Shortly after the new program’s launch in early November, Aeroplan had quietly improved its change and cancellation policy for bookings made through 2020, and that date has now been updated to April 30, 2021.
Book By April 2021 and Cancel Anytime
Throughout most of 2020, Aeroplan has offered a flexible cancellation policy with a rolling deadline, by which members could cancel their itineraries free of charge: first it was by April, then by June, then August, then October, and then finally December 2020.
As long as a member initiated the cancellation by this rolling deadline, they would not pay a cancellation fee. However, they might still pay a cancellation fee if they initiated the cancellation after this deadline (unless the deadline got extended, of course, which is what ended up happening several times).
After the new program’s launch, the policy was simplified to eliminate this point of uncertainty. The current policy can be found on the Air Canada website, and reads as follows:
Aeroplan flight rewards booked through April 30, 2021 can be changed or cancelled free of charge, at any time.
For changes, you’ll pay only the difference in points, or receive a partial refund if your new itinerary requires fewer points.
For cancellations, you’ll receive all of your Aeroplan points back in your account, plus a full refund of any associated taxes, fees and surcharges on the unused value of your travel. (Note that refunds will not apply for previously-charged fees, including contact centre booking fees and change fees, or for government taxes and fees which are non-refundable by law.)
Beginning May 1, 2021, Aeroplan flight rewards booked through April 30, 2021 will be eligible for a one-time free change or cancellation. Any subsequent change or cancellation after a change may be subject to a fee.
As you can see, if you make any bookings through the April 2021 deadline, you will be able to change or cancel the itinerary free of charge at any time. For the avoidance of doubt, this means that you’ll be able to change or cancel the itinerary for free even in May 2021 or thereafter, as long as the ticket was originally booked by April 30, 2021.
Let’s first talk about the cancellation policy.
The fact that any bookings made through April 2021 will be cancellable free of charge means that every Aeroplan booking you make today is essentially “risk-free”: even if your travel plans don’t work out, you can simply cancel free of charge and get all your points redeposited into your account, as well as the associated taxes and fees (including the $39 partner booking fee, if applicable) refunded to your credit card.
You’ll notice that there are a few exceptions; if you make a booking over the phone (as is necessary if you wish to book a stopover for 5,000 points), then the phone booking fee of $30 plus taxes is not refundable later on.
Moreover, the exceptions also include “government taxes and fees that are non-refundable by law”; I personally haven’t come across too many examples of this, but there may be certain countries around the world whose government-imposed fees fit that bill.
As a result of this generous cancellation policy, the door is very much open to making speculative bookings with your balance of Aeroplan points. As long as you have the points, don’t be afraid to make a few different bookings for different travel options (flight times, routings, airlines, etc.) for any trip you might be considering later in 2021.
You can always cancel all but one when your plans have firmed up, as long as you initiate the cancellation within two hours of the first departing flight.
In addition, another consequence of this policy is that you should continually monitor the prices of any Aeroplan bookings made on Air Canada flights.
The new dynamic pricing model can be highly variable over time, so if you see that your flight has in fact gone down in price, then it might make sense to cancel for free and rebook, saving yourself a nice chunk of points.
Book By April 2021 and Get the “One Free Change” Policy
The other component of the policy relates to making changes to a flight reward. On this point, it’s important to clarify that only the first change to a ticket booked through April 2021 will be free. Subsequent voluntary changes may still incur a change fee.
Essentially, Aeroplan’s unpublished “one free change” policy has been extended in the exact same way as the free cancellation policy: it’ll now apply on any tickets booked through April 2021, even if you initiate the first change sometime after that.
If you need to make another voluntary change after that, then a better idea would be to simply cancel the ticket free of charge (since you had originally booked it by April 2021) and make a new booking, instead of paying a change fee for your subsequent change.
There’s another small improvement to the nature of making changes to your Aeroplan bookings. In the past, if your change results in having to pay more Aeroplan points, then those points would be taken out of your account, but if it results in the ticket needing fewer Aeroplan points, then you wouldn’t get that difference in points refunded at all.
Now, however, you will receive a partial refund in points if your new itinerary costs fewer points compared to before. That’s very much a fair gesture, especially considering the sheer variability in Air Canada’s dynamic pricing model these days.
As a reminder, Aeroplan’s change and cancellation fees under normal circumstances look as follows.
(The increase in these fees is one of the negative changes of the new program compared to before, so it’s nice that we at least have some temporary reprieve from these fees for now.)
Given the fluidity of the COVID-19 situation these days, it’s reasonable to think that the deadline of April 30, 2021 for both the flexible change and cancellation policies may get extended even further into the future, but we’ll have to wait and see what type of approach Aeroplan takes at that point in time.
Aeroplan’s current change and cancellation policies for flight rewards are quite generous, in light of the ongoing uncertainty around travel.
Any booking made by April 30, 2021 will be subject to free cancellation and a free first voluntary change at any time (even in May 2021 or thereafter), which opens the door to greater flexibility – and perhaps even an element of speculation – when booking travel for later in 2021 or in early 2022.