While attaining airline status isn’t necessarily the primary goal for Miles & Points enthusiasts, those of you who frequently fly on paid fares for work or leisure may reach elite status with a particular airline over the course of a year, and this status will afford you a range of privileges reserved exclusively for the airline’s most loyal customers.
In Air Canada’s Altitude program, the top tier that customers can earn is Super Elite 100K. How does Air Canada award its highest tier of loyal customers? This article explores how to qualify for Super Elite 100K status and some of the unique privileges afforded to Super Elites, whereas in a future article, I’ll cover some of the most valuable benefits available to Altitude members at the lower tiers.
In This Post
- Qualifying for Super Elite 100K
- Priority Rewards
- Fuel Surcharge Waiver
- Concierge Services
- Other Benefits
Qualifying for Super Elite 100K
Attaining status with Air Canada depends on the amount of miles you’ve flown in a year (“Altitude Qualifying Miles” / AQM) or the amount of flight segments flown in a year (“Altitude Qualifying Segments” / AQS), and meeting a minimum spending requirement (“Altitude Qualifying Dollars” / AQD).
The AQM is calculated by the actual distance flown on your flight. Depending on the fare class you are booked in and the airline that you fly with, you may also receive an additional bonus, which helps you reach the thresholds required for status faster.
For example, the following flight credited to Aeroplan was a “D” fare in business class, which receives 150% AQM, hence the 778 AQM credited based on the distance flown and the extra 389 AQM as the 50% bonus.
The AQS is calculated by how many segments you fly in a particular year. Each qualifying flight counts as one segment. So, a direct flight from Toronto to Vancouver would count as one segment, whereas a journey from Toronto to Vancouver with a layover in Calgary would count as two segments. Some people took advantage of itineraries with many segments to achieve status as part of the Air Canada Altitude status challenge from last year.
Finally, the AQD is calculated by how many dollars are spent on base fares and carrier-imposed surcharges on Air Canada tickets and on eligible Star Alliance flights sold by Air Canada within a calendar year. There are no tips or tricks with this requirement – without the spend, you cannot attain status.
To attain Super Elite 100K status, you must have at least 100,000 AQM or at least 95 AQS, and have an AQD of at least $20,000. If your address is outside of Canada, the AQD is reduced to a minimum of $10,000 (but the AQM/AQS requirements remain the same).
You can track your progress toward Altitude status by logging in to your account and having a look at your Dashboard.
With qualifying criteria that are far out of the reach of most Canadians, you might expect Air Canada to roll out the red carpet for their most loyal customers. Indeed, there are plenty of unique benefits that come with being a Super Elite 100K.
Whereas some of these benefits are shared with people with lower Altitude status (priority check-in, priority security, priority boarding, seat selection, contact centre numbers), some are reserved exclusively for Super Elites. These exclusive privileges include elevated Priority Rewards, carrier-imposed surcharge waivers on Air Canada flights, and Concierge services.
Priority Rewards allow the member to use Aeroplan miles to book all unsold seats in economy class (for Elite 35K/50K/75K/Super Elite 100K) and some unsold seats in business class (for Super Elites only) on all flights operated by Air Canada, beyond what would be available to regular Aeroplan members. Members have 10 Priority Rewards at their disposal each year.
Economy class Priority Rewards can be booked for any traveller on any route. As long as there is an unsold seat in economy class on an Air Canada flight, Super Elites can book it at the same rate as if it were a Fixed Mileage Flight Reward (i.e., 12,500 Aeroplan miles for a one-way economy class flight in North America).
Meanwhile, Elite 35K/50K/75K members can book the seat for twice the mileage (i.e., 25,000 Aeroplan miles for a one-way economy class flight in North America).
In the below search, for example, note that only two direct flights are available without selecting the Priority Rewards button in the upper right corner:
After selecting Priority Rewards, many more flights become available at the same mileage cost:
Business class Priority Reward redemptions can be booked for any traveller on redemptions within Canada and North America only. These redemptions are also billed at the same rate as Fixed Mileage Flight Rewards (i.e., 25,000 Aeroplan miles for a one-way business class flight).
Meanwhile, on international business class redemptions, Priority Rewards are reserved for the Super Elite member themselves, their spouse, and/or up to five dependent children (under the age of 25). If a Super Elite books a paid business class ticket, a Priority Reward may then be used for anyone as long as they travel on the same date and on at least one shared leg with the Super Elite member.
(Without this restriction, it’d be far too easy for unscrupulous Super Elite members to “sell” business class Priority Rewards on the grey market.)
This perk is particularly valuable during peak travel periods when the regular award availability is very low, as well as on high-value routes with Air Canada’s Signature Class – for example, flying Toronto–Vancouver on a lie-flat bed.
Instead of paying an astronomically high cash fare or being stuck with a milk run across Canada, Super Elites can use a Priority Reward to simplify their travel plans.
On ExpertFlyer, you can find Priority Reward business class space by searching for “R” class award space, which is also the code for eUpgrade space. When regular business class “I” award space isn’t available, “R” class space will show up on Aeroplan as a Priority Reward.
Fuel Surcharge Waiver
As savvy Aeroplan users know very well, avoiding carrier-imposed surcharges can be the difference between paying $75 and $750 when redeeming miles. Air Canada, amongst other airlines, is one of the worst offenders when it comes to adding additional costs to Aeroplan award bookings.
But what if there were a way to make those charges disappear? Well, there is, but only if you’re a Super Elite.
While other Altitude members enjoy fuel surcharge waivers on flights within Canada and the United States, Super Elites have that privilege extended to any international flight operated by Air Canada as well. While this doesn’t help with other offending airlines like Lufthansa or Austrian Airlines, it does make the option of taking a direct flight (versus taking a more circuitous routing to avoid fuel surcharges) a lot more palatable.
For example, from a basic account, a flight between Toronto and Frankfurt incurs a total of $654.16 in taxes and fees. Of this, $600 is levied as a carrier surcharge, significantly reducing the value of your Aeroplan miles.
The same flight, however, booked from a Super Elite member’s account, costs only $69.16 in taxes and fees – a difference of $585.
(There is still a $15 carrier surcharge that’s shown on the description of taxes, fees, and surcharges, but in reality, this is only a NAV Canada fee that Aeroplan fails to code properly and displays as a fuel surcharge instead.)
Over the course of a year, carrier surcharges can definitely add up quickly to reduce the value on your Aeroplan bookings, especially if you’d prefer to book the more direct routes offered by Air Canada. The surcharge waiver for Super Elites and other Altitude members adds significant value to Aeroplan redemptions, mitigating the need to spend many hours searching for alternative awards offered by low-surcharge Star Alliance airlines.
Note that while the international business class Priority Rewards are only available for the Super Elite member themselves and their family, the surcharge waiver on regular international business class inventory is applicable to travel booked in anyone’s name.
Therefore, as Ricky has touched upon a few times before, one strategy for those of you with a trustworthy Super Elite 100K member within your circles is to ask for their help in booking an Air Canada business class ticket for you and repay them generously in kind.
Access to the Air Canada Concierge Services is an exclusive perk for Super Elites. Having never personally experienced these services, I don’t know exactly to what lengths Concierges will go to serve you, but I imagine the most significant value comes in the event of irregular operations (IRROPS).
Whereas everyone else is left to their own devices to sort out their missed connections or cancelled flights, the Concierge Services team proactively handles rebooking and assistance for you as a Super Elite member when your plans go sideways.
Over the last few years, I have seen Concierges come on board the aircraft during pre-boarding to greet Super Elites, ask if there are any arrangements that they need made, or to introduce them to new Concierges. I have also seen Concierges meet Super Elites at the aircraft upon arrival with new boarding passes and information about where to go and how to get there quickly.
Having a Concierge look after you seems like a pretty solid benefit, especially in an IRROPS situation. This is particularly true during the recent system migration to Amadeus, when it was nearly impossible to get through to the Air Canada and Aeroplan’s contact centres.
Speaking of the Aeroplan contact centre, one example of the “soft power” wielded by Super Elites is the priority access to both Air Canada and Aeroplan’s call centres. Whereas regular Aeroplan members have reported being placed on hold for several hours in recent times (if they are even able to connect to the hold queue at all), Super Elites are usually placed through to an agent within minutes.
This is another situation where having a Super Elite member within your contacts can pay off handsomely, as they can “lend” you their Aeroplan number to get through to the hold queue if you absolutely must get through and speak with someone as soon as possible.
In addition, Super Elite members also do not pay any change or cancellation fees on Aeroplan tickets, a benefit that was newly introduced this year with Air Canada’s takeover of the program.
This essentially allows Super Elites to make as many speculative bookings as their mileage balance will allow, and also lets them bypass the $30 Aeroplan phone booking fee by making a dummy booking using the online search engine and then calling in for a free change.
Finally, there are a host of benefits that are also common to other Altitude tiers, such as priority boarding, extra baggage allowance, and a currency known as “eUpgrades” – a topic which I will expand upon in the next installment.
As Air Canada’s most loyal customers, Super Elites enjoy a host of benefits that make travel easier. From a dedicated check-in desk, to greater flexibility when redeeming Aeroplan miles, to priority everything, these perks are meant to streamline the travel experience.
Of the many privileges that Super Elites are given, I would find the most value in the flexibility of Priority Rewards, the cash-saving surcharge-waivers, and the personalized services offered by the Concierge team.
However, as someone who travels mostly on points, I am literally miles away from attaining any status with Air Canada, or any other airline for that matter. Given the high qualification requirements, it doesn’t really make sense for most of us to aim for Super Elite 100K status; instead, see if you can find at least one Super Elite member among your circle of friends to share the benefits around.
It would be interesting to compare how other airlines treat their highest tier of elite customers, and I would also like to hear from Super Elites about how they find value in their status, or how they think it can be improved. Feel free to leave a comment below.