Over the weekend, we heard about both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines extending members’ elite status through to the end of 2021 in light of the global pandemic, and today Air Canada has announced that it will be following suit.
All members who hold status within the Air Canada Altitude elite program will have their 2020 status automatically extended to the end of 2021. Moreover, if a member successfully renews their status for 2020 anyhow, they will be able to gift it to a friend or family member, and there will also be the ability to earn Altitude Qualifying Miles (AQM) by donating your Aeroplan miles to a charity involved in the fight against COVID-19.
Here’s what Mark Nasr, Vice President, Loyalty and eCommerce, had to say about these changes:
Altitude Elite Status Extended to 2021
All Altitude members will enjoy a one-year extension of their 2020 status until the end of 2021. This is naturally good news for those of you who qualified for Altitude status last year, whether it’s through your regular paid flying activity or through the Air Canada status challenge, which had allowed you to earn the Prestige 25K, Elite 35K, or Elite 50K status levels at a reduced qualification criteria.
For those of you who completed the status challenge in 2019, your Altitude status was supposed to last until the end of 2020, but will now be extended for another year.
(Note that the Altitude status challenge is understandably not being offered at the moment, and any members who were in the middle of their status challenge can reach out to Air Canada when your travel activities resume in order to have their eligibility reassessed.)
Of course, if the state of global travel allows for it later in the year, members can still aim to qualify for a higher status level in 2021 than their current level, and those who are successful in doing so will enjoy those benefits through to the end of 2021 as well.
You can click here to read our detailed guide to the Air Canada Altitude program, including the regular qualification requirements and the wealth of benefits and privileges you’d enjoy when flying with Air Canada.
If You Renew Your Status, Gift It to a Friend or Family Member
In addition to the extension of Altitude elite status, Air Canada is also introducing a few creative new measures to take care of their members during this challenging period.
Since everyone’s status is getting extended automatically, if a member successfully renews their status in 2020 through qualifying activity anyway, then they’ll be able to gift that status to a friend or family member for their enjoyment in 2021.
Let’s say you currently have Elite 35K status, which will now be valid until the end of 2021. If your travel activity throughout the rest of the year allows you to meet the renewal threshold for Elite 35K organically, then you’ll be able to share your Elite 35K status with a loved one next year.
And if you were to only organically qualify for Prestige 25K status based on your 2020 activity, then you’d be able to gift Prestige 25K to a friend or family member – even while you continue to enjoy Elite 35K status throughout the rest of 2021.
This is a gesture that we haven’t seen from any other elite programs thus far, and that goes a long way towards repaying Altitude members for their loyal flying activity.
Earn Altitude Qualifying Miles for Donating Aeroplan Miles
In other innovative move, Air Canada is offering members the ability to earn Altitude Qualifying Miles (AQM) for donating their Aeroplan miles. Until April 30, members will earn one AQM for every five Aeroplan miles donated to a charity engaged in fighting COVID-19 up to a maximum of 25,000 AQM for 125,000 Aeroplan miles donated.
The eligible charities are Doctors Without Borders, Second Harvest, and Global Medic. Note that AQM also count as Aeroplan miles as well, so if you were to earn the full 25,000 AQM, you’d also get 25,000 Aeroplan miles back as well.
In effect, this allows members to trade in a net 100,000 Aeroplan miles for 25,000 AQM towards their Altitude elite status, all while doing some good for the world as well.
If you’re starting from scratch, 25,000 AQM would instantly get you to the level of Prestige 25K status, pending the accompanying Altitude Qualifying Dollars (AQD) requirement.
Meanwhile, if you’ve already earned some qualifying activity in 2020 (or could see yourself doing so throughout the rest of the year), then this would give your AQM balance a boost and help you achieve some of the more rewarding higher tiers (like Elite 50K status, which also comes with Star Alliance Gold).
And if the extra AQM helps you renew your existing status, then you’d be able to gift that status to a friend or family member, as indicated above.
Of course, the caveat is that this may not ultimately be a great use of 100,000 Aeroplan miles compared to the flights that you’d be able to book in the future. Moreover, for those of you who are inclined to donate to a charity involved in combating COVID-19, there’s definitely a case for making cash donations instead of mileage donations, since the way that mileage donations are redeemed and/or valued isn’t always the most transparent.
If you’re in a situation where you have no plans at all of redeeming your Aeroplan miles for future travel, then I could see the case for donating them and getting some AQM in return.
However, I’d imagine that most readers will be hoping to save those Aeroplan miles for valuable redemptions in the future once we’re able to travel again, so it’s probably a better idea, value-wise, to use some of the cash that those miles are going to save you on future travel to make monetary donations instead.
Nevertheless, Air Canada deserves some commendation for putting out an innovative feature like this, which eases members’ worries regarding Altitude qualification while incentivizing them to help out in the collective battle against the pandemic.
With other major airlines around the world making similar moves, it was always expected that Air Canada would offer its Altitude elite members a status extension until next year, so it’s great to see that they’ve followed through.
They’ve even gone the extra mile and added a few innovative features into the mix, such as the ability to share your status with a loved one if you do happen to renew your status anyway, as well as an incentive to donate Aeroplan miles in exchange for Altitude Qualifying Miles. In the case of the latter, even if the value in doing so may not be the greatest, I think this is a situation where “it’s the thought that counts”.
Also as part of the announcement, Air Canada assures us that they’re continuing to “look for many new opportunities for members to earn miles while home”, and I’ll keep you posted on any further initiatives by Air Canada & Aeroplan to look after their members at this troubling time.