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How Do Air Canada Flight Passes Work?

Air Canada Flight Passes are a prebooked bundle of credits that can be redeemed toward flights between particular regions with specific airlines.

Flight Passes aren’t necessarily good deals for all travellers, but there are specific situations where they may be worthwhile pursuing.

Air Canada Flight Passes: The Basics

Flight passes are pre-booked packages of one-way flights that may be redeemed for travel between specific geographical areas during a specific time period. 

In other words, rather than buying ten separate flights between two areas, you prepay for a bundle of ten one-way credits that may be redeemed at your leisure when you decide to fly. 

Air Canada is among the airlines to offer flight pass products. Air Canada Flight Passes fall under two broad categories: unlimited flight passes and or fixed-credit flight passes.

Unlimited Flight Passes

Unlimited flight passes are exactly what they sound like: you can travel as often as you’d like within a geographical area and time period. If there’s a time in your life when you need to go back and forth many times within a short timeframe, then these passes may be of use to you.

For example, if you were to purchase a three-month Across Canada Flex Unlimited Flight Pass, you’d be afforded the pleasure of flying across Canada to your heart’s content for three months.

As long as there are tickets available for purchase in the Flex “M” fare category, you have up until one hour prior to departure to book your seat.

Doing so would cost you a cool $3,990 per month, though, so you’d need to fly a lot to make this pass worthwhile.

If you think this might be a savvy way to rack up a bunch of Status Qualifying Miles (SQM) or Status Qualifying Segments (SQS) to reach a higher tier of Aeroplan Elite Status, you’ll be sad to know that it doesn’t quite work this way.

Rather, you are awarded a fixed amount of SQM each time your credit card is charged that depends on the fare purchased, as well as the corresponding Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD) amount. 

In the above example, as per the terms and conditions, 10,000 SQM would be deposited to your Aeroplan Elite Status account for each month your credit card is charged for the pass. Higher fares, such as Latitude, would result in more SQM per month, while lower fare buckets, such as Standard, would result in fewer SQM.

Fixed-Credit Flight Passes

The other (and more popular) type of flight passes are fixed-credit passes. These passes take a variety of shapes and forms for individuals, couples, families, and businesses. 

Fixed-credit flight passes are prepaid credits for flights. Each time you book a flight, one flight credit is redeemed from your allotment.

For example, a 10-credit East West Connector Flight Pass for one traveller permits travel between larger hubs in British Columbia and Alberta to major hubs in Ontario and Quebec.

Each one-way segment would redeem one flight credit from your balance, resulting in a total of 10 one-way segments across Canada.

Therefore, the cost of each segment is simply calculated by dividing the cost by 10:

  • A Flex pass is equal to paying $527.10 per one-way segment
  • A Latitude pass is equal to paying $825.30 per one-way segment
  • A Business Class pass is equal to paying $1,320.90 per one-way segment

There is a wide range of available flight passes. Options span from regional passes for short distances, such as between Toronto and New York, to popular warm-weather destinations, to international destinations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and South America. 

Unlike unlimited flight passes, where you’re given a fixed amount of SQM each month, you earn SQM as per the actual distance flown with fixed-credit flight passes. The SQM are deposited to your account after your flight is completed. 

Using eUpgrades with Flight Passes

An important consideration is that eUpgrades can be used with all Flight Pass bookings. The amount of eUpgrades required to upgrade to a higher class of service depends on the fare class of the Flight Pass you purchase. 

In the above chart for eUpgrades required for travel to North America and Sun destinations, note that the amount of eUpgrades needed to upgrade to business class varies widely both between and within booking classes.

For example, a flight over 1,501 miles booked in most Flex fare categories would cost 10 eUpgrades, while a similar flight booked in Flex “M” would cost only 2 eUpgrade credits.

Most Flex Flight Passes for travel across Canada are booked in Flex “M” class, meaning that they’re booked at the highest tier within the Flex fare bucket. While this would require the fewest amount of eUpgrades within this fare, you’d also be subject to the eUpgrade clearance window that depends on your Aeroplan Elite Status level.

If you recall that Latitude fares may be upgraded at anytime, you may want to consider upgrading to a Latitude Flight Pass if flying in business class is necessary for you. We’ve already discussed the “Latitude Attitude” with Aeroplan bookings, but this could be another extension of the same principle.

Seasonal Flight Passes

Air Canada often sells promotional or seasonal flight passes, catering to specific audiences. For example, the Infinite Canada Flight Pass was offered in 2020, but a current example is the Ski Flight Pass. 

This pass is valid for two or more travellers between popular ski destinations in Canada and the United States. The cost of the 8 Flight Credits pass is exactly double that of the 4 Flight Credits pass, but you can have up to four passengers on the former and only two on the latter.

It’s best to read the terms and conditions in detail prior to purchasing a flight pass, since they vary so widely. It’s also good to compare the cost per credit with the retail cost per flight to ensure you’re comfortable with the price.

Lastly, if you have Aeroplan Elite Status, you can enjoy further benefits from Bundle 2 of your Select Benefits. You can choose between earning additional eUpgrades or Status Qualifying Miles for each eligible Flight Pass activity.

Are Air Canada Flight Passes a Good Deal?

The value of Air Canada Flight Passes is fairly subjective. Some travellers may consider flight passes to be a fantastic deal, while others might balk at the idea of paying a premium for convenience.

As the cost of a flight pass is fixed, one consideration is weighing the cost of each credit of a flight pass against the cost of purchasing each one-way trip with cash. 

For example, suppose you were based in Edmonton and fly to Los Angeles at least five times per year. You consider buying a Western USA Flight Pass at the following prices:

As you have Aeroplan Elite 50K Status, you decide that you’re willing to risk flying in economy if your eUpgrades don’t clear. So, you purchase a Flex pass, with the average cost of each segment being $373.80.

When you look to see what a Flex ticket would cost over the course of the year, you notice that the cost tends to be lower if you were to book in advance.

However, since the regular Flex cash fare books into “G” class, while your flight pass would book into “M” class, you’d have to part with an additional 5 eUpgrades per direction if you went with the cheaper cost, which is significant.

In addition, since flight passes lock in a fixed value per segment, if you tend to travel during peak travel periods or book at the last minute when ticket prices tend to be higher, you might wind up saving money by purchasing a flight pass.

For the work I’ve done with a travel agency, I’ve seen many applications of flight passes. Many travellers use them to get to sunny destinations over the winter, while others use them for business travel between two regions.

If you’re a bargain hunter, it’s unlikely that you’ll find particular value with buying a flight pass. But if you’re someone who travels often between two places, it may be beneficial to consider buying an Air Canada Flight Pass for the flexibility and fixed pricing.

Can Flight Passes Be Used to Earn Status?

In 2022, I’ve been considering buying an Air Canada Flight Pass as a way to requalify for Aeroplan Elite Status.

Since 2020, I’ve enjoyed Aeroplan 25K, 35K, and 75K Status through a combination of Everyday Status Qualification and some very generous status gifting. 

It remains unclear if airlines will generously extend status to 2023. This will play out later on in the year, depending on the state of the pandemic-ridden world.

I have come to appreciate many of the benefits that come with having elite status with Air Canada: eUpgrades, lounge access, priority services, and preferential Aeroplan redemption rates.

While it’s entirely possible to requalify for Aeroplan Elite 25K status by credit card spending alone, I’ve also considered combining the ability to earn SQM and SQS through eligible credit card spending with earning SQD through the purchase of a flight pass.

SQD can only be earned by spending money with Air Canada. So, if I were to buy a flight pass with a dollar amount close to a qualifying tier, I’d be able to combine the SQM earned by flying on the flight pass with the SQM earned through credit card spend to organically reach status.

Personally, since I get many of the status benefits either through flying in business class on Aeroplan points or with a premium credit card, the idea of paying for mileage runs doesn’t immediately appeal to me. 

However, with dynamic pricing with Air Canada on Aeroplan redemptions, I’ve come to realize that having eUpgrades at my disposal can significantly reduce the amount of points needed for a business class redemption.

For example, I recently booked a flight from Sydney to Vancouver in business class for 47,600 Aeroplan points plus 13 eUpgrade credits, which is an absolute bargain.

So, having status could save me a significant amount of points if I were to have a reliable stock of eUpgrade credits. With this in mind, I may consider buying a flight pass for the SQD component alone to ensure that I always have eUpgrades at my disposal.

Conclusion

Air Canada Flight Passes offer travellers the convenience of paying a fixed price for flights between two regions. As we’ve shown, the passes tend to be more valuable for people who travel during peak travel periods and at the last minute.

There are, however, other situations where buying a flight pass may be advantageous. Earning the SQM, SQS, and SQD requirements to retain Aeroplan Elite Status or flying for work are two such examples.

While I’ve yet to purchase one myself, I’ll continue to keep an eye on available flight passes as they may serve a purpose on advancing my travel goals.

If you find particular value in flight passes, feel free to share your insight with your fellow Prince of Travel readers in the comments below.

3 Comments
  1. HometoYYZ

    Sean — With the purchase of most flight passes (not unlimited, or some limited-time promotional flight passes) you can earn additional eUpgrade credits as a select benefit of your status.

    Also, Richard’s right — most Latitude flight passes allow for complimentary upgrades on a space available basis at 48 hours from departure. You have to request them on the website, but at least even if the flight is J1, you get the upgrade.

    It makes Latitude passes interesting for those looking to frequently fly a Signature route like YVR-YYZ, but with flexibility on when they fly. Most days, it’s pretty easy to find at least one widebody on that route that’s J>0 48 hours from departure.

  2. Richard

    Great thorough analysis of a unique product and it’s advantages.
    I would only add that there are some passes that allow for what they call a free upgrade 24 hours before flight time and that I have always been able to grab a free upgrade or change my flight to an earlier or later flight where space was available. So it is important as T.J. says to make yourself aware of the detailed terms of the particular flight pass.
    Note that agents don’t always know the difference between an upgrade requiring e-upgrade credits and a free upgrade and you have to specify that you are within the booking period for a free one.
    Once you get the upgrade to biz class, if you wish to change your flight to a more convenient time, you won’t be able to unless there is still availability in the Economy fare class applicable to the flight pass. Even when the J-Class cabin on that flight is completely empty!
    One more weird thing. The flight pass is intended to be a digital offer where you do everything yourself on line. This means you have to download a separate App and many agents can’t help you with bookings or problems. I suggest you carry a print out of the flight pass purchase in your travel bag that has all the particulars including a unique booking reference code in case you get locked out of the App and you need to book a flight.

  3. Sean

    I’ve always been slightly confused by the “earn eUpgrades for eligible flight status activity”. What does that mean, exactly?

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