered the benefits and privileges of Aeroplan Elite Status, in this post I wanted to sit down and think about how much I’d personally value the benefits associated with each status level, in order to help you decide whether it’s worthwhile to pursue status in earnest.
Given that there are five Aeroplan Elite Status levels for us to assess, I’m splitting this post into two parts: today, we’ll tackle the valuations of Aeroplan 25K, 35K, and 50K Status, while in the next installment we’ll look at the remaining status levels of Aeroplan 75K and Aeroplan Super Elite.
How I Think About These Valuations
It’s important to note that the true valuation of Aeroplan Elite Status perks and benefits will of course be subjective to every individual, and will depend on the individual’s travel patterns and likelihood to maximize each of the benefits.
I’ll be valuing the status benefits from the perspective of what I’d consider the average Prince of Travel reader, which largely reflects my own travel patterns and preferences, such as:
Endeavouring to redeem Aeroplan points for flying in business class on international flights, whenever possible
Being content to travel in economy class within North America and save their points for more valuable redemptions internationally
Travelling relatively frequently, to the tune of, say, three international round-trip flights and five North American round-trip flights per year
You might then scale these valuations up or down depending on your own travel patterns. For example, if you travel more or less frequently than what’s described above, you might raise or lower the valuations accordingly.
Meanwhile, if you mainly travel in economy class on international flights, then you’d get even more value out of Aeroplan Elite Status (since its perks often overlap with what’s offered by a business class ticket), so you’d scale up the valuations accordingly.
Aeroplan 25K: Solid Introductory Benefits
Let’s begin with the benefits offered by the entry-level Aeroplan 25K status. Remember, if you don’t currently have any elite status, then you’ll be able to earn Aeroplan 25K by racking up 100,000 Aeroplan points through eligible sources via Everyday Status Qualification, or by spending $10,000 on a premium Aeroplan credit card in the fall of 2021.
Priority contact centre
I don’t value this benefit too highly, since I’m not calling Air Canada day and night. I might call Air Canada a handful times over the course of a year, saving myself an hour or two in the process, so I’d probably value this benefit at $50/year.
Priority reservation waitlist
While I wouldn’t expect to take advantage of this benefit on most trips, I can see it coming in handy in an IRROPS scenario when I need to be booked on the next flight. Let’s call it $50/year.
Priority seat selection
Without pulling off funny tricks for selecting priority seats for free, I’d probably find plenty of value in being able to secure extra legroom at the front of the plane when flying in economy within North America, so I’d value this benefit at $50/year.
Priority airport check-in
I usually check in online, but even then, I like to pick up a paper boarding pass at the airport if possible. It’s always nice to have the priority check-in queue when I’m not flying in business class, especially if there’s a long wait at the regular queue, so I’d value priority check-in at $40/year.
Priority airport standby
This isn’t really important to me, since I usually try to make sure I book the correct ticket ahead of time. The only time I’ve taken advantage of standby is when I’d like to reach somewhere sooner, but it’s not necessary that I do so. Because it’s not necessary and simply would be nice to have, let’s call it a token amount of $20/year.
Priority Zone 2 boarding
This is quite a valuable benefit that allows you to access overhead bin space in advance of other passengers and avoiding having to gate-check your bag. I’d say $100/year is probably fair.
Complimentary checked bags (two pieces at 23kg each)
Without status, Air Canada charges $30 for the first bag and $50 for the second bag for trips within North America. If we assume that you check an average of 0.5 bags per trip (that is to say, sometimes you check a bag, whereas other times you’re able to limit yourself to a carry-on) on a total of five round-trips (which makes for 10 individual journeys), that adds up to $150/year.
Note that core-level Aeroplan co-branded credit cards (such as the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite) also provide a free first checked bag as part of their benefits, so if you’re a cardholder who already gets a free checked bag, you’d discount this status benefit accordingly.
20 eUpgrade credits
Under the transformed Aeroplan program, eUpgrades have taken on much greater significance, as they provide a useful defence factor against Aeroplan’s unpredictable dynamic pricing model.
eUpgrades are best redeemed when combined with the “Latitude Attitude” strategy of booking Latitude Economy fares using Aeroplan points and then confirming an instant upgrade into business class. A set of 20 eUpgrades would allow an Aeroplan 25K member to upgrade a total of five transcontinental flights within North America over the course of the year (since each upgrade requires 4 eUpgrade credits on this route).
Now, we’ve previously conducted in-depth valuation exercises of eUpgrades in three scenarios:
- When redeeming Aeroplan points and then upgrading to business class
- When purchasing cash fares and then upgrading to business class
- When upgrading to premium economy
Most Aeroplan members who are looking to optimize their eUpgrades for heavily discounted travel would likely fall into the first bucket.
In that exercise, we had arrived at a valuation of $60 per eUpgrade credit as a ballpark number – thus pegging an allotment of 20 credits at a total valuation of 20 × $60 = $1,200.
25K Select Benefits
Aeroplan Elite Status members get to choose Select Benefits every year that are over and above the Core Benefits that they receive.
As a 25K member, you get to choose 2 out of 3 among the following:
- Five extra eUpgrade credits
- Two one-time Maple Leaf Lounge passes
- 25% bonus Aeroplan points on your paid flights with Air Canada and select Star Alliance partners
For most travellers, I reckon the first two choices would be the most worthwhile.
Now, five extra eUpgrade credits allows you to unlock a sixth instant upgrade to business class on a transcontinental flight. However, taking the full set of 25 eUpgrade credits together, you also have the possibility of upgrading on a long-haul international Air Canada flight at 11 eUpgrade credits per direction.
Based on our previous valuation exercise, the extra five eUpgrade credits can be valued at roughly 5 × $60 = $300.
Then, the two one-time Maple Leaf Lounge passes should come in handy at some point along your travels, perhaps when you’re flying in economy class on a simple short-haul trip. I’d value them at $30 apiece, for a total of $60 – bringing the total valuation for the Aeroplan 25K Select Benefits to $360.
Adding it all up, we arrive at a valuation of $2,020 for one year’s membership as an Aeroplan 25K.
Aeroplan 35K: Small Improvements
Next up is Aeroplan 35K, the second-lowest elite level within the program. 35K is widely regarded as being barely much of an improvement upon 25K, so does that reputation hold true when we take a closer look at the benefits?
To begin, note that 35K members enjoy all of the privileges associated with 25K. We’ll begin with the $2,020/year valuation from before, and then think about any incremental benefits that 35K offers.
Third checked bag at 32kg
After the first and second checked bags, Air Canada usually then charges heftier fees for “additional bags” at $105 per bag.
While this benefit can therefore easily be worth hundreds of dollars if you routinely check three bags when you travel, we must accept that most people will rarely need to do so.
I think, on balance, the incremental bag allowance can be valued at $100/year for the rare occasions when you might need it.
Priority security clearance at Canadian airports
This benefit can be replicated at Toronto Pearson by holding the Amex Platinum or Amex Business Platinum; at Montreal Trudeau, Vancouver, Ottawa, or Toronto Billy Bishop by holding a Visa Infinite Privilege credit card; and at all Canadian airports by holding a NEXUS card.
Therefore, I’d value this benefit around the same as the cost of getting a NEXUS at $60/year, keeping in mind that the value can be justified multiple times over by even a single instance in which you’re late to the airport and manage to catch your flight thanks to your priority security clearance.
Domestic and transborder Maple Leaf Lounge access
This is a very useful benefit for a traveller who primarily flies in economy class within Canada and the US, who wouldn’t otherwise be entitled to lounge access.
If you took advantage of it at every opportunity throughout the year, I think $150/year would be a fair valuation.
Of course, this benefit can also be replicated by holding a premium Aeroplan credit card, so it’d be worth $0 to you if you’re a premium cardholder in addition to an Aeroplan 35K member.
35K Select Benefits
You get to choose 1 out of 2 out of the following:
- 10 extra eUpgrade credits
- 35% bonus Aeroplan points on your paid flights with Air Canada and select Star Alliance partners
Given the utility of eUpgrades, I’d place a greater emphasis on the 10 extra eUpgrade credits, which combines with your base-level 20 for a total of 30 eUpgrade credits in the year.
Having 30 eUpgrades opens up the possibility of redeeming them on an even longer long-haul round-trip with Air Canada (such as to Asia or the Middle East), which requires 13 eUpgrade credits to upgrade from Latitude Economy into business class per direction.
Based on our previous valuation exercise, the incremental five eUpgrade credits (compared to the 25 eUpgrades you get as an Aeroplan 25K member) can be valued at roughly 5 × $60 = $300.
35K Priority Rewards
Earning Priority Rewards under the new Aeroplan program is tied to your Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD).
Technically, it’s possible to earn Priority Rewards as a 25K member too. But since 25K status requires only 3,000 SQD and you don’t earn your first Priority Reward until you earn 4,000 SQD, most elite members will probably only earn Priority Rewards when they achieve 35K status.
As a 35K member, you’re likely to have earned one Priority Reward voucher at the 4,000 SQD level. You can redeem this for 50% off an Aeroplan award in economy class within Canada and the US.
There are a couple of different ways you could redeem this:
- Get 50% off a simple round-trip in economy class within continental North America at around 25,000 points, thus saving around 12,500 points
- Get 50% off a dynamically priced round-trip in economy class within continental North America at around 50,000 points, thus saving around 25,000 points
- Get 50% off a round-trip in economy class to Hawaii at around 40,000–50,000 points, thus saving around 20,000–25,000 points
- Get 50% off a Latitude Economy flight on a widebody aircraft (with the intention of using eUpgrades for an instant upgrade into a lie-flat seat) at around 50,000 points, thus saving around 25,000 points
On average, a Priority Reward voucher at the 35K level might save you about 25,000 Aeroplan points, which we’d value at $525 based on our Points Valuations.
Adding the values of the 35K benefits to the incremental benefits of 35K, we arrive at a valuation of $3,155 for one year of Aeroplan 35K.
Aeroplan 50K: Star Alliance Gold Gives More Weight
Mid-range Aeroplan Elite Status is known as Aeroplan 50K, and is the first status level that corresponds to Star Alliance Gold, giving you access to a similar level of benefits when travelling with other Star Alliance members across the world. So how does this development translate into our valuation of 50K status?
As before, we’ll take the $3,155/year valuation of 35K and build upon it using the incremental benefits of 50K.
Maple Leaf Lounge access
As an Aeroplan 50K member, you and your immediate family get access to all Maple Leaf Lounges, including international ones, compared to only domestic and transborder lounges (with no guest privileges) as a 35K.
Having said that, if you primarily travel in business class internationally, then you’d get lounge access before your flight anyway, so I’d restrict my valuation of this incremental benefit to another $150/year, with the understanding that it’d be higher if you primarily travel in economy class internationally.
Note that even if you were a premium Aeroplan credit card holder, this benefit would still have some incremental value, since your premium credit card only gives access to Maple Leaf Lounges within North America (and in the case of CIBC and Amex, with one guest rather than your entire immediate family).
One more Maple Leaf Lounge guest pass
As a 50K, you get three one-time Maple Leaf Lounge passes per year, instead of two.
However, you’re already able to access lounges on your own and with family members, so these extra passes are really only useful for bringing in guests who aren’t your family members.
I guess you could always gift these guest passes to others, especially as they now sit in your Aeroplan dashboard as digital access. Let’s call it an extra $20 towards the valuation.
Air Canada Cafe access
Elite 50K is the first level where you get complimentary access to the Air Canada Cafe in addition to Maple Leaf Lounges. There’s only one Air Canada Cafe at the moment in Toronto, although Air Canada intends to roll out more locations as time goes by.
While the Cafe is an interesting concept, I don’t find it to be materially better than Maple Leaf Lounges, so this is a token value of $50/year to me.
Star Alliance Gold lounge access, with one guest
Assuming that most of your international travel is in business class and already comes with lounge access, the incremental benefit here is that you’re allowed to bring in one guest with you to the lounge.
In addition, select lounges around the world have separate spaces for Star Alliance Gold members that are usually nicer than the spaces for business class passengers – one example is the Whisky Club at the Swiss Senator Lounge in Zurich.
Plus, Star Alliance Gold is always a good fallback option for lounge access in case you can’t find business class award space and are stuck in economy. $200/year would be my rough valuation, again with the understanding that it’d be higher if you primarily travel in economy class internationally.
Alliance-wide priority check-in, baggage, security, standby, and three checked bags
As a Star Alliance Gold member, all of these benefits which we discussed previously are now valid on Star Alliance flights, not just Air Canada flights.
These benefits largely overlap with those of a business class ticket, but will definitely prove useful on the occasions when you find yourself in economy class. I’d peg these benefits at $200/year for those who frequently redeem points for business class, with further potential upside otherwise (as above).
50K Select Benefits
You get to choose 2 out of 4 among the following:
- 20 eUpgrade credits
- Two Status Passes
- 50% bonus Aeroplan points on your paid flights with Air Canada and select Star Alliance partners
- A lower requalification level the following year
The first two options probably provide the highest tangible benefit. The extra 20 eUpgrade credits would combine with your base allotment of 20 for a total of 40 eUpgrade credits, allowing you to upgrade 10 transcontinental flights, up to three long-haul flights, or some mix of the two.
Based on our previous valuation exercise, the incremental 10 eUpgrade credits (compared to the 30 eUpgrades you get as an Aeroplan 35K member) can be valued at roughly 10 × $60 = $600.
The value of a Status Pass is quite subjective. With a free checked bag, priority airport services, and Maple Leaf Lounge access for any fellow passenger of your choosing and up to eight other passengers on the same reservation, the realized value could fluctuate anywhere in the three- or four-figure range.
Conservatively, though, I think a valuation of $100 per Status Pass is fair, especially if you can bestow the benefits to someone close to you who happens to be travelling as a larger group. After all, I’ve always found immense satisfaction in sharing the incredible benefits of the game we play with our closest loved ones.
Adding together the two optimal Select Benefits, and we’ve got a total valuation of $800 for this bundle.
50K Priority Rewards
As a 50K member, you are still likely to have earned one Priority Reward vouchers (since 50K requires 6,000 SQD, whereas a second Priority Reward voucher is unlocked upon reaching 7,000 SQD).
However, you now have the ability to redeem your Priority Reward voucher on economy class and premium economy flights to all destinations in North America, including Sun destinations.
Certainly, the optimal use-case is to book a premium economy flight to somewhere like Mexico or the Caribbean, which can price out anywhere in the range of 40,000–80,000 points round-trip (thus saving you 20,000–40,000 points).
(Sometimes, premium economy ends up being either surprisingly cheap or surprisingly expensive under Aeroplan’s dynamic pricing model, too, which can skew the calculations here.)
Factoring in the ability to combine a 50%-discounted Aeroplan redemption with eUpgrades to upgrade into business class, and let’s call it an average savings of 30,000 Aeroplan points, which we’d value at $630. The incremental value compared to the 35K Priority Reward voucher is therefore $630 – $525 = $105.
Putting it all together, we arrive at a total valuation of $4,680 for the year as an Aeroplan 50K member.
In assessing the value of the first three Aeroplan Elite Status tiers based on their individual benefits, we’ve arrived at rough valuations of $2,020, $3,155, and $4,680 per year for Aeroplan 25K, 35K, and 50K respectively.
Obviously there’s a lot of room for the valuations to swing up or down based on your individual travel patterns. But overall, I think these valuations make for reasonable “fair values” that fall somewhere in-between the price at which Air Canada would be willing to sell them outright, and the price at which we as savvy travellers would be willing to buy them outright.
Looking at the Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD) requirements for achieving each status level, Air Canada would like to see members spending $3,000, $4,000, and $6,000 to be granted these three status levels.
Meanwhile, I don’t think I would personally pay $2,020, $3,155, and $4,680 to buy these statuses outright, but I’d definitely jump at the opportunity to unlock them for cheaper, as is currently possible via the Spend Your Way to Elite Status promotion.
Stay tuned for the second part of our valuations, in which we’ll establish some dollar values for the lofty benefits of Aeroplan 75K and Super Elite.