fbpx

What’s Going On with the Aeroplan MPM?

A couple of weeks ago, Prince of Travel reader Dash G. reported the following experience with the Aeroplan call centre in the Prince of Travel Elites Facebook group:

Looks like Aeroplan has decreased the MPM between cities after the miles sale, so people would book more direct.

I was just told that the MPM for New York to Perth is 13,900 miles. It used to be 18,000+. So my segment-by-segment route was deemed invalid after two hours when a 15,500-mile route was over the MPM. 🤷🏽‍♂️

Dash’s attempt to book a complex Aeroplan Mini-RTW was met with resistance from the Aeroplan contact centre agent, who stated that the proposed itinerary was over the maximum permitted mileage (MPM). 

When Dash asked the agent to confirm what the MPM number was, he was given a number that was much lower than what the tried-and-true “Javascript trick” for finding the Aeroplan MPM revealed – and that was obviously quite a concerning development.

I myself was able to confirm this phenomenon, too, when I tried to make a few test bookings via the Aeroplan contact centre. However, there were also concurrent reports of some members successfully making complex bookings over the phone that pushed the boundaries of the original MPM as well.

It seemed that it was a game of chance: if you happened to be connected to an obstinate phone agent, you might run into the MPM issue, but if you were connected to a more conciliatory agent, they were somehow able to bypass it. 

This situation obviously doesn’t make much sense, and isn’t the way any loyalty program is supposed to work. I therefore reached out to Aeroplan for some clarification, and we now finally have some answers. 

How Does the Aeroplan MPM Work?

As a reminder, the MPM rules govern the total one-way distance that you are allowed to fly when travelling between your origin and destination on an Aeroplan booking.

Each city pair within the Aeroplan system has a unique MPM figure, which historically (i.e., for at least the past five years) has been roughly 60% greater than the actual great-circle distance between the two cities.

For members who wanted to stretch the limits of their Aeroplan redemption as far as possible, one longstanding sweet spot was to fly from the US or Canadian East Coast (like Toronto, Montreal, or New York) to Perth, Australia. These cities are near-antipodal to Perth, meaning that you get the greatest MPM allowance when travelling between the two cities.

map (5).gif

To take one example, the generous MPM between Montreal and Perth of 18,164 miles is what had allowed me to book my relentless round-the-world trip of November 2019, flying from the former to the latter by way of Cancún, Istanbul, Astana, Beijing, Shanghai, and Singapore, and then by way of Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Vienna, and Geneva on the return journey.

Many more combinations of stopovers and layovers are also possible, and part of the fun for dedicated Aeroplan members was to squeeze in as many memorable long stops, short layovers, and luxurious business class and First Class experiences along the way by maximizing the MPM. 

What Was Happening with the MPM?

Some investigatory work revealed that the new, lower MPM figures that Aeroplan contact centre agents were quoting over the phone were in line with what’s known as the “IATA MPM” – a set of maximum permitted mileage guidelines issued by the world’s chief aviation authority, which can be uncovered using the “Maximum Permitted Mileage” tool on ExpertFlyer

For example, some members who called Aeroplan over the past few weeks were quoted a new MPM figure for Montreal–Perth of 13,651 miles, which aligns with the MPM you’ll find on ExpertFlyer if you searched Montreal–Perth.

The IATA MPM is generally used for the purposes of revenue fares, and is generally only about 20% higher than the actual great-circle distance, rather than the 60% allowance that the Aeroplan MPM had offered. 

One prevailing theory on the situation was that Air Canada and Aeroplan’s transition to the Amadeus passenger service system (PSS) in November 2019 had brought with it the IATA MPM, and Aeroplan had decided they may as well implement it.

It’s worth noting that the MPM rules and numbers have always been proprietary to Aeroplan and have never been openly published. The Aeroplan terms and conditions make no mention of MPM rules, and one can only learn the MPM figure for a specific city pair by either calling the Aeroplan contact centre to ask an agent, or using the “Javascript trick” to uncover it in the online multi-city search engine. 

This state of affairs means that it would be pretty easy for Aeroplan, if they wished, to implement a “stealth devaluation” by lowering the MPM figures and restricting the distances that members are able to fly on the way from their origin to their destination. After all, the MPM is a little-known rule that only affects a small, albeit very passionate, proportion of Aeroplan members; most members wouldn’t even notice a change to it. 

Indeed, many frustrated Aeroplan members suspected this was the case when other reports similar to Dash’s experience began trickling in. But fortunately, it wasn’t. 

There Have Been No Changes to the MPM

As someone who loves to stretch the MPM rules to the absolute maximum myself, I was feeling quite concerned about these data points, so I originally reached out to Air Canada to simply ask if there had been any changes to the MPM rules. 

The response came back negative, but many members (including myself when I was making test bookings) continued to be met with resistance when trying to book itineraries over the phone that were within the original MPM, but higher than the IATA MPM.

I therefore followed up with a more detailed inquiry about what was happening. After the Aeroplan team spent some time investigating the issue, their feedback is as follows:

There have been no changes to policies, such as MPM, or our reward reservation rules which would have changed itinerary eligibility.

For reservations completed via the Aeroplan Contact Centre, we recently made some changes to the process our agents undertake to validate routing eligibility for more complex, multi-city journeys. This process change relates to the decommissioning of agent applications following our migration to Amadeus Altéa. With the process change, some of our policies have been applied incorrectly. We are continuing to work with our agents to ensure that our policies are applied consistently.

Please rest assured that we have made no intentional changes to reward booking eligibility. Further, these process changes have no bearing on how we will price flight rewards with the launch of the new program. 

In summary, there has been no official change to MPM policies or figures, and the existing MPM figures that have governed Aeroplan bookings for the past five years or so remain in place. 

However, as part of the transition to Amadeus and the phasing out of legacy systems, Aeroplan contact centre agents were given new processes to follow. I imagine that agents needed to double-check the MPM when validating a proposed itinerary, and somewhere along the way, they somehow began incorrectly looking up the IATA MPM rather than the actual Aeroplan MPM, resulting in these agents telling members that the MPM was a lower-than-expected number and their proposed itinerary was not valid.

This aligns with many characteristics of the data points that people were reporting, such as:

  • The online Aeroplan search engine still allowed members to book itineraries that followed the original MPM; it was only through the contact centre that members were running into MPM issues

  • Only some Aeroplan agents would enforce the “new MPM”, while other agents seemed to have no troubles processing an itinerary that exceeded the IATA MPM, but conformed to the original MPM; this suggests to me that the booking system was still continuing to accept itineraries based on the original MPM, but it was a matter of process that some agents would check the new MPM and deny itineraries based on it

  • Most agents and supervisors had no idea that the MPM number had recently changed, and seemed to think the “new MPM” was in place all along; this suggests to me that the issue was indeed related to an inadvertent system change rather than an intentional policy change

Aeroplan states that they will “work with our agents to ensure that our policies are applied consistently”, so I’d expect the MPM issues to occur much less frequently going forward; indeed, there have already been fewer reports of MPM issues over the past week compared to the couple of weeks before that. 

You’ll still be able to fly exciting business class products on routings that follow the rules but aren’t necessarily the most logical.

You’ll still be able to fly exciting business class products on routings that follow the rules but aren’t necessarily the most logical.

If you do happen to be connected to an obstinate agent who continues to enforce the “new MPM”, don’t waste your breath: just politely thank them for their time, hang up, and call again. 

Unfortunately, while most Aeroplan phone agents are pleasant, patient, and willing to go the extra mile on the customer’s behalf, some agents either can’t be bothered or seem to interpret complex multi-city bookings as some kind of affront to the loyalty program, so it’s best to just avoid them and find a good agent who can help you. 

If you’re planning to make a complex Aeroplan booking over the phone, feel free to share your experience in the Prince of Travel Elites Facebook group so that we may keep track of the situation as a community.

Lastly, I’m also intrigued by Aeroplan’s statement that “these process changes have no bearing on how we will price flight rewards with the launch of the new program”.

I personally take this as an indicator that any fears of the new Aeroplan program using the more restrictive IATA MPM are unfounded, but it’s still a rather open-ended statement after all, so everyone is free to interpret it as they’d like.

My views on the future brand-new loyalty program remains as I’ve stated a few times already: we know that it’ll be very different from the current program, and the changes are likely to be a mix of both positive and negative.

The current program, however, remains a very generous one when compared to most of its peers, so now’s the time to extract value from your Aeroplan miles and make as many high-value bookings as you can under the current rules. Don’t be afraid of drawing down your mileage balance, because I’m sure we’ll be able to earn miles just as easily in the new program anyway! 

Conclusion 

Long story short: while it was a bit of a scare to the community, the recent issues with Aeroplan’s MPM rules are really much ado about nothing.

Customers may have needed to hang up and call again a few times over the past few weeks to book their desired Aeroplan itinerary, but that has always been a central tenet in Miles & Points anyway. Moreover, the MPM issues should be rearing their ugly head much less frequently now that Aeroplan is following up with their agents to correctly enforce the existing policy. 

10 Comments
  1. nunzio

    Aeroplan is updown, have 2 Mini Rtw booked for March and April and after called almost 10 different agents, no one allowing me to change itineraries saying that this kind of bookings no more available, 1 agent only most professional confirmed my new booking but ending not authorised by supervisor for ticketing and last 2 agents even threaten to flag me if push call for same references, after got money from purchasing miles no want honour their program, quite annoying

  2. Frank

    Ricky stop being a scumbag and telling ppl to call many times , just deal with the rules and stop trying to break them

    1. Alice

      No one is breaking the rules. If things were consistent across the board then we wouldn’t need to HUCA. Your comment is not warranted nor necessary here.

    2. Dave

      Frank I’m not sure why you consider it appropriate to call anyone a ‘scumbag’ on-line. Do you appreciate if someone calls you that to your face?

      Do us all a favour and keep things civil.

    3. Ricky

      üòÇüòÇüòÇ What??

  3. Jose

    Ricky, for the one way Etihad SYD-AUH-JFK-YYZ, do you know if we can add another leg like AKL to SYD, will it exceed total MPM allowed? Thanks

    1. Tom

      What about SYD-AUH-JFK, EWR-YYZ-YVR ? I’ve seen reports that a few people were able to book it but doesn’t it exceed the MPM?

      1. Ricky

        That’s another example of the MPM rules (old or new) not being strictly enforced. Some people got lucky, but I wouldn’t say it’s something that can be easily replicated.

    2. Ricky

      AKL will technically break the MPM as Alice said, but there’s been a few recent instances of even the old MPM rules not being strictly enforced too. It’s worth a go, worst case fill the gap with an Avios booking.

    3. Alice

      You will exceed MPM if you add AKL.

Ricky Zhang

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have an Account? Click here to Login