As originally reported by PointsNerd, Air Canada Altitude is currently offering a status challenge for travellers who have status with a competing airline.
In particular, WestJet Rewards members with WestJet Silver or Gold status can request a challenge to Air Canada Altitude’s Prestige 25K or Elite 35K levels, which can deliver some useful benefits for all your Air Canada travel through to the end of 2020.
This status challenge might be particularly relevant to many of you because there have been several easy opportunities to earn WestJet elite status recently:
Earlier this year, WestJet Rewards was offering a no-questions-asked status match policy that would match your Aeroplan Silver or Black status to WestJet Silver
The WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard recently had a few rounds of targeted credit card offers that would provide members with instant Silver status until early 2020
If you jumped on the former opportunity, you may now have a rare chance to effectively translate your Aeroplan status into Air Canada status; meanwhile, if you took advantage of the credit card deals with WestJet Silver, you can now set your sights on Air Canada’s entry-level Prestige 25K status as yet another potential perk of the WestJet RBC MasterCard.
The Status Challenge
If you have either WestJet Gold or Silver status, all you need to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org with a screenshot of your WestJet Rewards dashboard showing your current status level.
Don’t worry if you have 0 WestJet Dollars or $0 in qualifying spend year-to-date; only the status level matters for the purpose of this challenge.
Note that this status challenge is open to members of other competing airline elite programs as well, although it excludes elite members from other Star Alliance airlines.
So the United Silver status you get as a result of being a Marriott Titanium Elite member won’t work, but if you’ve flown enough to earn something like Delta SkyMiles Silver Medallion or Alaska Airlines MVP status, then that should work for the Air Canada status challenge as well.
Depending on your status level, Air Canada will respond in a few business days’ time with the specific terms of your status challenge.
WestJet Silver members will be elevated to Air Canada Altitude Prestige 25K upon completing four Altitude Qualifying Segments (AQS) within 90 days:
Meanwhile, WestJet Gold members will be elevated to Air Canada Altitude Elite 35K upon completing six AQS within 90 days:
It’s also my understanding that any of WestJet’s top-tier Platinum members (which has never been handed out by the airline as part of a status match, and can only be earned by loyal WestJet flyers) would be challenged to earn Air Canada Altitude Elite 50K (which also grants Star Alliance Gold status) by completing 10 AQS within 90 days.
Once you receive the email, your 90 days start ticking, and if you were to successfully complete the challenge then your newly minted status will be valid until the end of 2020.
As per the terms and conditions, you’ll only be eligible to take advantage of an Altitude status challenge at most once every five years, so don’t expect to keep your status beyond 2020 unless you actually qualify the regular way.
What Are the Benefits of Air Canada 25K and 35K Status?
Ordinarily, you’d need to earn either 25,000 Altitude Qualifying Miles (AQM) or 25 AQS with Air Canada, in addition to spending $3,000 in Altitude Qualifying Dollars (AQD), to earn Prestige 25K status. Similarly, you’d need either 35,000 AQM or 35 AQS, in addition to spending $4,000 in AQD, to earn Elite 35K status. Matching your status from WestJet Rewards therefore represents a significant shortcut into Air Canada Altitude’s lower-tier status levels.
But what are the benefits of these status levels, and is it worth your time and attention to earn the AQS required to achieve them?
You can find the full list of Altitude benefits at this link. In my view, the most significant benefits of the two status levels are:
Complimentary checked bags (two for Prestige 25K members and three for Elite 35K members)
Advance boarding (Zone 3 for Prestige 25K members and Zone 2 for Elite 35K members)
Maple Leaf Lounge access (two lounge passes for Prestige 25K members and, additionally, complimentary access to select lounges, such as domestic and transborder lounges in Canada, for Elite 35K members)
eUpgrade credits (20 for Prestige 25K members and 30 for Elite 35K members)
Fuel surcharge waiver on Air Canada flights within Canada and the US
Of all these benefits, the one I’d personally value the most is the fuel surcharge waiver on domestic and transborder Air Canada flights.
These are usually in the range of $80 per person per direction, and while that’s not high enough to deter me from redeeming my Aeroplan miles when the value is there, I do find it to be quite an annoying surcharge to pay, especially when I’m booking for two or more people and the carrier surcharges start reaching several hundred dollars. (I’m sure those of you who regularly travel within North America with your families know this feeling well.)
Being able to waive these surcharges on all your 2020 travel on Aeroplan-issued flights in Canada and the US is a perk that can easily be worth several hundred if not over a thousand dollars, depending on your travel patterns. Even if you didn’t have plans to fly with Air Canada in the next 90 days, that perk alone could justify a “segment run” to earn the 4 AQS necessary to achieve Prestige 25K status.
Also, while I don’t personally have any experience with using eUpgrades, I know many Air Canada frequent flyers value their eUpgrades highly in upgrading to a higher class of service when travelling on a revenue ticket. The 20 eUpgrade credits at Prestige 25K, and 10 additional eUpgrade credits at Elite 35K, are therefore sure to come in handy as well.
Planning Your AQS Runs
If you’re eligible for the status challenge and were already planning to travel with Air Canada over the next 90 days, then this is a natural opportunity for you to claim Prestige 25K or Elite 35K status for yourself.
But what if you don’t have organic travel plans, but have decided that earning Altitude status for a year would be worth the effort and expense of flying around for fun for a little while? Then it’s time to start planning your segment run!
The idea, of course, would be to collect your 4 or 6 AQS for as little time and out-of-pocket cost as possible. To that end, you’ll want to play around with Google Flights or ITA Matrix to look for potential runs that you can book.
If you’re only looking to complete the challenge for Prestige 25K, then you’ll only need two flights in each direction to and from your destination; meanwhile, for Elite 35K, you’ll need three flights in each direction, which can be quite a bit more challenging and time-consuming to complete. Those based in major hubs, like Toronto and Vancouver, will likely have a relatively easier time finding suitable runs than those based at an outstation.
If you’d rather not subject yourself to a full day of flying around in tiny regional jets (I’ve done stuff like that before, and even if you genuinely love flying, it gets pretty tiresome after the second or third flight!), my suggestion would be to make a weekend trip out of it, knowing that the status you earn will be helping you save plenty of money on similar weekend trips over the next year.
Will I Be Doing the Altitude Status Challenge?
As indicated above, I myself signed up for the Altitude status challenge, under the WestJet Gold status that WestJet had generously given me as part of our affiliate partnership here at Prince of Travel. I was therefore informed that I’d be entitled to earn Elite 35K status if I completed 6 AQS in a 90-day period.
In a weird way, though, the fact that I was WestJet Gold rather than Silver actually sort of worked against me here, since I’d be much more willing to “run” for four segments than six segments, and the only real benefit of Altitude status that I’d value – the fuel surcharge waiver on North American flights – is available to both Prestige 25Ks and Elite 35Ks anyway.
Reading the terms and conditions of the challenge, it doesn’t seem that I’ll be granted Prestige 25K even if I complete 4 AQS, since my challenge was specifically for Elite 35K. I don’t really see myself justifying the time and expense of embarking on a six-segment run, so will probably allow this challenge to lapse in the end.
Keep in mind, even if you aren’t eligible for this status challenge, or if you choose not to follow through with it, you can always ask for favours from anyone else in your circles who earns Prestige 25K or Elite 35K status to benefit from their Canada/US fuel surcharge waiver on your own bookings as well. 😉
This status challenge opportunity from WestJet Rewards to Air Canada Altitude could be very favourable for those of you who took advantage of the easy opportunities for WestJet Silver status this year, and who also travel regularly on Aeroplan redemptions and would like to strike out the pesky $80 carrier surcharges on North American redemptions, especially if you already have some travel planned on Air Canada during the upcoming 90 days.
It also goes to show that you should always take advantage of status matches when they become available, because you never know when you’ll be able to match or challenge into yet another type of elite status. For example, who would’ve thought that Aeroplan Black status could eventually translate into Altitude Prestige 25K? And if you were to obtain Altitude status, who knows what other status match opportunities might arise next year?