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Air Canada Introduces New eUpgrades for Aeroplan Members

Air Canada has today unveiled the details of a transformed and simplified system for eUpgrades, the in-house currency for passengers who wish to upgrade to a higher class of service on Air Canada flights.

The new eUpgrades will be easier to use, redeemable on a wider set of underlying fares (including Aeroplan award tickets), and will extend to an Aeroplan Elite Status member’s companions when travelling on the same ticket.

In this post, we’ll go over all of the details that you need to know and I’ll share some of my first impressions of the new eUpgrades; then, next week, our resident Air Canada states and eUpgrades expert T.J. will follow up with a more in-depth look at the optimal eUpgrade strategies.

In This Post

New eUpgrade Redemption Charts

eUpgrades are a special currency earned by Air Canada’s elite frequent flyers (under the program currently known as Altitude, to be renamed Aeroplan Elite Status as of the new Aeroplan’s launch on November 8) as a benefit of their elite status ranks. Members may redeem a certain number of eUpgrades, along with a cash co-pay amount if applicable, to request an upgrade to a higher class of service on an Air Canada flight; these requests will then be cleared based on the available seats in the cabin and in order of members’ elite status.

As of now, Altitude members receive the following number of eUpgrade credits depending on their elite status (the first row represents the base amount that everyone gets, followed by the eUpgrades you may choose as a Select Privilege in the second row):

Historically, the eUpgrade reward system has been marked by its complexity and opacity: the eUpgrade amounts varied based on geographic zone, distance flown, underlying fare, and the member’s elite status level, and Air Canada did not publish all of the information required to predict how many eUpgrades you’d need to upgrade a certain flight.

Now, however, Air Canada has released a brand-new set of charts that give far more transparency as to how many eUpgrades you’ll need for your desired upgrade. These charts can be found here.

Just like the new Aeroplan’s Flight Reward Chart, the eUpgrade chart is divided into geographic zones – in this case, two zones: North America & Sun destinations, as well as International destinations.

Within each zone, there are separate charts for upgrades to business class (from either premium economy or economy) and upgrades to premium economy (from economy). Each of these charts are then further subdivided into eUpgrade requirements for cash fares and Aeroplan tickets.

Here are the eUpgrade requirements for upgrading to business class on a one-way flight within North America or to Sun destinations:

Here are the eUpgrade requirements for upgrading to premium economy on a one-way flight within North America or to Sun destinations:

Here are the eUpgrade requirements for upgrading to business class on a one-way flight to international destinations:

And here are the eUpgrade requirements for upgrading to premium economy on a one-way flight to international destinations:

As you can see, the general structure of the eUpgrade chart remains the same as before: the more expensive your underlying fare option (i.e., Latitude, Comfort, Flex, or Standard), the fewer eUpgrades you’ll need for your upgrade; meanwhile, the greater your distance flown, the more eUpgrades you’ll need.

Compared to before, however, the new eUpgrade chart does a much better job of communicating the vast majority of information needed to calculate how many eUpgrades you’ll need.

Almost all the upgrade possibilities specify an exact number of eUpgrades and the corresponding add-on cash amount (if any), with the only exceptions being at the extreme of upgrading from the lowest possible underlying fare), where occasionally you’ll see “add-on starting at” a given price – as these will presumably be determined by the market forces at the time of requesting an upgrade.

There are a few additional nuances to take note of. Remember, under the new Aeroplan program, all Aeroplan rewards on Air Canada flights will now book into the same booking classes as revenue tickets (“S”, “Y”, “J”, etc., rather than the old “X” and “I” award classes) due to the new dynamic pricing model. Thus, it makes perfect sense that all Aeroplan rewards on Air Canada flights will now be eligible for eUpgrades too.

However, as you can see in the charts, there’s still a distinction between the number of eUpgrades required for an underlying cash ticket and an underlying Aeroplan reward. By and large, the eUpgrade chart for Aeroplan rewards is priced equal to or higher than for cash rewards – and since the cost of Aeroplan reward will more closely track the underlying cash fare under the new program, this indicates that you’d likely still be better off purchasing cash fares if you wish to request an upgrade on the flight.

Air Canada 777 business class

You’ll also notice that the international business class eUpgrade chart contains many more cash add-on requirements than the other charts, which makes sense, given that this is likely the most attractive use of eUpgrades for most elite members.

It’s worth noting here that Aeroplan Super Elite members will be exempt from the cash add-ons in the rows highlighted in blue, whereas the cash add-ons stricken-out in red (for upgrades from premium economy to business class) are waived for all members until March 31, 2021 as a temporary special offer.

A First Look at New eUpgrade Strategies

Let’s take a first look at what you can expect to get out of the new eUpgrades system from the perspective of an Aeroplan 25K member – the first Aeroplan Elite Status tier that you can achieve.

Indeed, many of us earned this status level pretty effortlessly under the Travel at Home promotion earlier this year – and remember, under the new Aeroplan, it will be possible to earn Aeroplan 25K status year after year without flying by earning 100,000 Aeroplan points per year through eligible sources (including flying, credit card spending, eStore shopping, but excluding credit card signup bonuses and points transfers).

As it currently stands, Aeroplan 25K members receive 20 eUpgrade credits per year as part of their Core Privileges. Ideally, you would want to redeem these eUpgrades for the best value, which is almost certainly for an upgrade to business class on routes with Air Canada’s Boeing 777 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner and their lie-flat reverse herringbone seats.

The flagship domestic routes on which the Dreamliner is operated are Vancouver–Toronto and Vancouver–Montreal. Both of these routes fall into the “1,501+ miles” distance band, so based on the eUpgrade chart above, if you purchased a Flex fare for a round-trip flight on these routes, you’d be able to use all 20 of your eUpgrade credits – 10 eUpgrade credits per direction.

Air Canada 787 business class

If you only purchased a Standard fare in the lowest booking classes, each one-way direction would require 11 eUpgrade credits (plus a cash add-on), so you wouldn’t have enough. However, if you purchased a Standard fare in one of the more expensive booking classes (“M”, “U”, or “H”), then each one-way direction would only require 9 eUpgrade credits plus an add-on starting at $100.

(The latter would probably only be advisable if all of the less-expensive booking classes were already full; otherwise, purchasing one of those in Flex instead would be much cheaper, and you could still request your eUpgrades.)

As I mentioned above, our resident eUpgrades expert T.J. will follow up next week with a closer look at optimizing your eUpgrade strategies with the new charts in place.

Simplified eUpgrade Request Process

In addition to a revamped eUpgrades chart, Air Canada has also simplified the process for how members request an upgrade on a confirmed booking. In the past, each member had a different request window based on their elite status, and you’d have to wait until your window opened a given number of days before departure to submit your upgrade request.

Instead of this rather inconvenient approach, the new request process is much more straightforward. Members may submit an eUpgrade request at any time after completing their booking, and these requests will automatically clear, subject to availability, based on a clearance window instead.

The eUpgrade clearance windows are as below:

As you can see, as long as you have any level of Aeroplan Elite Status, your eUpgrades can clear at any time if you book a Premium Economy (Flexible) or Latitude ticket. Meanwhile, higher elite status rewards you with farther-out clearance priority, and North American flights also have a more generous clearance window than international flights.

Combined with the new eUpgrades charts, the entire eUpgrades system has now become more predictable and easier to use than before. Any elite member can figure out exactly how many eUpgrade credits they’ll require for a given flight, as well as how many days in advance their upgrade request will have a shot at clearing, without having to check back at that exact deadline to submit their request before everyone else.

eUpgrade Clearance for Companions

Air Canada has placed heavy emphasis on “enabling the family dynamic” with the new Aeroplan program, and that extends to eUpgrades too. Going forward, any eUpgrade requests for companions travelling on the same reservation as an Aeroplan Elite Status member will clear with the same priority as the elite member themselves (on a space-available basis).

This is a much-needed change based on member feedback, allowing elite members to share the premium travel experience with their families and travelling companions more regularly.

In the past, a Super Elite member whose spouse was only an Elite 35K may find themselves in situations where their own eUpgrade request cleared, but their spouse’s did not, which ultimately detracted from the experience rather than making the member feel rewarded; now, both travellers will enjoy the Super Elite member’s eUpgrade priority.

Air Canada A220 business class

Conclusion

Air Canada’s eUpgrades currency was in significant need of simplification to make it more approachable and predictable for the airline’s elite members, and it’s great to see this work being completed in advance of the new Aeroplan program’s launch on November 8.

Going forward, members will be able to calculate exactly how many eUpgrades they need for any desired upgrade, submit their upgrade request without worrying about request windows, and share their eUpgrade priority with their travelling companions.

Like the changes to the new Aeroplan’s flight rewards, the new eUpgrades chart inevitably contains a mix of increases and decreases in terms of the number of eUpgrades required for a given flight as compared to before, as well as the corresponding optimal eUpgrade usage strategies by an Aeroplan Elite Status member of any given status tier.

All of this analysis, and more, to come next week.

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25 Comments
  1. Greer Clarkechugh

    I need 22 eupgrades to upgrade 2 adults from Prem Econ to Business, but I only have 20 eUpgrades. Can I buy the missing 2 eUpgrades?

  2. Gustav

    Am planning to use eupgrades Latitude attitude to upgrade to Business on a rewards trip to India for myself and P2, but only have 20 eupgrades each. Upgrading one way for both will consume 13 eupgrades each, is it possible to combine remaining 7 + 7 eupgrades to get one of us upgraded to business for the return? If this requires us to make seperate bookings then can we still combine eupgrades of two people (on separate bookings/same flight) to upgrade one return from latitude to Business (requires 13 credits)? alternately will upgrade return to Premium eco for both (7 upgrades each) but would prefer a lie-flat business seat on a 15 hour journey at least for P2 (and maybe we can switch mid-flight)

    1. Ricky YVR

      Unfortunately, you can’t pool eUpgrades between accounts, so business in one direction and premium economy in the other direction for both of you might be your best bet.

  3. JL

    I applied for and was approved for the AmEx Aeroplan Reserve on February 26th. At the end of February my eUpgrade credits from 2020 disappeared. Does anyone know how I get these credits re-instated? I called AC but they said I have to submit a request to CS via e-mail, which I did. Is there an easier way? Has anyone else had this happen?

  4. Victoria

    When travelling with more than 2 people, can you now upgrade ahead of time for all those on your itinerary or can you lock in for yourself and one other and then put the 3rd person on an upgrade waitlist… or would it be better to book just 2 people on one with the person with status and the 3rd on their own? That third either get them on the list at the airport or do an AC upgrade bid… I am just wondering if by having more than 2 on your itinerary that it impedes locking in an upgrade for most of the party beforehand and we would have to wait until day of to see if we get one….

  5. TR

    Hi Rick, I enjoy reading your blog. I am SE100K member and I have an Amex Aeroplan Reserve and TD Infinite Aeroplan credit card. I rarely use eupgrades but today I booked a Latitude fare using Aeroplan points and tried to use my eupgrades. Prior to booking the flight I checked the AC website using the eupgrades filter which showed that “seats are available for upgrade”, however my request for an upgrade is in “waitlisted” status. The plane is empty and when I called AC concierge it turns out that no R class fares are available for our outbound flight (787-8 YYZ-HNL).

    It would be good to mention this to consumers in your blog where just because you have eupgrades, booked a Latitude or Premium Eco Flex fare, the plane is completely empty and on the AC website it shows “seats are available for upgrade” there is NO guarantee that your request will granted.

    I spent 2 hours on the phone with 5 different agents (most were rude and not at all knowledgeable with eupgrades). Issue is not yet resolved. Last I was told that by one agent Jeremy that “you are a SE member and you should know how eupgrades works and that your request will clear only a day before the flight”… and another agent who said “this is above my pay grade and something the Revenue Management team handles”. Anyways I took screenshots of the issue and hoping someone from customer support or loyalty will assist.

  6. Nargis Kheraj

    Can the eupgrades be used for international travel on non- AC flights, but part of the Aeroplan ticket? Flying from Canada to Europe on AC and Lufthansa.

    1. Ricky YVR

      Nope – Air Canada-operated flights only.

  7. Peter

    Ricky, do we know what each eUpgrade is worth in CAD? I’m sure AC isn’t losing much money on these credits and have factored their value into the distance and class purchased. Similar to the value of Aeroplan Points in your post I’d be curious to know what these credits are worth to compare other options such as bid upgrades, latitude fares + eUpgrades or using Aeroplan points to upgrade etc.
    Thanks!

    1. Ricky YVR

      I’m definitely planning to dive into the valuation of eUpgrade credits in a future post. Stay tuned!

  8. Less than average Dave

    Theoretically: can any one please tell me how many eUpgrade credits I would have in my account on the day I reach SuperElite100k? Assuming I have used none, and assuming I select the privileges that give you eUpgrades. I agree with Ave Joe – I need a PhD to understand this!

  9. Joe

    Wow, I am traveling on Friday and a few days ago the upgrade was 11 credits & $125 YOW-YYZ-YYC. Something told me not too as just two weeks ago it was only 111 credits and no co-pay. Last night I upgraded with only 10 credits and no co-pay. I like the new chart!

  10. Brian

    Echo Average Joe; clear as mud but it covers the ground. Still a reflection of AC and not a good one.

  11. don

    These are some comments on the opacity of the current system and the frustration of dealing with Air Canada.. I am an Elite 50K member and typically have used my e upgrades on flights between Calgary and Toronto from Flex or its equivalent to Business. I booked return Flex fares from Calgary to TO for this week and was charged 11 upgrade credits for the outgoing trip on September 30th for a business class upgrade. This was not inconsistent with my past experience. However I was charged 10 credits plus $125 for the return trip When I phoned AC and asked why the cash was required they told me that they were different classes of ticket for outgoing versus return. I said well they were both Flex fares and she then told me that there had been a sale on that ended October 1 that waived the fee. I told her that never before has a cash payment been required from me for this upgrade and it seemed like an uncommunicated change in policy and then an uncommunicated sale on that policy. I spent about an hour on the phone and did not receive any satisfactory answer. In both cases I was charged more than would be the case on the new system.

  12. ww

    am i missing something here but how many points is a upgrade credit?
    how does the currency of credits translate into aeroplan points?

    1. yyc

      You earn eUpgrade credits as an elite member starting at 25k. This is separate from upgrades using points, which I assume will be announced later in the future.

      1. ww

        I see, thanks so much. As you can tell I am not an elite member.

  13. Mitch

    The requirements seem roughly similar as before, requiring a degree in linear algebra to make sense of. However, having travel companions clear at your status level is a major victory. I’ve had to turn down upgrades so as to not aggravate my SO in the process which really undermined the value of status.

  14. Average Joe

    I still need a PHD to understand this.

    1. Ricky YVR

      To be fair, it’s still a pretty complex system, but it kind of needs to be given how many upgrade possibilities there are. The easiest place to start would be to think about which Aeroplan Elite Status you’re likely to achieve, and thus how many eUpgrade credits you’ll earn. Then you can start looking at the numbers on the chart to see which types of upgrades you can request and how many per year.

  15. TimYYC YYC

    Ricky, is the implication here that we can’t get Comfort fare with Aeroplan points?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Correct. This is reflected in the new change fee charts too – there is no Comfort fare class available, only Standard, Flex, and Latitude.

  16. leah

    what do current aeroplan economy bookings fare class code at? Just for reference on upgrades required?

    1. Ricky YVR

      I would assume Standard too.

    2. Alex YWG

      I booked a round trip ticket YWG-YYZ for summer of 2021 using aeroplan and on 1 of the emails it had my fare as “standard”. Hope that helps

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