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Aeroplan Elite Status: Air Canada’s New Elite Program Ricky August 12, 2020

Aeroplan Elite Status: Air Canada’s New Elite Program

Prince of Travel is your home for learning about the brand-new Aeroplan loyalty program. We’ll be rolling out a comprehensive series of posts and videos guiding you through everything you need to know about the new Aeroplan. Check back frequently this week and subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed.

 

Air Canada leadership is reading every word of feedback from Aeroplan members to mould the program in preparation for launch. Click here to submit your feedback.

As part of the launch of the new Aeroplan loyalty program, Air Canada will be introducing Aeroplan Elite Status as the new elite program for its frequent flyers starting in 2021, replacing the current Air Canada Altitude elite program.

This transition brings with it plenty of cosmetic changes to understand, a few very exciting new perks that elite members will now enjoy, as well as a handful of major and minor changes to the actual qualifying criteria and elite privileges that are worth knowing about.

In this post, let’s cover everything there is to know about how elite status will be changing as of November 8, and subsequently, as of the next status year on January 2021.

In This Post

Air Canada Altitude Will Become Aeroplan Elite Status

Back when Air Canada and Aeroplan were two separate entities, you almost needed a Ph.D. to understand all of the different status programs that were being offered.

Everyone knew you could earn and redeem Aeroplan miles on Air Canada flights – that was simple enough. But then, when you’re travelling on paid tickets with Air Canada, you also ended up earning Altitude miles and status? What was that all about?

And wait – if you spend enough money on your Aeroplan co-branded credit card, you’d end up earning Aeroplan status as well, in addition to Aeroplan miles? Huh?

The distinction between Altitude status, the airline’s elite program for frequent flyer, and Aeroplan status, a glorified retail rewards program, got very confusing very quickly. Now, with everything moving under one roof, it’s high time for Air Canada to put that ambiguity to bed.

The “Altitude” program will be phased out at the end of this year, and will be replaced by Aeroplan Elite Status as of the new program’s launch.

This rebranding will be accompanied by several cosmetic changes. The new elite status tiers will be known simply as 25K, 35K, 50K, 75K, and Super Elite, while the current Altitude Qualifying Miles (AQM), Altitude Qualifying Segments (AQS), and Altitude Qualifying Dollars (AQD) will be renamed Status Qualifying Miles (SQM), Status Qualifying Segments (SQS), and Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD), respectively.

Of course, you’ll recall that Air Canada has already announced the extension of all Altitude members’ status into 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so whatever Altitude status you have now, you’ll retain that same elite rank under Aeroplan Elite Status through the end of 2021. Barring further extensions, your flying activity in 2021 will determine your status in 2022, and so on.

And don’t forget that if you do fly enough in 2020 to organically earn Altitude status, then you can gift that status to a friend or family member as part of the overall elite extensions.

The Old “Aeroplan Status” Will Be Phased Out

We’ve known this to be the case for a while now, but just to clear up any ambiguity, it is now confirmed that the existing Aeroplan status program (previously known as Distinction status, not to be confused with the new Aeroplan Elite Status) will be officially phased out as of the launch of the new Aeroplan.

The majority of members’ current Aeroplan status would’ve been ending on December 31, 2020 anyway; for these members, the following one-time gestures are being offered as part of the transition to Aeroplan Elite Status:

  • 2020 Aeroplan Diamond, Black and Silver status members will continue to have access to most of their benefits through December 31, 2020, including preferred pricing on flight rewards. However, beginning November 8, 2020, Preferential Rates on Flight Reward fees will no longer be available to Diamond members.
  • Beginning in September 2020, and through the end of 2021, 2020 Aeroplan Diamond members will receive Aeroplan 25K status (currently known as Altitude Prestige 25K).

As you can see, the only benefit that’s being “lost” here is Aeroplan Diamond members’ preferential change fee of $75 and cancellation fee of $30. As of the new program’s launch on November 8, the new change and cancellation policies will kick in, superseding this benefit. 

In addition, there was also a brief window of opportunity between January and February of this year when it was possible to earn Aeroplan status through to the end of 2021. 

For those who participated, it was a bit of a gamble to rack up 25,000–100,000 Aeroplan miles via eligible activity during this brief two-month window, since we had no idea what would be offered as a transition to the new program. Well, now we know:

  • Beginning in September 2020 and through the end of 2021, members who have qualified for 2021 Aeroplan Diamond, Black or Silver status will receive Aeroplan 25K status (currently known as Altitude Prestige 25K). They will also receive a grant of Aeroplan points in their account in early 2021:
    • 5,000 points for Diamond members
    • 2,500 points for Black members
    • 250 points for Silver members

In my view, the gamble here seems to have paid off: even those who only qualified for Aeroplan Silver status through 2021 via their eligible activity in January and February 2020 will be rewarded with Aeroplan 25K status, and anyone who qualified for Aeroplan Diamond status will receive a token amount of bonus points for their efforts – which will pay for their next stopover on a one-way! 

Everyday Status Qualification

One element of the old Aeroplan Status program will live on under the new Aeroplan Elite Status: members will be continue to be able to “earn” their way to Aeroplan Elite Status every year.

Every member who earns 100,000 Aeroplan points via eligible sources in a calendar year will automatically earn Aeroplan 25K status, regardless of their qualifying flying activity.

As before, eligible sources include credit card spending, flight accrual, eStore purchases, etc., but excludes credit card welcome bonuses and transferring from credit card and hotel partners.

Despite experimenting with allowing welcome bonuses and credit card transfers as part of the Aeroplan Travel at Home promotion, Air Canada has ultimately chosen not to go in that direction – I suppose it would make things far too easy, and swell up the Aeroplan 25K status ranks far more than they’re already being swollen up. 

Indeed, Aeroplan 25K strikes me as the new “Marriott Gold Elite” within Aeroplan Elite Status, if you know what I mean – almost everyone can earn it with a little bit of effort.

Not only are existing Aeroplan Status members being grandfathered into Aeroplan 25K, but many members would’ve also qualified under Travel at Home, and then there’s also the ability to renew Aeroplan 25K every year via Everyday Status Qualification. 

Changes to Aeroplan Elite Status for 2021 – Status Qualification

While Air Canada’s elite program is undergoing drastic branding changes, the changes in terms of actual “meat” of the elite program (i.e., the status qualification rules and privileges) are relatively little-changed for now.

(I assume that we will hear more changes when Aeroplan Elite Status officially rolls out as of the 2021 “status year”. To take one example, Super Elite members’ benefit of a waiver on fuel surcharges is now moot, so I would expect that to be formally withdrawn.) 

On the qualification side, the only change is a minor increase of Aeroplan Super Elite’s SQS threshold from 95 to 100, to bring it in line with the rest of the chart. As of 2021, the new Aeroplan Elite Status qualification criteria will therefore look as follows:

To qualify for...

Members will need to earn...

In addition to...

25K

25,000 SQM or 25 SQS

$3,000 SQD

35K

35,000 SQM or 35 SQS

$4,000 SQD

50K

50,000 SQM or 50 SQS

$6,000 SQD

75K

75,000 SQM or 75 SQS

$9,000 SQD

Super Elite

100,000 SQM or 100 SQS

$20,000 SQD

As a reminder, SQD is composed of all your spending on tickets issued by Air Canada (including Air Canada flights and partner-operated flights), including the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges, but excluding third-party fees such as airport improvement fees or government-imposed taxes. SQD can also be earned via eligible Flight Pass purchases and eUpgrade Add-ons, as well as Buy Miles events that explicitly include an SQD component.

As before, for non-Canadian residents, the SQD requirement will be 50% lower than the published amounts found in the chart above.

Finally, don’t forget that the new Aeroplan co-branded credit cards will offer an additional avenue to earning SQM and SQS:

  • TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite, TD Aeroplan Visa Business, CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite, CIBC Aeroplan Visa Business, American Express Aeroplan Card, and American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve cardholders will earn 1,000 SQM and 1 SQS for every $10,000 in annual spending
  • TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege, CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege, and American Express Aeroplan Reserve cardholders will earn 1,000 SQM and 1 SQS for every $5,000 in annual spending

Changes to Aeroplan Elite Status for 2021 – Status Privileges

On the benefits side, the most significant change is the revamped Priority Rewards and the introduction of Status Pass as a Select Privilege, both of which we’ve already discussed in detail in a previous post.

Depending on their elite level, current Altitude elite members will be given a handful of both of Priority Rewards and Status Passes to try out these new features as soon as they launch (refer to the section below for the exact amounts). 

Elite Status members will also benefit from “preferred pricing” as part of the dynamic pricing algorithm for redeeming Aeroplan points on Air Canada flights. While there are no published, predictable rules for how this preferred pricing will work, elite members will be more likely to see reward prices at the lower end of the published price ranges in the Flight Reward Chart.

Generally speaking, higher-tier elite members will be treated to greater preferred pricing than lower-tier members, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Furthermore, elite members who also hold an Aeroplan co-branded credit card will receive a double-boost in terms of preferred pricing.

On this point, Air Canada emphasizes that engagement with the program via either Elite Status or co-branded cards will make a very meaningful difference to the dynamic reward prices that members see on Air Canada flights.

Speaking of the credit cards, don’t forget that the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege, CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege, and American Express Aeroplan Reserve will now provide cardholders with the exclusive benefits of rollover SQM and rollover eUpgrades, making it easier for them to renew status the following year and maximize their usage of their eUpgrade perks.

Finally, aside from these exciting new benefits, only two more minor changes have been communicated at this time:

  • Aeroplan 25K and 35K members will no longer be able to choose the “35% Discount on Maple Leaf Club membership” as a Select Privilege, beginning in 2021
  • aircanada.com Travel Options (i.e., complimentary Air Canada Bistro) provided to Air Canada Altitude members today will no longer be offered to Elite Status members, beginning November 8

What Can Elite Members Expect?

To summarize, let’s go over what each level of current Altitude elite member can expect from the upcoming transition to Aeroplan Elite Status, and I’ll also share my impressions of the relative strength of each elite level (with our more formal valuations to be revised later). 

Prestige 25K members will be known as Aeroplan 25K as of November 8. They will not receive any Priority Reward vouchers; however, they will be able to earn Priority Rewards starting in 2021 by reaching the published SQD thresholds. 

Elite 35K members will be known as Aeroplan 35K as of November 8. They will receive one Priority Reward voucher (or more, subject to their SQD activity in 2020), redeemable on economy class flight within Canada and the US.

Elite 50K members will be known as Aeroplan 50K as of November 8. They will receive two Priority Reward vouchers (or more, subject to their SQD activity in 2020), redeemable on economy class or premium economy flights within North America. As of March 2021, they will be able to choose two Status Passes as a Select Privilege, and will also receive one extra Status Pass as a special launch bonus.

Elite 75K members will be known as Aeroplan 75K as of November 8. They will receive three Priority Reward vouchers (or more, subject to their SQD activity in 2020), redeemable on economy class or premium economy flights worldwide. As of March 2021, they will be able to choose three Status Passes as a Select Privilege, and will also receive one extra Status Pass as a special launch bonus.

Super Elite 100K members will be known as Aeroplan Super Elite as of November 8. They will receive four Priority Reward vouchers (or more, subject to their SQD activity in 2020), redeemable on economy class, premium economy, or business class flights worldwide. As of March 2021, they will be able to choose four Status Passes as a Select Privilege, and will also receive one extra Status Pass as a special launch bonus.

While Super Elites will be the only Aeroplan members who can redeem their Priority Rewards for 50% off a business class redemption, they also lose out on the unique Priority Rewards they enjoy under the current program (also known as “Instant KK” or “IKK”), which allowed them to access last-seat inventory in economy class and a much-expanded set of inventory in business class on Air Canada flights. 

Reaction from Super Elites on this change is likely to be mixed, depending on the member’s travel preferences and how much use they have for the new Priority Rewards vouchers. However, Air Canada has confirmed that the new Priority Rewards can be redeemed for anyone, not just the member themselves, so perhaps some Super Elites out there can be convinced to share their powerful Priority Rewards with those who’d benefit from them more. 😉

Conclusion

It’s about time that Air Canada officially merged their confusing twin programs of Altitude and Aeroplan into one. As of November 8, 2020, Air Canada Altitude will henceforth be known as Aeroplan Elite Status, and will elevate elite members’ experience with a handful of exciting new benefits.

While the frequent flyers among us will take great interest in the new Aeroplan Elite Status, it may be of limited interest to the wider Miles & Points community, because many of us are more enthusiastic about redeeming Aeroplan points for ultra-cheap business class tickets than actually spending money with Air Canada and racking up the SQDs.

Even if you’re in this camp, however, you’ll always be able to earn and retain Aeroplan 25K status by racking up 100,000 Aeroplan points via eligible sources every year, allowing you to unlock meaningful base-level benefits whenever you travel with Air Canada.

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17 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Alexa

    Hi Ricky – thanks for the extensive review. Curious if you have an update on the status match challenge? I challenged in January, then pandemic happened and I didn’t travel. I’m starting again, emailed them and got an auto response that the challenge would start when I began travelling again. Then, I got a real response and she said they would only allow status match until September 30. Which I will qualify for, but when I responded to that email, the auto response changed and said it’s cancelled and I’ll have to wait for the new program. So will I be able to qualify for match with my flights before sept 30 or no? And will the match last until 2021? Or is it completely nixed, and if so, do you have status match details under the new program?

  2. Avatar
    Kyrie English

    Ricky, do you know if the sign up bonuses from the re-branded aeroplan credit cards will be considered SQMs?

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      Nope, Aeroplan points are separate from SQMs. That’d be a little too easy.

  3. Avatar
    Mike

    what is the difference between SQS, SQM, and the SQD. i’m a new member on the program and would like some clarification on that please.

  4. Avatar
    Nadia

    Hi Ricky, thanks for the great articles and information! I have maintained my Elite 50K status annually as I’ve earned +1million miles over the years with AC. Do you know if this annually renewed privilege will change with the new Aeroplan program?

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      No changes are happening to Million Miler status and its associated benefits.

  5. Avatar
    Martin

    How does earning rate on partner airlines work now with this dynamic/revenue based system?

    YYZ-IST on TK with your AP #…would you earn based on mileage or fare?

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      Earning on partner-issued tickets continues to be subject mileage-based earning rates as it is today.

  6. Avatar
    Sam

    Great job Ricky! Thank you very much for the detail information! Have you had any idea about the current aeroplan diamond status will turn after November 8, 2020?

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      From the article: Aeroplan Diamond members will receive Aeroplan 25K status through 2021. If your original Aeroplan Diamond status were also valid into 2021, you’ll receive a bonus of 5,000 Aeroplan points.

  7. Avatar
    YYCguy

    Ricky, if these award tickets book into the fare class you want (Standard, Flex, Comfort, Latitude) can we use eUps on award tickets? I don’t see why not, as points=cash now.

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      Yes, all AC awards will be eUpgradeable.

  8. Avatar
    Iliana

    You’re right about the Ph.D, I felt like I was reading a dissertation on points by the end of the third section! This helps to make it more clear going forward. I’m assuming, however, that purchasing Aeroplan points direct will not qualify for this program – correct?

  9. Avatar
    Joy

    Great article, Ricky! My husband is a Super Elite and has been for several years. If I use a Priority Rewards voucher for 2 business class tickets, will they subtract 2 vouchers? Currently if I book 2 seats (using a priority pass) on the same reservation they only takes away 1 priority pass. I hope he can continue to earn Super Elite status under the new program, but he has not been travelling since March.

    1. Ricky
      Ricky

      Yes – unlike the current Priority Rewards, it’s one voucher per passenger.

Ricky

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