Much of the recent excitement in the Canadian points landscape has revolved around the Air Canada Buddy Pass offering on many of the Aeroplan co-branded credit cards, as well as the temporary opportunity to convert it into 30,000 Aeroplan points.
However, there’s actually a second type of buy-one-get-one voucher floating around Aeroplan members’ accounts known as the Air Canada Annual Worldwide Companion Pass, which is granted upon meeting a certain spending threshold on the premium Aeroplan credit cards.
In this article, let’s take a look at how the Annual Worldwide Companion Pass works, how it differs from the Buddy Pass, and how to redeem it for maximum value along your travels.
Annual Worldwide Companion Pass: The Rules
We’ll refer to the Annual Worldwide Companion Pass as simply the “Companion Pass” for short. Again, note that this should be distinguished from the Buddy Pass, which is a similar but ultimately separate product.
The Companion Pass allows a second passenger to travel on a discounted base fare when the first passenger pays full price for an Air Canada economy class ticket to anywhere in the world. The following rules govern its use:
- The Companion Pass can be redeemed on any Air Canada itinerary between Canada or the United States and one of the following destination regions:
- Canada or the United States (excluding Hawaii): $99 base fare
- Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean: $299 base fare
- South America, Europe, Middle East, and Africa: $499 base fare
- Asia, Australia, and New Zealand: $599 base fare
- The Companion Pass can be redeemed on one-way or round-trip flights (although there is no residual value if it’s used on a one-way flight).
- The Companion Pass can be redeemed on an Economy Standard, Flex, Comfort, or Latitude fare.
- The Companion Pass must be redeemed on flights marketed and operated by Air Canada only, and cannot be used on codeshare flights or itineraries involving partner airlines.
- The Companion Pass must be redeemed on revenue fares only, and cannot be used in conjunction with an Aeroplan award.
- There are no blackout dates or other usage restrictions; the Companion Pass can be redeemed on any Air Canada flights on any date of the year.
- The Companion Pass will be deposited into your Aeroplan account up to 10 weeks after your cardholder renewal date (more on this below), and will have a one-year validity period from that date.
- During the validity period, the Companion Pass can be used to book flights over the upcoming one-year period, meaning that a Companion Pass can effectively be used to book travel within a two-year period from the day it’s earned.
Finally, to get it out of the way from the start: no, unlike the Buddy Pass conversion opportunity, the Annual Worldwide Companion Pass cannot be converted into any sum of Aeroplan points.
It must be redeemed in its original form for a set of Air Canada flights with at least two passengers on the booking within the validity period, or you’ll lose it.
Which Credit Cards Offer the Annual Worldwide Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is offered as a threshold benefit upon spending $25,000 in a membership year on one of the four Aeroplan premium credit cards.
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
|90,000 Aeroplan points + Buddy Pass||$2,551||Apply Now|
|90,000 Aeroplan points + Buddy Pass||$2,236||Apply Now|
|65,000 Aeroplan points + Buddy Pass||$1,292||Apply Now|
|Up to 75,000 Aeroplan points||$425||Apply Now|
As noted above, the Companion Pass gets deposited into your Aeroplan account “up to 10 weeks after your cardholder renewal date”, which means that you may need to pay a second year’s annual fee before receiving the Companion Pass in the “Benefits” section of your Aeroplan account.
However, there are mixed data points among Aeroplan premium cardholders that they’ve seen the Companion Pass deposited into their accounts soon after they reach the $25,000 spending threshold.
These data points do not appear to be consistent among issuers – for example, I personally had spent $25,000 on my CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege and still haven’t seen a Companion Pass added to my account yet, whereas a fellow CIBC premium cardholder received their Companion Pass within two months of reaching the $25,000 threshold.
It appears to be mostly down to luck or chance, and you don’t exactly have recourse to call in and ask for a Companion Pass to be expedited, since the terms do say it can take up to 10 weeks after your renewal date.
Among the three issuers, American Express is the only one that provides a progress tracker in the monthly statements for your $25,000 spending threshold. With the TD and CIBC Visa Infinite Privilege cards, you’ll have to keep track on your own.
Maximizing the Annual Worldwide Companion Pass
Whether it’s the WestJet $0 companion pass, the Air Canada Buddy Pass, or indeed the Annual Worldwide Companion Pass, the logic behind maximizing any companion voucher-style product is the same: the more the first passenger pays, the more savings the second passenger gets.
The value proposition increases proportionally to your willingness to spend. From a user’s perspective, these types of offerings can be very useful if you’re willing to spend a fair bit of cash on flights in the first place.
On the other hand, the upside is more limited if you’re looking to minimize your out-of-pocket spending and get as much as you can for “free”.
Still, if you’ve earned a Companion Pass, you may as well give some thought as to how to extract maximum value from it rather than letting it expire unused. Let’s take a look at some of your options.
Travel in Peak Season or Last-Minute
When travelling during off-season, fares will often be cheap enough that redeeming the Companion Pass makes very little sense.
For example, consider this round-trip fare from Toronto to London, whose base fare is $501. By using a Companion Pass on this booking, you’d save a whopping… $2 on the second passenger upon paying the $499 co-pay base fare.
On the other hand, fares tend to skyrocket if you’re travelling during peak season or on a last-minute basis. Again, the more the first passenger pays, the more the second passenger saves.
While you’d never choose to pay more than you need to, if you simply must travel (as tends to be the case for those who do travel during peak season or who embark on last-minute trips), the Companion Pass could save you a good chunk on the second passenger’s fare.
Take, for example, a teacher who plans vacations around the school year. If they want to maximize their time away, they’d often end up paying very high cash fares. In this example, a round-trip base fare from Vancouver to Costa Rica during peak season is $1,731, but the second passenger could pay only $299 with a Companion Pass, thus incurring $1,432 in savings for the household.
Or consider a Toronto-based couple who needs to travel to London this upcoming weekend for a family emergency. They’d pay a $499 base fore for the second passenger instead of $1,695 by applying the Companion Pass, saving $1,296 on this unexpected expense.
Indeed, if you don’t have any better uses for your Companion Pass, then keeping it around for some big savings in case of unexpected last-minute trips can be a solid backup strategy.
Which Region Is the Best Value?
You’ll notice that different parts of the world come with different base fares under the Companion Pass. We can ask the question of which region might be most valuable for redeeming the Companion Pass by taking a rough estimate of Air Canada fares around the world and comparing them to the discounted base fares.
First of all, if you’re travelling within Canada, the United States (including Hawaii), or Mexico, note that you’d be strictly better off redeeming a Buddy Pass instead of a Companion Pass. After all, the Buddy Pass offers the second passenger a $0 base fare, compared to a $99 or $299 base fare with the Companion Pass.
Unless your booking is urgent or you’re desperate to offload the Companion Pass sitting in your account, I’d consider applying for an eligible TD, CIBC, or Amex credit card and earning a Buddy Pass instead.
For Central America and the Caribbean, Air Canada’s round-trip base fares from its major tend to fall in the vicinity of $500–700 during non-peak times.
Compared to a discounted base fare of $299, your savings might land in the region of $200–400. That’s not insignificant, but the savings might be more meaningful with long-haul flights.
Looking at South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, base fares (excluding taxes and fees) to these regions tend to price out at around $900–1,100 during non-peak times.
Compared to a discounted base fare of $499, you’d save about $400–600 depending on the exact flight.
Finally, with the sheer size of Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, there tends to be much greater variance in terms of the average fares to different destinations.
Vancouver–Seoul can be booked for as little as $1,000 all-in, meaning that your $599 discounted base fare wouldn’t be discounted by all that much.
Meanwhile, Toronto–Delhi regularly sells for $1,500–1,900 round-trip, making it an excellent use of the Companion Pass that can unlock $1,000+ in value without even applying any of the more advanced strategies.
During normal times, flights to Australia and New Zealand may command similar premiums, although it’s tough to find any reasonable fares down to Oceania at this time (although the Companion Pass can of course unlock $5,000+ in value if you’re willing to book flights down under right now!)
On paper, the Asia, Australia, and New Zealand region unlocks the greatest value for the Annual Worldwide Companion Pass, even though its base fare is the highest – and that’s very much in keeping with the nature of the product itself.
Book Higher Fare Categories
With the above exercise, we’ve taken into account the cheapest fare categories in economy class to each destination. Since the Companion Pass can be redeemed for any economy class flight, however, it would fetch higher value if you’re in the habit of booking Flex or Comfort fares – perhaps for Aeroplan Elite Status considerations.
After all, Flex, Comfort, and Latitude fares earn significantly more Status Qualifying Miles (SQM) and Status Qualifying Segments (SQS) compared to Basic and Standard fares (100%+ of the distance flown vs. 25%).
If, say, both you and your spouse are looking to climb the status ranks, a Companion Pass can help you save a good chunk on the Flex or higher fares, reducing the out-of-pocket spend required to earn status.
Even if you’re a solo flyer who books Flex fares or higher for status purposes, you could team up with a fellow Aeroplan Elite Status member on an end-of-year mileage run to Europe or Asia, while splitting the savings that you get from the Companion Pass.
However, keep in mind that these strategies would be most useful if you’re pursuing SQM/SQS more than Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD), since the Companion Pass will naturally reduce the SQD earned by the second passenger.
Use eUpgrades for Premium Economy or Business Class
That brings us to the final way to boost your value from the Companion Pass, which is aligned with the same tactic over on the Buddy Pass too: use the voucher to book two Latitude Economy fares at a heavily discounted rate for the second passenger, and then apply Air Canada eUpgrades to fly in premium economy or business class instead.
Consider a couple who wants to fly business class from Toronto to London for a week in February 2022. The cheapest business class fare clocks in at $6,152 round-trip, so it would be $12,354 for two passengers.
Let’s imagine both travellers have earned Aeroplan 25K status from this year’s $10,000 spend for status promotion, and therefore hold 25 eUpgrade credits in each of their accounts.
That gives them enough eUpgrades to confirm an instant upgrade from economy class (Latitude) to business class on both legs of their journey, which would cost 11 eUpgrade credits per person per direction based on the eUpgrades chart.
The Latitude Economy fare is $3,715. When applying the Companion Pass, the first passenger would pay this fare in full, whereas the second passenger would pay a $499 discounted base fare + $268 in taxes and fees. The total all-in pricing for both passengers is $3,715 + $499 + $268 = $4,482, allowing them to save a whopping $7,872 on their round-trip business class flights.
Now, you might be wondering: couldn’t the couple simply redeem Aeroplan points for their flights instead, and avoid paying a meaningful sum of cash, let alone $4,482?
Here’s the picture when it comes to redeeming Aeroplan points for the same flights. Immediately, we see that Air Canada’s dynamic pricing has reared its ugly head on the direct outbound flight (as it often does these days), making it a non-starter if you’re looking to get good value from your points.
Well, we could still adopt the “Latitude Attitude”, redeem Aeroplan points for Latitude Economy, and apply eUpgrades to that booking, right?
Indeed, this would cost 106,000 Aeroplan points + $268 per person for the round-trip, with preferred pricing.
But if we calculate the value on this redemption compared to a $4,482 cash fare for two passengers, we end up with a redemption value of 1.86 cents per point (cpp).
That’s not bad, but not great either – in fact, it falls short of our target valuation of 2.1cpp for Aeroplan points.
Unless you had more Aeroplan points that you could spend, it might be a better idea here to pay $4,482 for the Latitude Economy flights using the Companion Pass and apply eUpgrades to confirm a business class seat, while saving your 212,000 Aeroplan points for a more powerful future use – perhaps on a partner airline, where the fixed pricing tends to result in higher redemption values and the Companion Pass wouldn’t be applicable anyway.
Of course, this conclusion also assumes that you’d choose to pay that $4,482 for business class in the first place, rather than accepting a seat in economy class on this trip or not taking the trip at all.
Again, we’re back to the central principle: the Companion Pass will be a lot more useful for those who are willing to spend some cash in pursuit of elevated travel, rather than those who are looking to keep their expenses to a bare minimum.
What’s the Value of the Annual Worldwide Companion Pass?
With the above in mind, can we pin down a valuation for the Annual Worldwide Companion Pass? On average, across all use cases, how much is this benefit worth?
While it’s always a fun thought exercise to nail down a specific valuation, I think it’d be more meaningful to consider two valuations depending on the type of traveller: those who wouldn’t be averse to paying a few thousand dollars for the comfort and convenience of Air Canada business class flights, and those who’d scoff at the idea and suck it up in economy.
In the former case, the possibility of applying eUpgrades to a Latitude Economy booking can unlock significant value as outlined above.
Given the dollar savings against purchasing a business class fare directly, as well as the flexibility to save Aeroplan points for future trips by using a Companion Pass to outperform a “Latitude Attitude” points booking, I’d peg the fair value of the Companion Pass at a minimum of $1,000.
For the latter type of traveller, the thought of parting ways with a few grand in cash for business class flights just doesn’t sit right. They’d rather follow a defined strategy of using points for business class and paying cash for economy.
In this case, I’d value the Companion Pass somewhere in the region of $500. As we saw, any long-haul flight outside of North America can realistically unlock this valuation, while flights to Air Canada’s most distant destinations can easily achieve higher value.
With these two valuations in mind, we’re looking at a rough Return on Spend of either 4% or 2% on the $25,000 spending needed to earn the Companion Pass in the first place.
If you’re the type of traveller who isn’t averse to paying for a business class flight here and there, and who engages with Aeroplan enough to earn eUpgrades through elite status, you’ll get much more out of the Companion Pass than someone who’s purely treating it as an incremental benefit.
And since this is a threshold reward on the premium Aeroplan credit cards after all, that’s probably the way the Companion Pass was intended to be.
Travelling the world on points is all about putting all of the resources at your disposal to optimal use.
Between cash, points, eUpgrades, and buy-one-get-one vouchers, there’s a great deal of combinations for you to consider, and the added optionality provided by the Air Canada Annual Worldwide Companion Pass can only serves to expand your travel possibilities.
In some ways, I do wish that Air Canada offered an even more powerful benefit as a threshold reward on the premium credit cards. $25,000 is no insignificant sum to spend on one card, and it’d be a much more attractive target if we could derive great value out of the threshold reward without putting down large sums of our own cash.
Instead, the benefit is cleverly designed to reward high-end travellers and Aeroplan Elite Status members with the greatest value, and in that respect, you can’t say it isn’t a fitting spend-based perk on the premium Aeroplan credit cards.