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Air Canada eUpgrades: How Much Are They Worth? (Part 1: Aeroplan)

 

One great feature of the new Aeroplan program is the ability to redeem eUpgrades on flight reward redemptions. This allows Aeroplan Elite Status members to book an economy or premium economy reward and use eUpgrade credits to move to a higher class of service.  

In this post, I explore the valuation of eUpgrade credits in one of the most common use-cases under the new system: booking Aeroplan rewards in economy or premium economy and upgrading to business class.

In a future post, I will similarly explore how much value you can get from using eUpgrades on cash bookings.

Valuation Methodology

To establish the value of an eUpgrade credit, I sampled a series of redemptions across domestic, North America & Sun destinations, and international flights.

For each sample search, I converted the Aeroplan points prices for a given flight redemption in economy (Standard, Flex, or Latitude) or premium economy (Lowest) into cash values using our current valuation of Aeroplan points of 2.1 cents/point and added any additional co-pay amounts.

I then took the difference to the value of the Business Class (Lowest) redemption, and divided by the number of eUpgrade credits required.

This represents the value unlocked by a single eUpgrade credit in this scenario.


[ Value of Business Class (Lowest) Flight – ( Value of Given Flight + Co-Pay Amount ) ] ÷
Number of eUpgrade Credits Required

 

The tables in this article break down this calculation row-by-row:

  1. Aeroplan points required for a given flight, based on a sample search as an Aeroplan 25K member
  2. eUpgrade credits required to upgrade to business class
  3. Co-pay amount (if any)
  4. Cash cost of redemption: (1) × 2.1 cents/point + (3)
  5. Difference to business class: Difference of (4) between cost of given flight and cost of corresponding business class flight
  6. Value per eUpgrade credit: (5) ÷ (2)

I should also acknowledge that, for simplicity’s sake, our calculations here do not account for the role of eUpgrade clearance windows.

While Latitude fares permit eUpgrades at anytime, all other fares are subject to clearance windows, putting those with higher status at a greater advantage of having their eUpgrades confirmed than those with lower status on the same fares.

Domestic Flights

The following table shows examples of the cost in points for a variety of flights within Canada with the corresponding eUpgrade values.

Economy
(Standard)

Economy
(Flex)

Economy
(Latitude)

Premium Economy
(Lowest)

Business Class
(Lowest)

Toronto (YYZ) – Vancouver (YVR)

Aeroplan points

11,900

17,400

22,900

19,200

23,900

eUpgrades to business class

11

10

4

4

Co-pay

$150

Cash cost of redemption

$399.90

$365.40

$480.90

$403.20

$501.90

Difference to business class

$102.00

$136.50

$21.00

$98.70

Value per eUpgrade

$9.27

$13.65

$5.25

$24.68

Vancouver (YVR) – Edmonton (YEG)

Aeroplan points

8,800

13,300

18,800

17,700

eUpgrades to business class

5

4

2

Co-pay

$75

Cash cost of redemption

$259.80

$279.30

$394.80

$371.70

Difference to business class

$111.90

$92.40

Value per eUpgrade

$22.38

$23.10

Calgary (YYC) – Montreal (YUL)

Aeroplan points

11,600

17,600

23,100

38,900

eUpgrades to business class

11

10

4

Co-pay

$150

Cash cost of redemption

$393.60

$369.60

$485.10

$816.90

Difference to business class

$423.30

$447.30

$331.80

Value per eUpgrade

$38.48

$44.73

$82.95

For these sample bookings, the values range from $9.27 to $82.95 per eUpgrade credit, with an average value of $29.38. 

For the flagship flight between Toronto and Vancouver, which offers lie-flat beds, I would likely save my eUpgrades and book a Business Class (Lowest) fare to begin with. The points value is below the range shown in the Flight Reward Chart, and I know that I can get better value for my eUpgrades by saving them for another trip.

For the flight between Vancouver and Edmonton, in most cases I would either be inclined to tough it out in economy for a few hours or to book in business class to begin with, as the value per eUpgrade doesn’t look too attractive. 

However, I happen to have an upcoming work-related flight from Nanaimo to Edmonton, with a five-hour layover in Vancouver. I booked on a Standard fare, so I am subject to the $75 co-pay. Since my 2020 eUpgrades are due to expire at the end of February, I decided to bid for an upgrade, as I can easily get $75 of value out of a five-hour lounge stay and 1.5 hours of business class bliss.

Lastly, the flight between Calgary and Montreal, on a brand-spanking new Airbus A220, represents a great use of eUpgrades and the “Latitude Attitude”. The value per eUpgrade almost doubles from $44.73 on a Flex fare to $82.95 on a Latitude fare, and also preserves six eUpgrade credits for future use. 

In addition to saving 15,800 Aeroplan points, you can also instantly confirm the upgrade, as Latitude fares are not subject to clearance windows. 

North America/Sun Destinations

Let’s have a look at some sample eUpgrade values for flights between Canada and the rest of North America, including Sun destinations.

Economy
(Standard)

Economy
(Flex)

Economy
(Latitude)

Premium Economy
(Lowest)

Business Class
(Lowest)

Montreal (YUL) – Puerto Vallarta (PVR)

Aeroplan points

16,600

22,600

28,100

49,000

eUpgrades to business class

11

10

4

Co-pay

$250

Cash cost of redemption

$598.60

$474.60

$590.10

$1,029.00

Difference to business class

$430.40

$554.40

$438.90

Value per eUpgrade

$39.13

$55.44

$109.73

Toronto (YYZ) – Los Angeles (LAX)

Aeroplan points

11,200

16,700

22,200

18,600

79,200

eUpgrades to business class

11

10

4

4

Co-pay

$250

Cash cost of redemption

$485.20

$350.70

$466.62

$390.60

$1,663.20

Difference to business class

$1,178.00

$1,312.50

$1,196.58

$1,272.60

Value per eUpgrade

$107.09

$131.25

$299.15

$318.15

Vancouver (YVR) – Newark (EWR)

Aeroplan points

11,500

17,500

23,000

47,600

23,800

eUpgrades to business class

11

10

4

4

Co-pay

$250

Cash cost of redemption

$491.50

$367.50

$483.00

$999.60

$499.80

Difference to business class

$8.30

$132.30

$16.80

Value per eUpgrade

$0.75

$13.23

$4.20

For these examples, the values range from a paltry $0.76 to a whopping $318.15 per eUpgrade credit. The average value is $107.81.

For the Rouge flight between Montreal and Puerto Vallarta, which I searched for during a peak period, I would be inclined to book a Latitude fare on points over all other options.

Not only am I getting excellent value from my eUpgrades and saving 20,900 Aeroplan points per person, but I’m also not burning too many of my eUpgrades for a less attractive product.

From Vancouver to New York, the $250 co-pay on the Standard fare, the low values of eUpgrades on all fares, and the good dynamic award pricing would lead me to opt for a Business Class (Lowest) fare to begin with. In this case, Premium Economy (Lowest) is (oddly) twice the amount for business class, so it is to be avoided at all costs.

The most interesting situation above is on the flight between Toronto and Los Angeles. 

With the inflated Business Class (Lowest) points value on the dynamic pricing scale, my inclination would be to either book a Latitude fare and instantly confirm an eUpgrade, or to book a Premium Economy (Lowest) fare and hope to score an outstanding value of $318.15 per eUpgrade. Even if the latter doesn’t clear, I’d at least have a more comfortable transcontinental flight at a great redemption value.

This is a situation where your Aeroplan Elite Status could play an important role in your decision. I would be more confident that my eUpgrade from Premium Economy to Business Class would clear as a Super Elite or 75K member with longer eUpgrade clearance windows on a sought-after route, than I would be as a measly 25K member.

International Flights

Lastly, let’s have a look at what sort of value eUpgrades can unlock on international Aeroplan bookings.

Economy
(Standard)

Economy
(Flex)

Economy
(Latitude)

Premium Economy
(Lowest)

Business Class
(Lowest)

Toronto – London (LHR)

Aeroplan points

32,500

37,500

46,000

61,500

55,800

eUpgrades to business class

21

18

11

12

Co-pay

$750

$500

$200

Cash cost of redemption

$1,432.50

$1,287.50

$966.00

$1,491.50

$1,171.80

Difference to business class

$205.80

Value per eUpgrade

$18.71

Calgary (YYC) – Tokyo (NRT)

Aeroplan points

34,000

39,000

48,000

43,100

90,700

eUpgrades to business class

21

18

11

12

Co-pay

$750

$500

$200

Cash cost of redemption

$1,464.00

$1,319.00

$1,008.00

$1,105.10

$1,904.70

Difference to business class

$440.70

$585.70

$896.70

$799.60

Value per eUpgrade

$20.99

$32.54

$81.52

$66.63

Vancouver (YVR) – Sydney (SYD)

Aeroplan points

48,400

55,400

63,900

66,700

146,500

eUpgrades to business class

26

23

13

17

Co-pay

$750

$500

$200

Cash cost of redemption

$1,766.40

$1,663.40

$1,341.90

$1,600.70

$3,076.50

Difference to business class

$1,310.10

$1,413.10

$1,734.60

$1,475.80

Value per eUpgrade

$50.39

$61.44

$133.43

$86.81

For the above flights, the values range from $20.99 to $133.43 per eUpgrade. The average value is $61.38.

For all flights outside of North America, there is a mandatory co-pay fee for using eUpgrades on Flex and Premium Economy (Lowest) fares for all Aeroplan Elite Status members except for Super Elites, on top of the universal co-pay with Standard fares.

(Note that I also chose to include the co-pay on Premium Economy (Lowest) fares, which is currently waived as a promotional benefit but is set to be reinstated on March 30, 2021.)

Co-pay fees can seriously erode value from eUpgrades. In many cases, the additional fees on Standard and Flex fares bring the total cost close to the value of the Latitude fare, which comes with many additional benefits, such as being fully refundable and not subject to eUpgrade clearance windows.

This is indeed the case for the Toronto–London example above: the co-pay amounts for the Standard and Flex fares bring the total cost above the business class fare itself. In this case, I would likely book in Business Class (Lowest) and save my eUpgrades for another occasion.

From Calgary to Tokyo, it’s a close call between the Latitude and Premium Economy (Lowest) fares.

While the Premium Economy (Lowest) fare costs the least in points, it also comes with a $200 co-pay, a marginally higher cost in eUpgrades, and the disadvantage of being subject to the eUpgrade clearance windows. Ultimately, the “Latitude Attitude” wins out with a respectable value of $81.52 per eUpgrade and instantly confirming business class on a popular route.

Finally, the Vancouver–Sydney route is historically a very sought-after route for eUpgrades. At around 14.5 hours of flight time, having a lie-flat seat and on-call champagne can certainly stretch the eUpgrade value even farther.

This is the case for a speculative booking I made for my wife and myself from Sydney to Vancouver in late October. As Aeroplan 25K members, we each have 25 eUpgrades at our disposal for the 2021 benefit year. For around 64,000 Aeroplan points and 13 eUpgrades at a value of $133.43 each, this was an excellent use of half of our annual eUpgrade allotments.

So, What Are Air Canada eUpgrades Worth?

After discussing this question with colleagues, combing the bowels of frequent flyer forums, and staring blankly at my spreadsheets for longer than I’d like to admit, I believe that a reasonable valuation is $60 (CAD) per eUpgrade credit.

While you can certainly redeem eUpgrades at a greater value, I think that you should aim to get at least $60 of value from each eUpgrade credit regardless of your Aeroplan Elite Status.

Looking at these calculations, the Latitude fare category continues to strike me as the best overall sweet spot in many scenarios, allowing you to avoid co-pay fees, instantly confirm an upgrade, consume minimal eUpgrade credits and save them for future trips, and unlock higher value from the eUpgrades you do redeem. 

While I view $60/eUpgrade as a reasonable valuation, this figure can be adjusted based on your own flying patterns. If you travel very often or at the last minute, you might aim for an even higher value than $60/eUpgrade when deciding whether to use them. 

On the other hand, those who travel infrequently might not be too concerned about extracting maximum value from eUpgrades, instead simply treating them as a way to save a few dollars or Aeroplan points throughout the year.

Either way, it’s worth crunching the numbers when you’re considering using your eUpgrades to see what kind of value you’re getting.

In addition, these numbers can also inform your decision as to whether it’s worth paying the annual fee from a premium Aeroplan credit card to rollover up to 50 eUpgrades per year. 

Indeed, Air Canada has confirmed that there are no plans to rollover eUpgrades earned in 2020 into 2021 outside of premium cardholders, so it’s best to apply for one of the premium cards sometime before February 28 if you’d like to rollover up to 50 expiring eUpgrades for future use. 

Conclusion

As part of Aeroplan’s recent transformation, Aeroplan Elite Status members can now redeem eUpgrade credits on Aeroplan bookings. Doing so can save you points and increase the value that you get out of your status.

It’s important to consider all fare categories to see where you can find the most value in your eUpgrade credits. Through sampling a series of possible Aeroplan redemptions, we’ve seen that there’s a very wide range of possible values for your eUpgrade credits, and I believe that $60/eUpgrade is a reasonable target when deciding whether or not to redeem.

I’m curious if you’ve ever calculated the value of your eUpgrade credits, or if you’ve already redeemed them for outstanding value. Feel free to comment below, leave a post on the Prince of Travel Elites Facebook group, or join the discussion (and fun) on the Prince of Travel Club Lounge on Discord.

 
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