Aeroplan has just announced that their in-house status program will be discontinued as of 2020, as the program looks set to be transformed into a brand-new Air Canada-led loyalty program.
Until the end of 2019, you continue to have the opportunity to earn Aeroplan Silver, Black, or Diamond status, and you’ll be able to enjoy the perks of those status levels throughout some of 2020. When the new loyalty program launches later in 2020, some Aeroplan status perks – like Market Fare discounts and lower Aeroplan reward fees for Diamond members – will be discontinued.
Furthermore, as of January 1, 2020, Aeroplan status will cease to exist beyond the current year’s benefit period, and Aeroplan members will no longer be earning status for the following year based on the miles that they earn under the current scheme.
The full quote from Air Canada reads as follows:
What Is Aeroplan Status?
Aeroplan status has essentially been a way for the program to reward members for earning a certain number of reward miles per year. Members who earn 25,000, 50,000, or 100,000 qualifying miles in a calendar year will earn Aeroplan Silver, Black, and Diamond status respectively.
With few exceptions, the “easiest” ways of racking up Aeroplan miles, such as credit card signup bonuses and Membership Rewards transfers, have never counted as qualifying miles for the purpose of earning status – it would be trivial to transfer in 100,000 Amex MR points per year and retain your Diamond status, after all. Instead, what counts is stuff like mileage earned on credit card spend, flights credited to Aeroplan, or Aeroplan eStore earnings.
(There were a few periods over the years when some credit card signup bonuses would seemingly mistakenly count towards status as well – I recall this being the case on the CIBC Aerogold for Business a few years back. More recently, the personal CIBC Aerogold’s “additional” signup bonus of 5,000 miles, which you earn after spending $1,000 in the first three months, has counted for my Aeroplan status this year as well, even though it’s technically part of the overall signup bonus of 20,000 miles on this card.)
Aeroplan status is not to be confused with Air Canada Altitude status, which is Air Canada’s separate frequent flyer elite program that rewards its most loyal travellers. In the lead-up to Air Canada’s new loyalty program, the general consensus has been that Air Canada Altitude, or something similar to it, will be the single elite status program that the program uses going forward, and with today’s announcement, that outcome is looking even more likely.
What Are the Best Perks of Aeroplan Status?
Honestly, the perks at the Silver and Black status levels aren’t much to write home about. You’ll get discounts on Aeroplan Market Fare redemptions of up to 20% and 25% respectively, which may or may not move the needle for you when determining whether a Market Fare redemption is worthwhile.
Aeroplan Diamond status is where the bulk of the benefits lie. The Market Fare discount of up to 35% can open up quite a few compelling redemptions: in particular, on short-haul domestic flights, it often brings down the cost of a Market Fare to something very close to the Fixed Mileage levels, while charging you much lower taxes and fees.
Then you also have the Preferential Rates on Flight Reward Fees: as a Diamond member, you’ll pay $75 per person per direction to change an Aeroplan reward ticket (instead of $100 per person per direction for everyone else), and you’ll also pay only $30 per person in cancellation fees when you cancel a ticket online (instead of $150 per person for everyone else).
Finally, the other very useful perk of Aeroplan Diamond status is reduced wait times when calling the Aeroplan contact centre, which can make the difference between waiting 5–10 minutes on hold and waiting 45 minutes to one hour on hold. Indeed, recently it seems that the Aeroplan contact centre is so swamped with calls that many regular members haven’t even been able to make it into the hold queue, whereas Diamond members have reported still being able to enter the queue and connect after a 10–15 minute wait.
Some Aeroplan Status Perks Will Be Going Away
While members who earn Aeroplan Silver, Black, or Diamond status this year will continue to enjoy the above benefits in the early part of 2020, it has been confirmed that some of the benefits will be phased out once the new loyalty program launches “later in 2020”. In particular:
The Market Fare discounts, which are enjoyed by all Aeroplan status members to varying discount levels, will be phased out
The Preferential Rates on Flight Reward Fees for Diamond members will be phased out
To their credit, Air Canada is being very fair in giving us a heads-up on these changes at this time, instead of doing so when the 2020 status benefit year has already commenced, since the discontinuation of these benefits may well influence how aggressively members decide to pursue Aeroplan status for the rest of this year.
While these changes appear negative on the surface, we can’t really make any meaningful judgments just yet since we have no idea what any part of the new loyalty program will look like yet.
I’d expect everything about the new program, including the Market Fare pricing levels and the change and cancellation fees on reward tickets, to be subject to change when the new loyalty program launches, so only then will we be able to compare the before-and-after impact of any changes that are announced in the interim.
What Will Happen to Your Aeroplan Status?
While we can’t draw any definitive conclusions, we can make some reasonable predictions – and derive some strategies based on those predictions – as to what might happen to the combined Aeroplan/Air Canada elite status program when the new loyalty program arrives, and in particular what the treatment of Aeroplan members who hold Silver, Black, and Diamond status will look like at that time.
If we work on the assumption that Aeroplan status will be folded into the current Air Canada Altitude elite program (or an equivalent of that), then it strikes me as quite unlikely that there will be a direct mapping relationship between the two when the transition takes place.
For example, there’s no way that Aeroplan Diamond members would be “matched” to the equivalent of Air Canada Altitude’s Super Elite 100K, which currently requires either 100,000 Altitude Qualifying Miles or 95 Altitude Qualifying Segments, in addition to spending $20,000 in Altitude Qualifying Dollars.
Being matched to Air Canada’s most coveted top-tier elite level from a measly Aeroplan Diamond status, which anyone can earn solely via some smart shopping on the eStore and without ever stepping on a flight, is nothing more than a pipe dream.
On the other hand, I don’t think Aeroplan status will be worthless either, based on the fact that today’s announcement on the future of Aeroplan status went so far as to reassure members that “with our new loyalty program, we’re making it a priority to recognize our most engaged members – and not just our most frequent flyers”.
It seems very likely to me that Air Canada will take a middle ground between the two extremes and introducing a way to “bridge” your Aeroplan status into some kind of status level in the new program, and I’ll be very intrigued to see what kind of format that follows.
In the meantime, one thing is for certain: the higher your Aeroplan status in 2020, the higher your odds of getting the best deal out of this one-time transition from the old program to the new. All other things being equal, members who earn Aeroplan Diamond status for 2020 are probably going to emerge out of the transition with the best arrangement in terms of status perks compared to Black, Silver, and non-status members.
So for the remainder of 2019, your focus should be on earning 100,000 qualifying miles over the course of the year, and therefore achieving Aeroplan Diamond status, if at all possible – we don’t know what you’ll get out of it on the other side, but we can be reasonably confident that it’ll be better than if you didn’t achieve it.
Thankfully, there are currently some very easy opportunities for racking up the status-qualifying miles via the Aeroplan eStore. Until November 18, the eStore is offering 7x miles on most retailers; in addition, from November 25 until December 2, the eStore will offer up to 10x miles on many popular retailers as well, such as Apple, Hudson’s Bay, and Amazon.
Make sure to use the eStore for all your holiday shopping during these periods, and you’ll be getting yourself quite some distance towards playing the Aeroplan Diamond gambit going into 2020.
The Aeroplan status program has given us plenty of memories over the years, from CIBC Aerogold for Business signup bonuses mistakenly counting towards status back in the old days, to the AC Conversion Card rendering status qualification an effortless affair, to the more recent frantic end-of-year eStore purchases in a late bid to requalify.
The program will be ending after the 2020 benefit year as Air Canada looks to introduce a brand-new elite status scheme, and furthermore, some of our favourites out of the frankly mediocre pool of benefits, like Market Fare discounts and lower change and cancellation fees for Diamond members, will be phased out as well.
We’ll be hearing more from Air Canada in early 2020, but in the meantime, it makes sense to try to qualify for Aeroplan Diamond status if possible, since that will probably result in the best outcome for you once the dust settles on the newly-introduced status program.