Air Canada eUpgrades: When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Every now and then, you may hear about someone with a confirmed eUpgrade to business class being downgraded to premium economy or economy.

It’s important to note that such downgrades are comparatively rare compared to the number of confirmed eUpgrades that work out without any issues. By and large, passengers with a confirmed eUpgrade complete their itinerary in a higher class of service than the one originally booked.

However, there are some situations in which you might lose your confirmed eUpgrade through no fault of your own, and it’s worth being aware of when it might happen.

In This Post

When Can You Lose Your eUpgrade?

Before we look at some specific situations, it’s worth reiterating that the only way to guarantee a seat in business class is to book in business class to begin with. 

At the same time, using eUpgrades in conjunction with Aeroplan points is one of the best ways to avoid the effects of dynamic pricing for award travel in premium cabins with Air Canada.

We’ve received numerous success stories from readers who either flew in business class for the first time ever, or who saved a tidy sum of Aeroplan points, by using eUpgrades.

With the above in mind, let’s look at some of the situations in which an eUpgrade might be lost.

Accommodating a Deadheading Pilot

As with any airline, Air Canada has to shuffle its resources to fulfill operational requirements. One very important consideration is ensuring there are enough pilots to fly the planes that we all love to be on.

When on-duty, pilots take priority for a business class seat. Note that this same privilege doesn’t extend to when they’re flying for leisure.

Therefore, if Air Canada needs to move a pilot from Toronto to Vancouver so that the pilot can operate a flight based out of Vancouver, perhaps due to the originally scheduled pilot no longer being available for the flight from Vancouver, the airline will ensure that the pilot arrives rested and ready for duty. 

Deadheading pilots get priority for business class seats

If the business class cabin is already full, the airline may have to bump a passenger from the cabin to make space for the pilot. In these situations, passengers with confirmed eUpgrades may be downgraded to make space for a deadheading pilot. 

It’s worth noting that this doesn’t apply to Air Canada staff who are travelling for leisure, or to all Air Canada employees who are deadheading.

When my wife was a flight attendant with Air Canada, she was treated to business class on several occasions when she was deadheading to operate a flight. This wasn’t guaranteed, though, and she also deadheaded many flights in economy.

Irregular Operations

Whenever an airline encounters inclement weather or any other situation that requires consolidating passengers into fewer flights, only the passengers who were originally booked in business class are guaranteed to be reaccommodated in business class.

If Air Canada is adjusting its schedule, you may wind up losing out on the eUpgrade you’d previously confirmed.

For example, if two flights from Montreal to Calgary are cancelled, Air Canada will need to ensure all of the passengers complete their itineraries in as timely a manner as possible. Furthermore, the airline is required to honour, to the best of its ability, the original class of service booked for all affected passengers.

In these situations, if you booked in economy and confirmed an eUpgrade prior to your flight, you could be at risk of losing your seat if Air Canada has to make room for passengers who booked in business class to begin with.

Since you originally booked in economy, the airline is only obligated to ensure you complete your journey in economy class. 

So, if you’re travelling during a time when there are many disruptions to travel plans, you may be at greater risk of losing your eUpgrade.

Aircraft Changes

If the demand for a route is relatively low, or if there are some unexpected mechanical issues with aircraft, Air Canada might consider changing the aircraft it had planned to operate on that particular route. 

Since some aircraft have fewer business class seats than others, you may be at risk of losing your eUpgrade if there are no longer enough seats in the new aircraft to accommodate all passengers on the original aircraft.

Boeing 777s have more business class seats than Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners

For example, there are 40 business class seats on some of Air Canada’s Boeing 777s, while there are only 20 business class seats on Air Canada’s Boeing 787-800s. 

With 50% fewer seats available, in the event of an aircraft change, there aren’t as many seats to reaccommodate passengers on. Therefore, you may be at risk of losing your eUpgrade if there’s simply no more space in the cabin.

If you’ve received a notification that your flight has changed, but everything appears to be the same as before, be sure to check the aircraft type, as this is likely the reason for the notification.

You can also set up an alert on ExpertFlyer, which will alert you in the event of an aircraft swap.

Broken Seats

Although rare, any issues with the actual seat you’re in may result in losing your eUpgrade.

With the sheer number of individual moving parts in the pods, there are many ways in which a seat might malfunction.

If the cabin is otherwise full, having a seat that isn’t fully safe or functional could result in you being bumped from business class to another class of service.

A broken seat might mean you lose your eUpgrade and wind up in economy

eUpgrades Work Out Most of the Time

While there may be some other rare situations in which you may encounter an involuntary downgrade after confirming an eUpgrade into business class, such as accommodating pilot rest, the above are the most common reasons that might arise. 

Note that, contrary to popular belief, Air Canada won’t bump a passenger with a confirmed eUpgrade simply to accommodate someone else with a higher status. If you have a confirmed eUpgrade, you’re not at risk of losing it because someone else wants to sit in your seat.

Air Canada won’t downgrade you to make space for someone with a higher status

How To Handle Losing Your eUpgrade

If you are in the unfortunate position of being downgraded, all hope isn’t necessarily lost.

If you’ve been downgraded well in advance of your flight on which you had confirmed an eUpgrade, Air Canada will generally rebook you in business class. In the majority of cases, you’ll get another seat in business class if there’s one available.

If the rebooking doesn’t suit your needs and you opt to change to different flights, you’ll generally lose out on this “guarantee.”

You should also check to see if alternative flights are available for self-service rebooking on your account, in the event of a change in advance.

Should you be downgraded at the last minute due to flight cancellations, aircraft downgauging, or accommodating deadheading duty pilots, be sure to hang around the gate until the last call.

If you’ve been downgraded, be amongst the last people to board

Oftentimes, passengers may miss connections, and if someone with a seat in business class doesn’t make their flight, you may be able to get yourself back into business class by speaking kindly to the gate agents. If you’ve already boarded the aircraft, you’ve likely given up on this opportunity.

As an absolute last resort, if the cabin door has closed and you notice a few empty seats in a better cabin, kindly approach the cabin crew and explain your situation.

There’s no guarantee, but you may encounter a sympathetic flight attendant or service director who can get you back into the seat you had originally confirmed with an eUpgrade.


eUpgrades are one of the best ways to flex your Aeroplan Elite Status by booking in economy and flying in business class; however, using eUpgrades comes with a certain level of risk. 

There are a handful of relatively rare situations in which you may actually be downgraded to your original class of service, even after confirming an eUpgrade. These include deadheading pilots, aircraft changes, flight cancellations, and seat malfunctions.

If you want a 100% guarantee of being in business class, you should book in business class to begin with. However, if you’re comfortable with a small amount of risk, then using eUpgrades will likely wind up saving you cash or points.