Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Aeroplan has adopted the very customer-friendly stance of waiving cancellation fees on Aeroplan awards and allowing members to cancel their reservations free of charge if they change their mind.
This policy was openly published on Aeroplan’s COVID-19 information page, along with a rolling deadline that has continually been pushed back as the coronavirus situation played out.
As of now, the free cancellation window has been extended to December 31, 2020. As long as you cancel before this date, you won’t pay any change fee (even after November 8, when the new Aeroplan program’s higher change fees were supposed to have kicked in).
However, there’s also been an unpublished policy for members who’d wish to change their reservations, rather than cancel. It’s unclear why this policy has remained unpublished, but it’s nevertheless officially in place and well-known among Aeroplan’s call centre agents.
It’s known as the “one free change” policy, which allows Aeroplan members to make a one-time voluntary change to their reservations without paying the associated change fee, and it’s also in place until at least December 31.
The “One Free Change” Policy
Under ordinary circumstances, making a voluntary change to an Aeroplan booking costs $100 per direction per person for most Aeroplan members (in the case of a round-trip or multi-city booking, the “direction” being determined based on the “destination” or “point of turnaround” of your itinerary).
If you have Aeroplan Diamond status, this change fee is reduced to $75 per direction per person, whereas if you have Super Elite status the fee is waived entirely.
When November 8 comes around and the new Aeroplan program launches, the change fee structure will be refreshed as well. Going forward, change fees will depend on how far in advance you’re making a change (whether it’s more or less than 60 days before departure), the specific fare family that you’ve booked, as well as your Aeroplan Elite Status (with Super Elite members continuing to receive free changes).
However, the “one free change” policy supersedes these change fees until at least December 31, 2020. After making a new reservation, you’ll be entitled to make a one-time voluntary change without paying the change fee, with all subsequent voluntary changes being subject to the change fee that applies at the time.
(As always, if your itinerary experiences an involuntary schedule change due to a flight change or cancellation on the airline’s part, then you can always request a new itinerary with the change fee waived, within reason and subject to the Aeroplan agent’s discretion.)
If you’d like to make use of the “one free change” policy, simply give the Aeroplan contact centre a call and the agents should be familiar. I’ve experienced a few agents who don’t seem to fully know the rules, who might inform you that you can only make changes to the travel dates, but you’d still have to pay the change fee if you want to change the routings; if this happens, simply hang up and call again to get a better agent.
Indeed, the policy allows you to make wholesale changes to the itinerary:
- You can change your flights to a different date.
- You can change your origin and destination to an entirely different itinerary.
- You can change a one-way flight into a round-trip, or vice versa.
- If you’re changing to an itinerary that requires more Aeroplan miles, the difference will be deducted from your account. However, if you’re changing to an itinerary that requires fewer Aeroplan miles, the difference would not be redeposited.
- On a multi-passenger itinerary, you may split up the itinerary and only make changes for a subset of the passengers.
- You can change your routing to add/remove stopovers and layovers, as long as you’re following the underlying routing rules of the old or new Aeroplan program, depending on whether you’re making a change before or after November 8.
Changes After November 8 Still Subject to Repricing
On that last point, keep in mind that just because the change fee is waived as a one-time gesture until December 31 does not mean that you can make changes after November 8 and still be subject to the old program’s award pricing and routing rules.
Let’s say you took advantage of one of the best sweet spots of the current program that will be going away: redeeming 25,000 miles for an economy class round-trip flight within Canada with a stopover: Toronto–Vancouver–Calgary–Toronto.
If you make a change before November 8, you’d be free to alter the flights or dates without paying any additional miles, since the award still costs 25,000 miles under the current rules.
However, if you decided to make a change after November 8, then the new program’s rules would no longer allow for a stopover within Canada or the US, so in fact your itinerary would consist of three separate one-way bounds, each priced separately.
Under the new Flight Reward Chart, the new award would cost a minimum of 31,000 Aeroplan points (12,500 points for each of Toronto–Vancouver and Calgary–Toronto, plus 6,000 points for Vancouver–Calgary, with each flight possibly being more expensive due to the new dynamic pricing model), so you’d have to pay at least an additional 6,000 Aeroplan points to make the change.
The only thing that’s being waived as a one-time gesture is the change fee of $75–100, depending on whether you’re making the change more or less than 60 days before departure.
Use the “One Free Change” to Bypass the $30 Phone Booking Fee
A quirky corollary of the “one free change” policy is that it can be used to bypass the standard $30 phone booking fee when you’re making Aeroplan redemptions that can’t be booked online via the search engine.
If you’re trying to sneak in a last-ditch Aeroplan Mini-RTW at the current pricing of 150,000–160,000 Aeroplan miles compared to the future pricing of 180,000–200,000 Aeroplan points, or perhaps if you’re just looking to book a multi-segment one-way trip that isn’t showing up on the search engine, the normal course of action is to give Aeroplan a call and book with a phone agent, paying the phone booking fee of $30 plus taxes in the process.
However, thanks to the “one free change” policy, you can instead do the following:
- Make a “dummy booking” using the online search engine.
- If you want to book a Mini-RTW, you might choose any arbitrary set of flights that’ll get you between your two chosen destinations.
- If you want to book a convoluted one-way from North America to Europe, you might choose a simple direct transatlantic flight instead.
- Call Aeroplan and invoke the “one free change” policy to change your dummy booking to your true desired itinerary, thus bypassing both the $30 phone booking fee and the $75–100 change fee.
Of course, the downside to this strategy is that you’ll no longer be able to make another change for free afterwards, since that would count as the second voluntary change on the booking.
Therefore, it’s best to use this strategy if you’re relatively certain that you’ll be travelling on your chosen flights, although to be fair, you’ll also have the option of cancelling for free and making a new booking (perhaps through the same method).
Since the “one free change” policy lasts until at least December 31, you can even apply the same tactic to the new Aeroplan program once it launches.
It’s my understanding that the program will launch with a multi-city search feature that supports two “lines” of origin and destination inputs. If your desired itinerary is more complex than that, then you’ll need to book it over the phone with an agent, where it’ll be subject to a $30 phone booking fee.
Until December 31, the prevailing strategy would be to make a dummy booking online first and then invoke the “one free change” policy to get your true desired itinerary locked in.
After all, a $30 phone booking fee may not seem like much, but it can add up quickly if you’re booking for several passengers at once, so it’s nice to have access to a way to bypass it thanks to the temporary flexible booking policy in place until the end of the year.
Despite not openly publishing it, Aeroplan is offering members a one-time allowance to make a voluntary change to their Aeroplan award itinerary without paying a change fee until December 31, 2020. Keep this in mind as an added layer of flexibility for any Aeroplan bookings you’re making, or perhaps as a way to bypass the $30 phone booking fee on complex itineraries.
With the way the COVID-19 situation is going, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aeroplan extending the year-end deadline – for both the “one free change” policy and the free cancellation policy – even further into 2021 either.