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:
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.