Air Canada eUpgrades: How Does Waitlist Ranking Work?

If you are unable to confirm an eUpgrade prior to your flight, you will be waitlisted for an upgrade at the gate. For everyone who is waitlisted, a list is created that shows the priority ranking for the upgrade request, which is eventually cleared at the gate.

In this post, let’s look at how the eUpgrade waitlist rankings are established. The source of the bulk of this information comes from a FlyerTalk forum thread, and credit goes to the contributors on that thread.

1. Cabin Class of Original Booking

When determining the priority rankings for eUpgrade requests, the first factor to consider is the original cabin class the ticket was purchased in. 

Anyone who purchases a ticket in Premium Economy to begin with will have priority ranking over tickets booked in economy. 

If you have a lower status and you’re hoping to snag an upgrade on a hotly-contested route, such as morning flights between Toronto and Vancouver or on flights to London, it may be worthwhile to consider the cost difference between any economy fare and a Premium Economy fare.

Air Canada 787 premium economy 

This fall, I’ll be flying Vancouver–Montreal–London and back from Paris–Montreal–Vancouver. I booked in Premium Economy and paid cash for the flights to earn Status Qualifying Dollars (SQD) for Priority Rewards, and I’m hoping to secure an eUpgrade to business class either once my clearance window comes (seven days prior to departure), or failing that, at the gate. 

Booking in Premium Economy should give me a good chance, as long as there is space available in the business class cabin. 

Last winter, I had a flight booked in Premium Economy with Aeroplan points from Toronto to Vancouver. My and my wife’s names appeared at the top of the list, and we wound up snagging the last two seats in business class.

There were a number of Super Elites and others gathered at the gate waiting for an upgrade, but I assume that booking in Premium Economy to begin with prioritized our waitlisted upgrade request over everyone else’s. 

2. Aeroplan Elite Status and Credit Cards

The next factor that determines your position in the waitlist is a combination of your Aeroplan Elite Status and whether or not you hold a co-branded Aeroplan credit card.  

For each status tier, there is the same ranking order, which will be outlined below. Those with higher statuses have priority in the waitlist over those with lower statuses.

Within each tier is the following ranking order:

  1. 2 Million Milers (or greater) with a co-branded credit card
  2. 2 Million Milers (or greater) without a co-branded credit card
  3. Million Milers with a co-branded credit card
  4. Million Milers without a co-branded credit card
  5. Aeroplan Elite Status (Super Elite, 75K, 50K, 35K, 25K) with a co-branded credit card
  6. Aeroplan Elite Status (Super Elite, 75K, 50K, 35K, 25K) without a co-branded credit card

The list above makes logical sense, as those who have attained 2 Million Miler status (or above), by earning over two million Lifetime Qualifying Miles with Air Canada, have priority over Million Milers, who have priority over everyone with status, but without at least Million Miler status.

After the priority list moves through a status tier, it moves onto the next level down. For example, Super Elites have priority over those with 75K, who have priority over those with 50K, and so on until the lowest status, 25K, is complete.

Within each status tier, 2 Million Milers and Million Milers have priority. Since 3 Million Milers will always enjoy Super Elite status, 2 Million Milers will always enjoy at least 75K status, and Million Milers always have at least 50K status, those with 35K or 25K status are ranked only according to numbers five and six on the ranking order list.

When Aeroplan was relaunched in November 2020, Air Canada mentioned that the people who are the most engaged with the program will enjoy the greatest benefits. It’s interesting that simply holding a co-branded Aeroplan credit card plays a factor in waitlist upgrade priority; with all else being equal, someone with a co-branded credit card gets priority over someone without one.

3. Fare Class

Recall that Air Canada sells Basic, Standard, Flex, Comfort, Latitude, and Premium Economy branded fares.

Within each brand of fares are different letters, which represent a different fare within that brand. The difference between the fare codes can be reflected in the price, number of eUpgrades required for an upgrade, and amount of co-pay fee required.

Pertaining to the upgrade priority list, a higher fare family will be prioritized over a lower fare family, even if the actual cost of the lower fare is more than the cost of the higher fare.

For example, a Flex “M” fare is the highest fare in the Flex-branded fare family, and a Comfort “G” fare is in the lowest tier of Comfort-branded fares. With all else being equal, a Comfort “G” fare will be prioritized over the Flex “M” fare. 

Getting into the minutiae, within a branded-fare tier, a higher fare code will take precedence for an upgrade over a lower fare code. For example, with all else being equal, someone booked on a Flex “U” fare will have priority over someone booked on a Flex “G” fare.

4. Check-in Time

The last factor that contributes to your position on the upgrade priority list is check-in time. 

Check-in opens 24-hours prior to the flight’s scheduled departure. It could be worthwhile to check-in as close to this time as possible, in the event that you’re otherwise deadlocked with someone else for an upgrade.

Passenger A, who checks in first, will have upgrade priority over Passenger B, who checks in later but is otherwise on par with Passenger A. 

Air Canada business class – Check-in
Air Canada business class check-in at Toronto Pearson

You can check to see your ranking for check-in by looking at your boarding pass. 

On the Air Canada app and on paper tickets, the number adjacent to “Airline use” indicates your spot in the check-in sequence.

Examples of Upgrade Rankings

For the below examples, let’s assume that there is only one spot left for an upgrade to business class on a flight and the only people on the waitlist are the ones described. 

Example #1

Ricky, Josh, and T.J. are flying from Tokyo to Vancouver with Air Canada after Japan miraculously fully reopened its borders to tourism. Ricky and T.J. are Super Elites with Aeroplan co-branded credit cards, and Josh is a 50K member with a co-branded credit card.

Josh snagged a deal on a Premium Economy “A” fare during a sale, while Ricky and T.J. booked in Flex “M”. 

T.J. checked in first, followed by Ricky, and then Josh.

In this situation, Josh would be prioritized for the upgrade due to the cabin class of his original booking.  Even though Ricky and T.J. have a higher status and checked in before him, Josh’s Premium Economy ticket prioritized him over the other two.

Assuming that Josh’s seat in Premium Economy becomes up for grabs, T.J. would be prioritized over Ricky for the seat, as he was first to check-in. Ricky is stuck in economy for this flight.

Air Canada 777 business class

Example 2

Amy, Rachel, and Rohin are flying from Montreal to Vancouver to spend a weekend on the West Coast. 

They all have Aeroplan 50K Status. Rachel and Rohin are co-branded Aeroplan credit cardholders, while Amy isn’t.

Amy checks in first, followed by Rachel, and then Rohin.

They all booked on a Flex “U” fare.

In this scenario, Rachel would win out on the upgrade, as her holding a co-branded credit card ranked her higher than Amy (who checked in first) and Rohin (who checked in after her). 

Example 3

Ben, Sophie, and Richard are flying from Toronto to London. 

Ben has Aeroplan 25K status which he earned through Everyday Status Qualification. He’s new to the Miles & Points community, but is savvy and excited to maximize his participation.

Sophie and Richard are both Super Elites with 2 Million Miler status. Sophie has a co-branded credit card, but Richard doesn’t. 

Sophie checked in first, followed by Richard, and then Ben.

Sophie and Richard booked on a Flex “M” fare, and Ben booked using Aeroplan points in Premium Economy (Lowest).

Much to Sophie and Richard’s chagrin, Ben wins out on this upgrade, due to the cabin class into which he originally booked. 

Assuming Ben’s seat in Premium Economy is up for grabs, Sophie would be prioritized over Richard, as she holds a co-branded credit card and he doesn’t.

Conclusion

If you aren’t able to confirm an Air Canada eUpgrade prior to your flight, you’ll be put on a waitlist for an upgrade. Once check-in closes, the list is cleared and space-available upgrades are given out in a priority sequence at the gate.

Your position on the list depends on a host of factors, including the original cabin class of your booking, your status and whether or not you have an Aeroplan co-branded credit card, the fare, and your position in the check-in sequence.

The best strategy here is therefore to book in Premium Economy to begin with whenever possible. Waiting for an upgrade at the gate is somewhat nerve-wracking, but is very satisfying if it clears.

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