I wanted to provide a quick update on something I’ve been tracking over the past few months.
Recap: Air Canada’s Flexible Rebooking Policy
Back in the summer, Air Canada introduced a new “Ready for Takeoff” flexible rebooking policy to provide passengers with assurance during these uncertain times.
Customers who wished to cancel their travel plans were understandably unhappy that they were not being offered a full refund, but rather only a 24-month credit for future travel on Air Canada, so the airline decided to offer two additional options instead:
- Air Canada Travel Voucher: Instead of a 24-month credit, customers could instead opt for a flexible Travel Voucher which had no expiry date and could be shared with other passengers, similar to a gift card.
- Aeroplan miles/points: Customers could choose to convert the value of their ticket into Aeroplan miles (back then) or Aeroplan points (now) with a 65% bonus on top of the usual rate of 3 cents per point (cpp), thus at an effective value of 1.8cpp before factoring in sales tax.
The second option definitely sounds more interesting, since it’s essentially a way to buy Aeroplan points at 1.8cpp for as long as the flexible policy is in place.
I had conducted a test run of this process to demonstrate that sales tax is not levied – and therefore the “true” 1.8cpp purchase price is achieved – if you include a non-Canadian address on your Aeroplan profile. Back then, it took about six weeks for my Aeroplan miles to deposit to my account, although that process seems to have gotten much quicker in recent months.
If you go back to that article, you’ll see that one of the lingering questions was: “What about tickets issued by travel agencies?”
Indeed, when the policy was first launched, it was only valid for bookings made directly with Air Canada. If you had booked through a travel agency (including redeeming third-party points currencies for Air Canada flights), then you were still limited to a 24-month travel voucher for the time being, and Air Canada had stated that they were “working on making these additional options available” to their travel agency partners.
Well, it seems that at least one travel agency – American Express Travel – has gotten the memo by now, with potentially very interesting implications arising as a result.
American Express Travel Can Now Request Aeroplan Points On Your Behalf
I had made a test booking through American Express Travel back in the summer when the Ready for Takeoff policy was first announced: Vancouver–Calgary on Air Canada economy class. I was especially interested to see if I could convert the value of this ticket into Aeroplan points with the 65% bonus in place.
Over several months of back and forth, it was clear that Air Canada was taking their sweet time in allowing third-party travel agencies to access these flexible rebooking policies.
A few days ago, however, I received a response that yes, American Express Travel was indeed able to request the conversion to Aeroplan points with a 65% bonus on my behalf!
I was informed that the conversion to Aeroplan points would indeed follow Air Canada’s policy of offering a 65% bonus on top of the usual rate – which is to say, the value of the ticket would be exchanged at an effective rate of 1.8cpp, after backing out any applicable sales tax.
However, American Express Travel advised that they could not confirm the exact amount of Aeroplan points to expect after the 65% bonus. They also mentioned it may take up to two months to receive the points, even though recent data points indicate that the conversion of tickets booked directly with Air Canada into Aeroplan points are taking only a couple of days.
Even though American Express Travel could not confirm the exact amount, I went back to my statement and saw that the booking had originally incurred a charge of $407.66 on my credit card statement, so I would guess that that’s the amount being used for the conversion.
Indeed, I followed up and asked if they could confirm what the value would be if I had chosen the Air Canada Travel Voucher instead – and they confirmed it was the credit card statement charge of $407.66.
I’ll definitely update this section when the Aeroplan points hit my account to confirm.
What Does This Mean?
First of all, if you’ve booked any travel with Air Canada via a third-party travel agency (including third-party rewards programs like Amex, RBC, CIBC, BMO, TD, or even Air Miles) and had to accept a future travel voucher in lieu of a refund when your flight got cancelled, now’s the time to check back with your travel agency.
They may be able to offer you an Air Canada Travel Voucher (which is more flexible than a 24-month travel credit held with the travel agency) or a conversion to Aeroplan points as an alternative.
Note that just because American Express Travel has gotten access to these alternative options doesn’t mean that every travel agency has. It’d be great to get some data points regarding the other banks’ in-house travel agencies, especially as it relates to what we’re about to discuss below.
What’s the more interesting implication here? Well, think back to the Vancouver–Calgary test flight I had booked via American Express Travel. Did I pay $407.66 in cash for this flight?
No – I booked it with 15,000 Amex MR Select points + $107.66, with the MR Select points covering $300 worth of the base fare as part of the Amex Fixed Points Travel reward chart.
Indeed, after the $407.66 charge showed up on my statement, it was subsequently offset by a $300 credit from American Express Travel.
That’s the underlying logic behind the Amex Fixed Points Travel program, after all: you’re essentially paying for cash fares and then using MR points or MR Select points to offset up to a certain maximum base fare, at a value of up to 2cpp.
I don’t want to draw any conclusions prematurely until the Aeroplan points actually post, but I’d invite you to carefully consider the conclusions that would be drawn if things play out as I expect – both in American Express’s ecosystem, as well as those of other third-party rewards programs that we commonly use.
Air Canada’s Ready for Takeoff flexible rebooking policy seems to have been extended to bookings made by some travel agencies, including American Express Travel. I was able to convert a ticket originally booked with MR Select points into Aeroplan points, and I’ll update this article when the transaction completes.
In the meantime, let’s gather some data points as a community to see if there are opportunities here to be maximized. Have you booked any flights with Air Canada through third-party travel agencies for which you might wish to ask for a conversion into Aeroplan points? Is your travel agency able to request an Aeroplan conversion on your behalf yet? Let us know in the comments below.