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Air Canada eUpgrades: How Much Are They Worth? (Part 3: Premium Economy)

Following my previous posts on the value of Air Canada eUpgrades on Aeroplan bookings and paid bookings, one of the commenters posed the question of how much eUpgrades are worth when upgrading from economy to premium economy. 

This got me wondering whether or not upgrading to premium economy fell within the same range of value as upgrading to business class. In this post, we’ll take a quick look at the value of upgrading to premium economy with eUpgrades on both Aeroplan and cash bookings.

If you’re new to eUpgrades, be sure to check out these other guides:

Valuation Methodology

Similar to the processes used to estimate eUpgrade values for business class, I sampled a range of flights that offer the premium economy cabin on domestic, trans-border, and international routes. 

For each search, I took the Aeroplan and cash values of economy fares and compared them to the corresponding premium economy fares with any required co-pay amounts.

For the Aeroplan bookings, I converted the points value into a cash value using our current valuation of 2.1 cents per point (cpp).

Then, I calculated the total cost (i.e., the fare plus any co-pay for cash bookings, or the converted cash value of Aeroplan points plus any co-pay for Aeroplan bookings) and compared it to the premium economy cost, and divided it by the number of eUpgrades required. In each case, the result represents the value unlocked by a single eUpgrade credit:


[ Value of Premium Economy Flight – ( Value of Given Flight + Co-Pay Amount ) ] ÷
Number of eUpgrade Credits Required

 

As before, the valuation does not take into consideration the eUpgrade clearance window, which will affect the ability to confirm an upgrade.

Searching for Premium Economy eUpgrade Space

Unlike eUpgrade space for business class, which you can find either by searching for “R” space on ExpertFlyer or by toggling the filters on the Air Canada search page, there doesn’t seem to be a predictable way of determining if there is space to upgrade to premium economy.

The fare codes for premium economy with Air Canada are “O”, “E”, and “N”; however, none of these appear to correspond perfectly to the eUpgrade availability buckets.

To the best of my knowledge, the best way to determine on which flights you can instantly confirm an eUpgrade to premium economy is by selecting the appropriate filters on the Air Canada search results and searching day-by-day.

To do so for Aeroplan bookings, on the search results page, select “Sort and Filter.” Then, under “Display options,” select “eUpgrades” and make sure that “Premium Economy” is selected (not business class). The search results page will then indicate which flights have eUpgrade space and on which flights you will be waitlisted. 

To do so for cash bookings, on the search results page select “Display options” and then select “eUpgrades.” Ensure that “Premium Economy” is selected (not business class), and then select “Apply.” The search results will now show you on which flights there is eUpgrade space and on which flights there isn’t.

Domestic Flights

The vast majority of flights in Canada that offer premium economy travel are between Air Canada’s four main hubs: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. I’ve also noticed some Dreamliner flights between Ottawa and Vancouver recently, but these don’t appear to be scheduled well into the future.

Economy
(Standard)

Economy
(Flex)

Economy
(Comfort)

Economy
(Latitude)

Premium Economy
(Lowest)

Vancouver (YVR) – Toronto (YYZ), Cash fare

Cost

$114

$166

$334

$1,109

$675

eUpgrades to premium economy

7

6

6

1

Co-pay

$100

Difference to premium economy

$461

$515

$341

$(434)

Value per eUpgrade

$65.86

$84.33

$56.83

Vancouver (YVR) – Toronto (YYZ), Aeroplan points

Cost

5,200

11,700

16,700

57,400

eUpgrades to premium economy

7

6

1

Co-pay

$100

Cash cost of redemption

$209.20

$245.70

$350.70

$1,205.40

Difference to premium economy

$996.20

$959.70

$854.70

Value per eUpgrade

$142.31

$159.95

$854.70

Calgary (YYC) – Montreal (YUL), Cash fare

Cost

$207

$265

$345

$1,225

$706

eUpgrades to premium economy

7

6

6

1

Co-pay

$75

Difference to premium economy

$424

$441

$361

$(519)

Value per eUpgrade

$60.57

$73.50

$60.17

Calgary (YYC) – Montreal (YUL), Aeroplan points

Cost

10,000

16,500

21,500

17,100

eUpgrades to premium economy

7

6

1

Co-pay

$75

Cash cost of redemption

$285

$346.50

$451.50

$359.10

Difference to premium economy

$74.10

$12.60

$(92.40)

Value per eUpgrade

$10.59

$2.10

In the above domestic flights, the eUpgrade value varies widely from a measly $2.10 to a whopping $854.70. 

Generally speaking, an Economy (Latitude) fare tends to be more expensive than booking the Premium Economy (Lowest) fare, either with cash or points. Thus, if you are looking to travel in premium economy to begin with, it’s probably best to book directly since you won’t get particularly good value out of using eUpgrades.

For the points bookings, Aeroplan’s dynamic pricing really becomes apparent. In the cases where the Aeroplan cost is toward the lower end of the dynamic range, the Premium Economy (Lowest) fare remains more or less on par with the Economy (Flex) fare.

In these cases, again it would make sense to book in premium economy to begin with, to avoid the hassle of the eUpgrade clearance windows. 

In the case where the Premium Economy (Lowest) fare is astronomically higher, then it would be worthwhile to consider either paying the cash fare for premium economy or to chance it with an eUpgrade closer to the travel date. In the YVR–YYZ case above, the cash price for premium economy is much less than the converted cost in paying in points. 

If, as in the example of booking YVR–YYZ on Aeroplan points, there is eUpgrade space showing as available on the search results page, then adopting the “Latitude Attitude” and booking a Latitude fare on points and instantly upgrading to Premium Economy would be the best bet, netting you excellent value per eUpgrade. 

Transborder Flights

Next, let’s take a look at using eUpgrades to book premium economy on two of the more popular US routes with premium economy cabins: Toronto–Los Angeles and Vancouver–Honolulu (the latter on a seasonal basis only).

Economy
(Standard)

Economy
(Flex)

Economy
(Comfort)

Economy
(Latitude)

Premium Economy
(Lowest)

Toronto (YYZ) – Los Angeles (LAX), Cash fare

Cost

$224

$308

$403

$1,314

$723

eUpgrades to premium economy

7

6

6

1

Co-pay

$100

Difference to premium economy

$399

$415

$320

$(591)

Value per eUpgrade

$57.00

$69.17

$53.33

Toronto (YYZ) – Los Angeles (LAX), Aeroplan points

Cost

9,800

16,300

21,300

39,400

eUpgrades to premium economy

7

6

2

Co-pay

$100

Cash cost of redemption

$305.80

$342.30

$447.30

$827.40

Difference to premium economy

$521.60

$485.10

$380.10

Value per eUpgrade

$74.51

$80.85

$190.05

On this highly sought-after route, the Latitude cash fare is more than the Premium Economy (Lowest) fare, but that is not the case with the Aeroplan values.

For the cash booking, the Flex fare offers the best value per eUpgrade. This assumes, of course, that you are able to confirm the upgrade within your booking clearance window. 

Interestingly, the eUpgrade requirements for both Flex and Comfort fares are the same. While the Comfort fare is refundable and the Flex fare isn’t, in this case the Flex fare wins out in terms of value per eUpgrade.

The co-pay erodes the value of booking in Standard on both the cash and points bookings. As was the case with our previous examinations of eUpgrade values, in many cases, it is often cheaper to buy a Flex fare than to pay the co-pay on Standard fares. You also get added perks with booking in Flex on cash fares.

Economy
(Standard)

Economy
(Flex)

Economy
(Comfort)

Economy
(Latitude)

Premium Economy
(Lowest)

Vancouver (YVR) – Honolulu (HNL), Cash fare

Cost

$757

$837

$927

$1,360

$1,477

eUpgrades to premium economy

7

6

6

1

Co-pay

$100

Difference to premium economy

$620

$640

$550

$117

Value per eUpgrade

$88.57

$106.67

$91.67

$117

Vancouver (YVR) – Honolulu (HNL), Aeroplan points

Cost

43,500

50,000

55,000

91,500

eUpgrades to premium economy

7

6

2

Co-pay

$100

Cash cost of redemption

$1,013.50

$1,050.00

$1,155.00

$1,921.50

Difference to premium economy

$908.00

$871.50

$766.50

Value per eUpgrade

$129.71

$145.25

$383.25

On Vancouver–Honolulu, it’s interesting to note that the converted cost of the Aeroplan values is higher than the actual cash cost in all cases except for the Latitude fares.

As a result, the hypothetical eUpgrade values are also higher for the Aeroplan bookings than for the cash bookings, but this is more reflective of the heavy-handed dynamic pricing model on this route than anything else.

Among the cash fares, Latitude technically offers the best value per eUpgrade, but I wouldn’t consider buying a Latitude fare and using an eUpgrade when the Premium Economy (Lowest) fare is only marginally more expensive.

Rather, I’d chance it with a Flex fare (which provides the second-best value per eUpgrade) or a Comfort fare if I was looking for a refundable option. 

For the points bookings, all three eUpgrade values are excellent; however, note that Air Canada only operates the Dreamliner with a premium economy cabin between Vancouver and Honolulu during peak travel seasons, so it may be more challenging to apply an eUpgrade to begin with. 

Since all three Aeroplan values are relatively high, I’d consider the Latitude fare as the best option, as it’s refundable and you could confirm an upgrade instantly.

International Flights

For one last example, I chose a very popular transatlantic route between London and Toronto.

I also chose to examine the westbound direction of this route because having a lie-flat bed during a daytime flight wouldn’t be as necessary as having one on an overnight eastbound flight.

Economy
(Standard)

Economy
(Flex)

Economy
(Comfort)

Economy
(Latitude)

Premium Economy
(Lowest)

London (LHR) – Toronto (YYZ), Cash fare

Cost

$423

$510

$649

$675

$1,502

eUpgrades to premium economy

14

11

9

6

Co-pay

$300

Difference to premium economy

$779

$992

$853

$827

Value per eUpgrade

$55.64

$90.18

$94.78

$137.83

London (LHR) – Toronto (YYZ), Aeroplan points

Cost

31,900

38,400

47,900

58,000

eUpgrades to premium economy

14

11

6

Co-pay

$300

Cash cost of redemption

$969.90

$806.40

$1,005.90

$1,218.00

Difference to premium economy

$248.10

$411.60

$212.10

Value per eUpgrade

$17.72

$37.42

$35.35

Here, the eUpgrade values for the cash fares are consistently higher than the eUpgrade values for the Aeroplan fares. (And yes, I was just as shocked as you were to see a Latitude fare from London to Toronto at $675.)

If you were able to instantly confirm an eUpgrade to premium economy, then you’d get great value from paying for Latitude – especially with as great a deal on a Latitude fare as we’re seeing here. 

Otherwise, the Flex fare for both paid and points bookings offers solid value (albeit much more so for the cash bookings). 

I ran a few quick searches for other international routes to destinations in Asia and South America. With the ongoing uncertainty over some country’s borders, I wound up with some strange search results, in which I’d only see Flex fares.

So for now, I left out other international routes, but it would be worthwhile to look at this again once borders open up.

Is There Value in Using eUpgrades for Premium Economy?

Across these sample searches, there was a fairly wide range of eUpgrade values similar to the ranges seen in the previous examinations of eUpgrade value.

Therefore, I think it would be reasonable to conclude that eUpgrades to premium economy can be equally as valuable as those used for business class, with rough valuations of $60 per eUpgrade credit for Aeroplan bookings and $90 per eUpgrade credit for paid fares.

The caveat here is that the eUpgrade space for premium economy is less predictable and harder to find. Instead of being able to search for “R” space on ExpertFlyer as a semi-reliable indicator, one has to search directly on the Air Canada website, day by day. 

Air Canada 787 premium economy

For that reason, I would consider eUpgrades to premium economy to be a nice surprise, as opposed to a must-have.

By this, I mean that if you have made a booking in economy and have eUpgrades to burn, and if business class is neither available nor necessary, then waitlisting and keeping your fingers crossed for an upgrade could still net you with good value and a better in-flight experience.

Further, with dynamic pricing on Aeroplan bookings, I have often seen premium economy available on the lower end of the pricing range on one or two flights per day. So, if you can be flexible with time, and if you’re booking far enough out, I think there’s a reasonable expectation that you can book in premium economy directly to begin with. 

For example, I recently assisted with a booking for my friend’s mother who is flying back to Toronto from Vancouver Island over the holidays. It was cheaper for her to book in premium economy than in any economy fare bucket by around 12,000 Aeroplan points, so I suggested this to her, and she was pleasantly surprised.

On long-haul flights, where having a lie-flat is much more desirable, I’d consider using eUpgrades for premium economy to be a fallback option in the event that booking business class wasn’t feasible. 

Conclusion

While it’s not as straightforward as upgrading to business class (which many wouldn’t consider very straightforward to begin with), using eUpgrades for premium economy can still net good value. 

The search is more painstaking, as it appears to be the case that you need to search day-by-day in the absence of more powerful search tools like ExpertFlyer. 

If you are able to find instantly-confirmable eUpgrade space from Latitude, or if you have nerves of steel and can handle waiting until close to your flight on a Standard, Flex, or Comfort booking, then upgrading to premium economy will net you free food and drinks, more legroom, and a generally more pleasant in flight experience. 

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12 Comments
  1. PGG

    Aren’t we lucky that the food store does not use dynamic pricing with e-upgrades in the fruit section ;0)

  2. Quan

    Hi. I have a number of eUpgrade credits expiring on January 1, 2022. Can eUpgrade credits be used on a booking made before December 31, 2021 for a flight in January 2022? For example, if I book a flight today for January 6, 2022, can I upgrade the flight with my existing eUpgrade credits? Thank you.

    1. T.J. YQQ

      Hi Quan. Unfortunately, the eUpgrade credits need to be valid for the date of the booking. So, you’d have to wait until you have credits that are valid for 2022 in order to use the eUpgrades.

  3. Quan

    Hi. I can’t find any information on the Air Canada website. If you are travelling with a companion, can the person with the eUpgrade credits upgrade the companion only? I would like my spouse to travel in business while I travel in the back. Thank you.

    1. T.J. YQQ

      No, there isn’t a way to only upgrade one person on a booking for two.

  4. Peter Reynolds

    Very interesting.
    Did you do same calculation of value per credit for upgrades to business?
    Thank you

  5. PG

    Great analysis
    Guys, I have an unrelated question. I am only $61 SQD away from a Status upgrade. Is there anyway i can earn SQDs without flying?
    Cheers

    1. T.J. YQQ

      You can only earn SQD by flying. You’re so close!

    2. T.J. YQQ

      To the best of my knowledge, you can only earn SQDs through flying. You’re so close!

  6. Oz

    Wow this is a valuable deep dive into the premium economy option. I guess realistically on a scale of 0-10, economy is 1 and dreamliner lie flat is 10. Premium economy is a 4? If you got the eupgrades, why not go all the way! The limiting factor are the number of flights in a life time – right !

    1. T.J. YQQ

      That’s a great way to think about it, on a scale of 1-10. Although I’d maybe bump economy and premium economy up a few points – being in the skies is indeed delightful at any time!

T.J. Dunn

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